Although they have taken different paths with their preparation, Wollongong Wizards and training partners, current number three on the World Triathlon Series (WTS) standings Natalie van Coevorden and Commonwealth Games team member Charlotte McShane are both primed and fired up for this weekend’s Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup (10 March).
Van Coevorden has arrived back home from race one of WTS full of confidence, having recorded her first podium finish in treacherous conditions in the Abu Dhabi event. The 25-year-old Wollongong based athlete started 2018 in great form with a podium at the Oceania Cup, then snatching the final podium spot in Abu Dhabi in a photo finish with Kirsten Kasper (USA).
“The whole time we were there we probably had the only three days of rain that Abu Dhabi gets in a year, so I knew it would be a bit chaotic after having watched the men’s race. I was aware that I just needed to ride more cautiously. If that meant I had to ride back of someone’s wheel then that was what I was going to have to do. You have to race to the conditions, especially in and out of corners on a demanding course like that. I was in the lead bunch out of the water and on the bike I was hearing people going down all around me. I kept in the same position the whole ride and I was just cautious and rode within myself. It paid off and I didn’t make any stupid errors and I did the basics well.”
“Onto the run, I felt pretty good and for the first three and a half kilometres we (Rachel Klamer, Kirsten Kasper and Jessica Learmonth) were running side by side and it was the make or break kind of moment. Rachel broke Kasper and I up the hill and Learmonth stayed on. With 800m to go, it was a matter of just sticking in there because the race was still close and it isn’t over until the end. I knew fifth was a fair way back. I saw the penalty box ahead and I saw Kirsten Kasper pull in, so it was now or never. I just sprinted as hard as I could and I didn’t hear her until the last three or four steps and it was a photo finish. It was pretty exciting,” Natalie recalled.
Natalie has been racing the WTS since 2012 but the podium in Abu Dhabi is just the catalyst for what promises to be a great 2018 season.
“It has been a five-year process learning how girls race and where you need to be in the critical moments that can make or break a race. I came into 2018 after quite a consistent 2017 and I knew what I needed to improve on and the intent I needed to have going into a race. Abu Dhabi was a prime opportunity that I have just grabbed with both hands and it played out really well. What we have done in training were the things that every day for the past five years but I just had to put it into place. I was really happy that I could do that.”
“It still hasn’t really sunk in, I still have a smirk smile on my face but I don’t see a podium finish as a pressure now. I have put things together and I now know I can do it and I want to do it again. So it is exciting for Mooloolaba which is another prime opportunity to perform. I have raced there a few times now and being an Aussie it definitely suits us with the ocean swim and the conditions generally. The hill gets steeper every time you go over it but I am looking forward to it,” she said.
Charlotte McShane heads to Mooloolaba determined to put the finishing touches on her preparation for what is her biggest race of 2018, the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
“Preparation has been going well. I’ve been back in Wollongong for almost 5 weeks now and the intensity has been creeping up each week. I’m enjoying beginning to feel race fit again. I’m really looking forward to putting pressure on myself in Mooloolaba against a quality field.”
“Racing Mooloolaba was a no-brainer for me this year. It is a great opportunity to race in Australia in similar conditions to Gold Coast against a quality field. As I decided to skip Abu Dhabi, I wanted to make sure I got another tough race in before Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.”
While Charlotte hasn’t raced in Mooloolaba for four years she is well aware of the demands of what is recognised as one of the toughest triathlon courses in the world.
“Mooloolaba is a genuinely honest course with a challenging hill on both the ride and the run which always breaks things up. I’m really looking forward to heading back as its one of my favourite courses on the circuit. It was actually my first ever World Cup race back in 2010. I was lapped out in 2010 so I hope I can go a little better this year,” she laughed.
Only three weeks out from Gold Coast 2018, Mooloolaba ITU World Cup is an ideal lead in the race for the athletes and the perfect warm-up for the spectators heading to the Commonwealth Games triathlon on 5 April.
“In the lead up to Commonwealth Games I wanted to race as much as possible without it affecting my preparation for that big race. So it has been great to get a few races under my belt within Australia and which allows me to practise a few things I’ve been working on over the offseason.”
“I love racing in front of a home crowd but unfortunately I don’t get that opportunity too often so I’m trying to make the most of it this season. Hopefully, the crowds will be out in force cheering us on up the hill,” she said.