Gold Coast-based West Australian Jaz Hedgeland and Kingscliff’s Brandon Copeland have boosted their hopes of making Sunday’s Under 23/Junior Mixed Relay Team after gritty performances in today’s ITU Under 23 World Championship races at Southport.
The 23-year-old Hedgeland went into today’s race knowing full well what the opposition was capable of and “ready to lay it on the line and to give it her all from start to finish.”
The Australian women scored two top ten finishers with Hedgeland closely followed by an eye-catching National team debut by US-based South Australian Sophie Linn (ninth), Hedgeland’s younger sister Kira (two months after shoulder surgery) 27th and Annabelle White 28th.
The men’s race saw Kingscliff local Brandon Copeland charge home after surviving what he described as “one of the all-time most brutal swims he’s done” for a well deserved 12th place with his teammates Luke Burns (19th), Kye Wylde (26th) and Callum McClusky (29th).
For Hedgeland it was one moment just after coming through transition from swim to bike that changed the women’s race in an instant.
Hedgeland and her teammates lined up for the Aussies, knowing that American Taylor Knibb and French young gun Cassandre Beaugrand were the ones to watch.
“Running out of transition I could see Taylor there and Cassandra and obviously they were the best in the field coming into this race,” said Hedgeland.
“I was really pleased to have a good swim; one of my key focuses was the start of the swim so I was really happy to have a good start. and towards the front coming onto the bike, sitting around fourth wheel and with Taylor (Knibb) there I knew she was going to attack some time.
“We were all around and trying to get organised and one of the riders in front of me bent down to put their foot on their shoes and in that instant, it gave Taylor a five-metre gap and next minute she was gone.
“That’s all she needed and I tried to accelerate but she is one strong chick and she was gone from then.
“Even though we had a decent sized group, some wanted to work, and others didn’t want to…you could tell we were unorganized and Taylor was going to be flying around all the corners.”
Knibb produced one of the real stand out solo efforts in ITU Under 23 history continuing to build on her lead which got out to almost three minutes as she switched from the bike to the start of the 10km run.
As hard as Beaugrand, the winner of a WTS round this season tried not even she could peg back the American.
As disappointed as Hedgeland, the former Sydney Olympic Youth Festival champion, she knew she could not have done any more in a race that got away.
“I’m hoping this will set me up for switching over the Elites next year and hopefully I will get a chance in the Mixed Relay on Sunday – I have really loved my opportunities to race the Relay this season, it’s a fun event,” said Hedgeland, whose sister Kira also line up in what was a special occasion for the sisters who came to Gold Coast from WA to follow recently crowned Triathlon Australia High Performance coach of the year Dan Atkins.
Kira knew she would be up against it after recovering from shoulder surgery, which had threatened to keep her out of the Championships.
“I was convinced that two months ago after my accident there was just about no chance of me racing today, so I was just happy to be out there,” said the younger Hedgeland.
“I had nothing on the run after working so hard on the bike and I’ve only been training for a month, so I guess I can’t be too disappointed…but I think I have learnt is I know I have a strong want to race.”
Copeland said the 1.5km swim in the difficult broadwater chop saw the field tightly bunched rather than have it strung out early.
“Everyone was on top of each other for pretty much the whole time,
“I swallowed a fair bit of water and I got absolutely hammered, but once we got out on the bike, the group was working pretty well, and you have all your friends and family on the course and it’s motivating.
“I just tried to get out there and build that run the best I could … at the end of the day I’m pretty content with how that went.
“Fingers crossed for Sunday’s Relay; it’s the style of racing which is absolutely awesome.
“But we’ll have to wait and see with selections; but I would love to be a part of it … I’ve done a few this year and had my share of ups and downs but it’s all experience.”