Aaron Royle knows Ironman legend “Crowie” is never beaten as he chases fifth Nepean crown
Rio Olympian Aaron Royle may be aiming at a fifth victory in Sunday’s historic Nepean Triathlon – the oldest race on the Australian racing calendar – but he’s not going to relax, knowing Ironman legend Craig “Crowie” Alexander will be breathing down his neck.
Royle at 28 is Alexander’s junior by some 17 years but he knows only too well that age has not wearied the three-time World Ironman Champion, who made Kona his own in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
“Craig actually rang me this week to get a few tips on how to prepare for Nepean, what kind of gear to use, and an insight into the course, which was kind of nice and it comes after I rang him earlier in the year as I prepared for my first 70.3 race, when he was helpful to me,” said Royle.
I’m looking forward to having a run around next weekend at one of Australia’s oldest (and best) races @NepeanTriathlon. It’s been 22 years since I raced there, I was either recovering from Hawaii or still overseas. A great event with a family vibe.
“He’s a guy that I have always looked up to – he just loves triathlon, loves racing and I know for sure you can never write him off – you can never be sure that he’s gone – he’s one heck of an athlete, I know he is still really, really competitive, no matter what his age is.”
Former Ironman conquerer and triathlon pioneer, champion surf lifesaver Greg Reddan won the first Nepean race in 1982 and since then the likes of Greg Stewart, Greg Welch, John “Spot” Anderson, Marc Dragan, Tim Bentley (a record five straight) and Olympians Brendan Sexton, Courtney Atkinson and Royle have added their names to an impressive list.
And while Royle still has the utmost respect for Alexander, he also knows there will be a host of youngsters, hungry to keep him honest as well – he’s been training with some of the next generations including Max Stapley, Troy Whittington and James Davey in the lead up to the race under Sexton – now coaching in Wollongong.
“I have been jumping in and doing a few sessions with the boys in Wollongong and they will put you under the pump if you’re having an off day that’s for sure but it’s been good to take part from time to time – keeps you motivated and revved up,” says Royle, who is certainly no stranger to the course.
“I know it like the back on my hand – I’ve been racing here since I raced in the NSW All-Schools back in the day and then the Enticer races and I remember Irishman Bryan Keane beat me in 2010 when I was still a junior.
“Being a non-drafting race I have learnt a lot over the years and while some of the guys don’t like the run along the riverbank, I kind of like it, there are markers every 250m and I can get into my rhythm and count them down.
“It’s serious racing but it’s great to have a relaxed environment..a far cry from the World Triathlon Series..it’s a race I always look forward to.”
Royle, like so many of Australia’s elite ITU and Ironman triathletes will call time on their 2018 racing season after next weekend’s Noosa Triathlon, which has also attracted the “who’s who” – including his Rio Olympic teammates Ryan Bailie and Ryan Fisher and Commonwealth Games stars, gold and silver medallist Jake Birtwhistle, who was third in this year’s WTS and another rising star in Luke Willian.
Here is the list of past winners of the Nepean Triathlon: