Australia’s Aaron Royle sealed his early nomination onto the Australian Olympic team for Rio with a rousing sixth place finish at the 2016 Rio test event in very tough conditions.
The Newcastle born Wollongong Wizard, Royle is Australia’s most consistent male over the past few years and again produced a controlled performance in a pressure race to come up trumps.
An exhausted Royle wasn’t even sure of his finish position and was more concerned about getting maximum spots.
“As long as we get three spots – to be honest it hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Royle.
“It’s a really tough bike course but the group we had worked really well together and kept it smooth which made it a lot easier, the heat made a difference as well.”
Royle knew it was critical to be at the head of the swim and ensure his spot in the lead group and he executed the plan to perfection.
Royle found himself one of the 11 in the lead group on the early laps of the bike with all the big hitters, Javier Gomez (ESP), Vincent Luis (FRA), Alistair Brownlee (GBR), Richard Varga (SVK) and Dorian Coninx (FRA) all working very efficiently together.
South Africa’s Richard Murray and Mario Mola (ESP) spearheaded the chase group that contained the three Australians Ryan Fisher, Ryan Bailie and dual Olympian Courtney Atkinson, 50 seconds behind and losing time each lap.
Emerging 1min 11sec down after the swim Tasmanian Jacob Birtwhistle was in the third chase group over two and a half minutes behind at the final change over. After struggling with cramping Birtwhistle was forced to withdraw.
On the final lap the lead group reduced to eight and had built an 80 second lead over the chasers.
In a repeat of the WTS Hamburg race Gomez and Luis got the jump on the field opening up a gap and while Luis got the better of the Spaniard on that day, Gomez rose to the occasion today winning by 14 seconds. Murray ran through from the chase group to grab the final podium spot.
Royle, coached by the quiet achieving Jamie Turner, played it safe on the run, knowing he just needed to stay in the top ten.
“It was a really tough race, that run I was battling but needed to be conservative and aim for the top ten,” said Royle.
“On a day like today you could blow real bad and I just had to run smart. It wasn’t the quickest run, but I did what I needed to do.”
Bailie was the next Australian to cross the line in 14th place after putting a very good run leg together, Fisher in 21st, and Atkinson not having the race he wanted finishing 42nd.
Triathlon Australia’s National Performance Director Bernard Savage summed up the mixed bag of results for the men.
“Outstanding race for Aaron, he put himself in a good position all day,” said Savage.
“He rode smart and strong, worked with the boys to get a good gap on the bike and ran really solid.”
Savage praised Bailie’s result after missing the front group, a hiccup on the bike but ran himself into 14th.
“Fisher was ill heading into the race, so his result is not surprising given his health status, we’re happy with his progress. Jacob cramped up after suffering the effects of his two week health problems and it just wasn’t Courtney’s day,” said Savage.
“The harsh reality 90 percent of the group didn’t deliver what was expected, or what they wanted but it will be how they respond (that will count) in their continued Rio journey.”
RIO TEST EVENT
1 Javier Gomez Noya ESP 01:48:26
2 Vincent Luis FRA 00:14
3 Richard Murray RSA 00:35
4 David Hauss FRA 01:06
5 Dmitry Polyanskiy RUS 01:06
6 Aaron Royle AUS 01:08
7 Mario Mola ESP 01:11
8 Igor Polyanskiy RUS 01:15
9 Joao Silva POR 01:20
10 Alistair Brownlee GBR 01:28