Wollongong’s National Talent Academy squad star Grace Musgrove will get her first chance to mix it with the big girls when she makes her World Triathlon Championship Series debut in Madrid this weekend.
Twenty-year-old Musgrove, who has captured the imagination of Australian triathlon this past summer with her breakthrough performances in Geelong and Mooloolaba, will benefit from Triathlon Australia’s Talent Acceleration Program.
Triathlon Australia’s High Performance Director Bernard Savage and the TA selectors have rewarded the talented youngster with a place in what will be the biggest race of her career.
“We have obviously closely monitored Grace’s progress this year and through our Talent Acceleration Program we have been able to place her in the Madrid race to provide some accelerated development,” said Savage.
“Together with her coach Jamie Turner we have explored her best competitive options and races like Madrid can only help accelerate her learning curve.
“It is a major step up in class but you have to start somewhere and Grace will greatly benefit from the experience I’m sure.”
Musgrove first caught the eyes of Triathlon Australia when she broke through to win her first National title on debut at the URBAN Geelong ITU Sprint Triathlon Oceania Cup in Geelong in February.
She finished second to Kiwi Sophie Corbidge but was crowned Australian champion as the first Aussie to cross the line before going on to win the Continental Cup in Mooloolaba.
In only her second year in triathlon and in her first elite open race and the first time in Geelong, the former NSW Age group 5km and 10km open water swimming champion and Under 20 Australian Cross Country champion showed all her skills.
Discovered by coach Jamie Turner at the 2010 Australian Day Aquathon in Wollongong she originally turned down Turner’s recruitment but finally joined his talented young quad after finishing her Year 12 Studies.
It will be a major step forward for the girl from the NSW southern highlands who will spend the Australian winter based in Spain’s Basque Country in Vitoria-Gasteiz with Turner and his “Wollongong Wizards” group.
“Grace has nothing to lose and everything to gain,” says Turner.
“This will be a process of look, search and discover to assist in her continued development – she is sure to be nervous but will be in race mode one the gun goes.”
She hasn’t got far to look for friends and training partners with fellow “Wizards” Charlotte McShane and Natalie Van Coevorden also lining up alongside her, as well as current world number one, San Diego and Yokohama winner Gwen Jorgensen (USA) who is also part of the squad and a firm favourite to win three straight.
McShane, who has notched two top 10 finishes leading into Madrid, will be looking to put “the whole race together” while Van Coevorden has recovered well after taking a nasty tumble in the bike leg in Yokohama, suffering bruised ribs and will be looking to continue her improvement on the strength-based courses like Madrid.
The young Australian girls will be joined by the Australia’s Leeds (UK) based Queenslander Felicity Abram, who started the season with a bang taking the bronze medal in the opening race in Auckland followed by her 15th in San Diego before illness forced her out of Yokohama.
She comes into Madrid fully recovered after a solid training block with the Brownlee brothers in the north of England.
The men’s race will feature four young Australians “Aaron Royle (Wollongong, NSW), Cameron Good (Manly, NSW), Ryan Bailie (Wollongong, NSW) and Ryan Fisher (Brisbane, QLD)
Bailie, who has had two top ten finishes in Auckland and Yokohama this season, will be hungry to get amongst it in Madrid after just missing the front group on the bike in Yokohama.
He will be buoyed by his win in the Hondarribia sprint event in Spain last Sunday where he was presented with his first ever Txepela (a traditional basque hat, presented to sporting champions in the region).
The Txapela has a cult within the Spanish-based Australian athletes in Vitoria and to win one is very prestigious.
The whippet built Bailie, the 56kg jockey, enjoys the climbs and Madrid has eight laps on a course that features a gut-wrenching four-minute climb each lap.
Ranked number six going into this race, he will be desperate to perform after training well in a solid group of men including Australian team mate Royle and internationals – Clarke Ellice (NZL) and Matt Sharp (GBR), the Under 23 world champion of 2011.
Royle has been sleeping in his altitude tent as well as spending three hours a day on top of this as he prepares to continue his rise up the rankings.
He will be looking to make amends from this particular event last year after running past his bike in T1 and losing a certain Top 10 finish.
According to coach Turner he is in better shape than he was when he finished sixth in Auckland earlier this season and is keen to make amends after a flat tire foiled his ambitions in San Diego.
Fisher, fresh from his break through win in the ITU Ishigaki World Cup in April, will be keen to show his wares as he too steps up in company alongside Good, who has had two consistent finishes “10th in Auckland and 11th in Yokohama.
Savage knows Madrid will be the start of the business end of the season as the countdown hots up for Australian Team selection for the Elites and Under 23s for London.
“Our results overall have been very encouraging with Emma Moffatt (who will race in the Coral Coast 5150 this Sunday in Cairns) sitting third overall in the pointscore, Abram’s first up bronze and the consistency of the youngsters in both the women and the men,” said Savage.
“But they all know that the fields will only be getting stronger from here on in as we approach Kitzbuhel, Hamburg, Stockholm and London.”