At 38, the former Olympic distance world champion and Ironman king, is on the short course comeback trail and is slowly but surely finding his speed feet in the helter-skelter world of Olympic triathlon.
He lined up but didn’t finish in Kitzbuehel in June and then fought hard to get within striking distance with a strong bike leg in Hamburg last month and despite suffering a penalty ran on strongly to finish an encouraging 26th.
McCormack was quick to lift Brad Kahlefeldt into the air after his training partner in the Australian camp in Aix Les Bains in France, chalked up his maiden Hamburg victory.
He will be there with him and Victorian rising star Brendan Sexton and youngsters Aaron Royal and James Seear when they attack the flat and fast streets of London on Sunday (10pm AEST) for the round five men’s race.
The course starts with a one-lap 1.5km swim in The Serpentine in Hyde Park, before a seven-lap 40km bike that circles Buckingham Palace and a four-lap, 10km run that finishes in Hyde Park – a perfect preview as the world’s best get that priceless chance to conquer the Olympic course.
Every nation has placed its own selection criteria on this benchmark event and Australia is no different: win the race and finish top three on the World Championship pointscore and you’re assured of automatic selection.
Triathlon Australia’s High Performance team were determined to create a “winning culture” in is squad in the lead up to next year and despite a sluggish start to the World Championship season that winning feeling has emerged, particularly on the back of the spectacular podium performances by Kahlefeldt and the three Emmas “Moffatt, Jackson and Snowsill – all on song for a trifecta in Hamburg in round four of the WCS.
And maybe McCormack holds the key to success in those famous streets this weekend.
Australia’s National and AIS Head Coach Shaun Stephens has been impressed with McCormack’s dedication and leadership in the Australian camp.
“There is no doubt Macca has gained a lot of confidence from his efforts in Hamburg and has continued to surprise everyone in camp with his athleticism after such a long time out of Olympic distance racing,” said Stephens.
“He has had a set-back with a tight hamstring but has recovered well and he is looking forward to improving upon his result in Hamburg.
“He is a terrific competitor and has been great for lifting the team morale.”
Stephens said Kahlefeldt had continued to train well post Hamburg as he prepares to take on Britain’s in-form Brownlee brothers Jonathan and Alistair, in front of what will be an enormous home town advantage,
“Brad is looking forward to a strong hit-out on the Olympic course. He is in terrific condition and is really keen to test himself against the Brownlee boys,” said Stephens, who is equally satisfied the Australian girls are ready to lift the bar again.
Stephens says his troops are all on track for races that could produce some of the most exciting racing of the season, with so much at stake.
“Everyone has trained really well and they are all ready to race. The Hamburg race certainly lifted the team spirits and gave everyone a lot of confidence with the process they are following to peak at the right time of year,” said Stephens.
“With Olympic selection on the line for many countries there will be many races within races. We are asking all of athletes to put their best foot forward this weekend in terms of performances and I’m sure they are ready to lift.
“It is our aim to put the pressure on and we are all looking forward to seeing how some of this year’s winners handle the pressures of an Olympic qualification race.
“The Australian girls in particular raised the level of the run in Hamburg and it will be fascinating to see who can respond to that challenge.
“Only twice in the last 12 months have the females run within four minutes of the male run times – Emma Snowsill in Budapest last year and the three Emma’s in Hamburg three weeks ago.
“Paula Findlay is the proven athlete so far this year, but it will be interesting to see how she handles the pressure.”
Apart from the Emma trifecta, Victorian Olympian Erin Densham, who along with VIS training partner Brendan Sexton won the Canary Wharf Sprint last month, has produced consistent top 10 finishes in Kitzbuehel (eighth) and Hamburg (seventh) and has been set for Saturday’s race (5.30pm AEST) by VIS Coach Jonno Hall.
Stephens says Moffatt gained a lot of confidence from Hamburg and has only got stronger with a very solid block of training.
“She is extremely competitive and a big race performer so she is looking forward to racing over the Olympic course,” said Stephens.
“All indications from Snowsill (who is in camp with the German team) suggest she has also developed confidence from Hamburg and has also completed another good training block.
“Emma Jackson has continued to train very well and has not allowed her outstanding result in Hamburg to distract her from continuing a terrific season.
“Felicity Abram has just completed her best block of solid training all year since Hamburg (where she was 16th but ever present) and will be stronger and fitter for London while Ashleigh Gentle is coming off a terrific year thus far with a win in Edmonton WC.
“This will be her first WCS race. If she is in striking distance after the swim/bike, anything is possible but her real focus is learning from the experience as it is a big step up.
“Annabelle Luxford continues to get stronger and fitter through the year and she should have a strong presence in the swim and bike.”