The Australian Team in Kitzbuhel this weekend

McCormack has his sights set on gate-crashing his way into the Australian Olympic team for London and Saturday's “comeback race” comes off a stunning victory just a fortnight ago in the inaugural Challenge Cairns Ironman-distance race. Defending world champion and Olympic bronze medallist

June 6, 2011

All eyes will be on the return to Olympic distance racing by Australia’s “Ironman king” Chris McCormack at the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series in Kitzbühel, Austria this weekend.

McCormack has his sights set on gate-crashing his way into the Australian Olympic team for London and Saturday’s “comeback race” comes off a stunning victory just a fortnight ago in the inaugural Challenge Cairns Ironman-distance race.

The 38-year-old from Sydney will link up with the Australian contingent today as they continue their preparations towards the two major World Championship rounds in Hamburg (July 16 and 17) and London (August 6 and 7).

Triathlon Australia and AIS head coach Shaun Stephens said he and the triathlon world were excited about McCormack’s return to Olympic distance.

“It will be exciting to see him race, but coming off an ironman and limited speed training, he will find the intensity challenging,” says Stephens.

“But this bike course lends itself to strong riders so it will be interesting to watch ‘Macca’ mix it up over the shorter distance that’s for sure. The course does suit strong athletes.”

McCormack is a two-time Hawaiian Ironman champion, who claimed the ITU World Championship and overall World Cup series title back in 1997.

Since then he has gone on to have an equally impressive long distance career, but he announced earlier this year he would target a return to the ITU circuit with an aim to qualify for the London Olympics.

Kitzbuhel will be his first ITU race McCormack has competed in since 2004.

Stephens will be looking to some big improvements from the Australian contingent, still reeling after their indifferent showing in Madrid two weeks ago and who will go into this round without Olympic champion Emma Snowsill and rising star Brendan Sexton.The Australians are hunting for all-important ITU points to gain country qualifications for next year’s Olympics and the Australian camp is ever mindful that every point counts.

And once again the message from Stephens and his coaches will be to race aggressively from the start.

“The Madrid result was extremely disappointing for the entire team. Clearly ourpreparation was off and were caught out with the ferociousness of the swim,” said Stephens.

“Obviously two weeks is not a long time to be able to recover and implement the required changes and prepare for another race and expect a significant change.

“Nevertheless, we have reviewed each athlete’s performance and have begun implementing changes. The focus for everyone’s year has always been on performing in August.

“The Kitzbuhel course is one of the tougher courses on the circuit with hills and technical sections on cobbles through the middle of town.

“It is expected to be very cold and potentially wet, particularly on Sunday for the women’s event.

“We are certainly looking at improving our results from Madrid and have stressed to the athletes they must be prepared to race aggressively from the start.”

Here is an update on the Australian contingent as they prepare for Kitzbuhel.

Defending world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffatt, who ran home strongly in Madrid, has been training solidly and will be looking to improve on her 13th from two weeks ago with Sunday’s race again featuring Canada’s in form Paula Findlay.

Beijing Olympian Erin Densham, who has had an up-and-down season recorded an impressive victory in a sprint race in Cremona, Italy last weekend and she is looking towards a good race in Kitzbuhel.

The expected colder conditions won’t suit Beijing Olympian Brad Kahlefeldt who has been training well since Madrid but Stephens is expecting a better showing from him.

Beijing Olympian Courtney Atkinson will be looking to finish his short sojourn into Europe with an improved showing here. He will return home as planned after Kitzbuhel and will make some significant changes to his program that will see him link up with Olympian and experienced Olympic coach Craig Walton on the Gold Coast.

Felicity Abram was diagnosed with glandular fever prior to leaving Australia but Stephens says she will return to racing as a test of where she is at. “Felicity has been training regularly albeit relatively low intensity.  We are not expecting a lot from her but using Kitzbuhel as a test of where she is at.

Olympic champion Emma Snowsill, who has struggled to find her feet in Sydney and Madrid has decided to “sit out” Kitzbuhel to set herself for Hamburg and London. Stephens said the Australian camp was supportive of Snowill’s decision. “Emma is 100 percent healthy and injury free but realises at this point in time she is not in the condition she would like to be to challenge the leaders,” said Stephens. “She has therefore decided to put together a solid training block in preparation for the next two races.

World Cup winner from Monterrey, Victoria’s Brendon Sexton is another Australian withdrawal with a virus and has hardly trained since Madrid a fortnight ago.

Annabel Luxford, who finished 19th in Madrid, has been training well and is hoping to improve upon her placing of a fortnight ago

Jamie Huggett also raced well in Cremona where he finished fourth place.  Kitzbuhel will be a step up in distance for him and competition level as well but Stephens says he is “looking for a solid (top 25 would be good) performance from him.”

Jamie Seear continues to build into his year says Stephens is building in to his year and he is also looking for a solid result from him.

About the race:  Kitzbühel is one of the smallest host cities on the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series circuit, but it’s quickly become one of the most popular as athletes and fans alike take in the charming town set at the foot of the Austrian Alps. It has a steep and hilly bike course that always factors in the final podium. The town of just 8,400 residents is known as a year-round destination for sports and outdoor lovers but was first known for its skiing, with the surrounding mountains having some of the toughest runs in Europe.


Elite men start – Saturday 18 June – 14.30 (UTC/GMT + 2). Race start 10.30pm AEST Saturday.

Elite women start – Sunday 19 June – 12:30 (UTC/GMT + 2). Race start 8.30pm AEST Sunday.