FORMER Under 23 World Champion, Aaron Royle was the best of the Australians in today’s WTS Hamburg event, with an encouraging fifth place in an explosively fast run leg over the short course distance.
Royle, who has had battled a foot injury most of the year, will now lead the Aussies into the Rio Test Event, in a fortnight, where they will chase early Olympic Team nomination.
Ryan Bailie put in a strong run leg to finish next best Australian in 15th place, with Ryan Fisher 23rd, Cameron Good 48th, Brendon Sexton 51st, and Jacob Birtwhistle 59th.
While in the women’s race it was a delighted Under 23 World Championship silver medallist, Gillian Backhouse who produced the best performance of the day for the Australians in 12th with Ashleigh Gentle 14th, Charlotte McShane 18th, Emma Jackson 19th and Erin Densham 45th.
The men’s race saw Frenchman Vincent Luis achieve what few have been able to and outsprinted the Spaniard Javier Gomez to take his first win in the series and first ever fro France.
Fellow Spaniard Mario Mola recorded the fastest 5km run split in WTS history (13:55) coming from the second group to run himself onto the podium.
In the men’s race it was Royle who was well placed out of the swim in 10th place just 9 seconds off the leader Richard Varga (SVK).
A lead group of nine quickly formed and worked efficiently together to keep ahead of the chase group during the entire 20km bike leg.
Royle, world number one Gomez, Luis and USA’s Tommy Zafares contributed to the work-load up front and extended their lead after each lap.
Heading back to transition for the final 5km they had amassed a 38sec lead.
Gomez and Luis, however showed their class quickly moving away from the rest to battle it out for the gold and silver.
After surging on each other over the final 2.5km it came down to the last 400m when Luis stepped it up a gear and Gomez unable to respond.
While Royle didn’t have the foot speed of these guys today but it was an encouraging result after a foot injury that set him back 4-6 weeks in his training.
He’s currently based in Vitoria, Spain at his European summer training camp under Jamie Turner and will only continue to improve now back into a full running program.
“I've done very little top end fast running in training and I felt pretty one paced and alright throughout the run, I just didn’t have that extra gear at the end. I think I’m in better shape for an Olympic distance right now,” Royle said.
“I’ve had four good weeks of training and that’s paid off - finally got a result that I can be happy with.
“My swim and bike was really good today. The run was pleasing, but still probably a tiny bit off.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been really happy with an ITU race. I think that’s a good sign, so hopefully I can just keep on improving.”
The rest of the Australian men did not have great swims today and left themselves a hard task from the outset.
Bailie drove hard in the chase group but being such a big bunch they were not as effective and couldn’t make any inroads on the leaders.
“I got caught at the first buoy (in the swim) and I reckon I was under water for 15secs - almost vertical!” Bailie said.
“But the bike was on the whole way and I felt pretty flat to be honest.
“I had a strong second half of the run, which is a good sign heading into Rio and the Test Event.
“It’s a pure strength based course, not much speed. We haven’t really been doing a lot of speed work so I was pretty happy with where that is, so I’ll sharpen up and come out all guns blazing for Rio.”
Triathlon Australia's Performance Director Bernard Savage described the performance by Royal as exciting and very encouraging with the Rio Test event just two weeks away.
"Aaron was fantastic today in a race that was explosive but provided a good chance for everyone to sharpen up on their speed and some race experience,” Savage said.
“It’s been a while since Aaron has had this sort of result, it’s pleasing for him and his confidence leading into the test event in two weeks. He swam well, worked well in the front group and ran strongly.”
Savage was equally pleased the performance of Backhouse.
“Gillian was excellent today, she swam well and rode strongly. She has been doing some outstanding work on the track and ran her best today,” Savage said.
The attention will now turn to Sunday’s Mixed Relay World Championship.
“I’ll have a look at how everyone has pulled up after today’s racing and make a decision on the final make up of the team later tonight,” Savage said.
Australia finished fourth here last year and certainly has their eye on a medal performance tomorrow.
1. Vincent Luis (FRA) 51:54
2. Javier Gomez (ESP) 51:58
3. Mario Mola (ESP) 52:20
4. Dorian Coninx (FRA) 52:30
5. Aaron Royle (AUS) 52:37
6. Henri Schoeman (RSA) 52:40
7. Anthony Pujades (FRA) 52:45
8. Richard Varga (SVK) 52:47
9. Joao Pereira (POR) 52:50
10. Justus Nieschlag (GER) 52:52
15th Ryan Bailie (AUS) 53:07
23rd Ryan Fisher (AUS) 53:19
48th Cameron Good (AUS) 55:13
51st Brendon Sexton (AUS) 55:31
59th Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) 56:48