Australia’s Commonwealth Games trio Dan Wilson, Ryan Bailie and Aaron Royle will return to a happy hunting ground when Auckland hosts round two of the World Triathlon Series on Sunday.
Twelve moths ago Royle, Bailie and Wilson staged an exciting final 10km charge to the finish to place third, fourth and fifth respectively to kick start what was a successful 2014, leading to selection on the Australian team for Glasgow.
It’s no wonder that Royle, who won the ITU World Under 23 crown there in 2012 and finished sixth in the WTS in 2013 describes the Auckland race as his favourite on the circuit.
The Aussie boys will be hoping for similar success in 2015 with the end result an even bigger carrot as they try and put some serious runs on the board as selection for next year’s 2016 Rio Olympics hots up over a course that most resembles Rio.
Points and places will become crucial throughout the WTS, which heads to the *Gold Coast on April 11 and 12, as they try and secure Australia’s Olympic quota spots.
Wilson, Bailie and Royle will be joined on the start line by London Olympian Brendan Sexton, exciting Tasmanian debutant Jacob Birtwhistle and Manly’s Cameron Good.
The women’s field will see Olympic bronze medallists Emma Moffatt and Erin Densham joined by 2013 Under 23s ITU world champion Charlotte McShane her training partner Natalie van Coevorden and recent ITU Mooloolaba World Cup bronze medallist Ashleigh Gentle.
Densham has been under a fitness cloud since a fall from her bike landed her in hospital a fortnight ago, while Moffatt will be keen to atone for her disappointing start to the season when she finished 23rd in Abu Dhabi in the Sprint Distance pipe opener.
McShane on the other hand produced a confidence boosting seventh place to give her 2015 season just the start she needed while Gentle also produced an eye-catching performance on the Sunshine Coast.
Triathlon Australia’s National Performance Director Bernard Savage knows the racing is going to be tough over the notoriously hilly Auckland course that could well play into the hands of his team.
“Dan and Aaron suffered some illness coming off Abu Dhabi but have fully recovered and along with Ryan Bailie will be looking to build on their first race,” said Savage.
“All three boys raced well here last year, they know what to expect and they will all be up for the challenge.
“Jacob Birtwhistle has certainly earned his stripes and deservedly gets the chance to contest his first WTS race.
“Similarly with the girls, it was great to see McShane produce the kind of result she is more than capable of with her top 10 finish in Abu Dhabi and she knows she can also build on that in Auckland.
“Gentle will be lining up for her first WTS race of the year after her good start in Mooloolaba.”
The men’s field will feature a four-strong Spanish armada who will be hard to hold on to in the City of Sails.
They will led by 2014 top two - four-time ITU World Champion and Olympic silver medallist Javier Gomez and his flying team mate, first up WTS winner in Abu Dhabi, Mario Mola.
They will be joined in the top 10 by Fernando Alarza and Vicente Hernandez – third behind David Hauss (FRA) and Birtwhistle at Mooloolaba.
Throw in 2012 ITU World champion and Olympic bronze medallist Jonathan Brownlee and Portugal’s powerhouse Joao Silva and the men’s field is very impressive.
The world’s number one ITU female Gwen Jorgensen will again lead the way in a similar female field that greeted the judges in Abu Dhabi, the race that saw the long-legged American run down the field in one of the most amazing 5km run splits seen in triathlon.
It could well be a case of watching her reel them in again in Auckland.
- Australian Start times (Sunday): 10:50am (VIC, NSW) 9:50am (QLD)
- Australian Start time (Sunday): 2:40pm (VIC, NSW) 1:40 (QLD)
- Follow the races with live timing at triathlon.org and on twitter:
* Meanwhile the next stop on the WTS circuit will be the Gold Coast on April 11 and 12 when the world’s best return to Australia for the first time since Sydney hosted a round back in 2012.
The Gold Coast is no stranger to hosting major events, having hosted the 2009 ITU World Championships.