Ashleigh Gentle has shown once again why she’s the Queen of the Noosa Triathlon, coming from behind to win a record eighth title.
The two-time Olympian did not have it all her own way on Sunday, with Milan Agnew and Sophie Malowiecki pushing Gentle all the way to join her on the podium.
Gentle crossed the finish line on Noosa Parade in 2:00:36, half a minute ahead of Agnew, with Malowiecki a further 30 seconds behind in third.
“It means a lot, sometimes I honestly don’t know how I pull it off, I felt pretty terrible out there in sections, Milan and Sophie were racing so well so congratulations to them, they did amazing, I was pushed to the very end and I’m just pretty relieved actually,” said Gentle. “I knew that there hasn’t been much racing around and the Noosa Triathlon is the biggest race that we’ve got in Australia and those girls target this race, it’s a big one and it’s a great one to win, I knew that they’d be racing really well.”
Australian-based Dutch athlete Lotte Wilms exited the 1.5km swim on Noosa Main Beach in the lead, ahead of Malowiecki and Agnew, with Gentle in fourth.
The quartet pushed ahead over the 40km ride, with Malowiecki coming off the bike in the lead, Agnew second and Gentle more than a minute behind in third.
It was over the run leg that Gentle came into her own, powering past Agnew to take the lead with three kilometres left, and going on to become the only athlete to have won eight Noosa Triathlon titles.
“The conditions were pretty tough, on the bike the wind was slowly starting to pick up towards the end and I definitely noticed it was pretty hard going on the run heading out,” said Gentle. “I know this course well so I tried to use that to my advantage and tried not to panic and just slowly build into it and somehow I found something to take the win.
“It was a pretty lonely race for me to be honest because I came out of the water just behind Sophie and Milan, and Lotte and Lauren were 20 seconds or so ahead of us which was really good because Lotte is an amazing swimmer so I was happy with my position but my god Milan and Sophie just went off so fast and I feel like for most of the bike ride we weren’t actually riding too dissimilar a pace,” she said. “They just took it out really fast and were really aggressive on the bike and I probably lost a bit of time towards the backend coming back into town. Apart from a couple of little passes I was all on my own so I just tried to keep motivated and hope that they didn’t get too much of a gap and tried to keep faith in my run.”
Gentle enjoyed being back at the Noosa Triathlon after the event wasn’t held in 2020.
“I love coming back to Noosa, like I said a couple of days ago it makes me very happy and I just love sharing this event with thousands of people racing on the course but also on the sideline so thanks to everyone who gave cheers this morning it makes a difference and you make Noosa Tri what it is,” she said. “I missed it so much, it feels like it’s been a long two years so it was pretty devastating not to have Noosa Tri last year, obviously wining means a lot, and breaking records means a lot but it’s not what I was thinking of, honestly I was just so grateful to be out here and be at a mass participation event and it’s definitely true with everything going on that you learn to be a bit more grateful for what you have.”
The men’s race crowned a first-time champion, with Brisbane’s Luke Willian claiming the title in 1:47:13, just six seconds ahead of Nicholas Free, with Lorcan Redmond only four seconds further back in third.
The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games representative was in the leading pack all day, pushing ahead late in the run to take the win.
“It’s phenomenal, this has been the big goal for the back end of the year, and to finish it off on a high is absolutely phenomenal and I’m over the moon,” said Willian. “It’s amazing, I love this race, I think I’ve raced here for six years now, it’s been a while since I’ve got close to the podium. My first years I got a fourth and a fifth and I’ve kind of been a bit fried by the end of the year and missed out in the last couple of years, it’s always been the goal to win so to come back after a year off and get the job done is absolutely amazing.”
Willian exited the swim in a close group with Matthew Roberts, Charlie Quinn and Josh Amberger, with the leaders joined by a number of other across the 40km bike course to make for a tight start to the run.
Willian battled it out across the 10km run with Charlie Quinn and Lorcan Redmond, with Nicholas Free charging through to record the fastest run split and surge into second place at the line.
“The swim was crystal clear, you could see the rocks at the bottom at the far turn buoy, it was absolutely beautiful, that’s why you come to Noosa,” said Willian. “On the bike we had a little group and made sure we were all working hard and we were all pulling real solid turns to keep the gap that we worked really hard on the swim to get. Then on the run we had a bit of a gap but not a lot, at the halfway mark I was starting to sting a bit and I could see that the young guys were coming from behind and looked like they were going to go again and I worked really solid all the way home and held them off and got the job done.
“There’s no point working so hard on the swim to watch it all disappear on the bike so we really wanted to maximise that swim component into the bike and hopefully into the run, probably would have liked a little more onto the run but can’t complain when you’ve got 40 seconds off the bike,” he said. “I kind of like the heat so it was good that last bit on the run where the heat started to elevate a little bit and it kind of takes the edge off you if you’ve been working all day so that was really important for me as it enabled me to hang on cause those guys behind were coming home fast.
“I’m over the moon, you grow up as a little kid watching this race and to win it has always been my dream, it’s the cherry on top,” said Willian.
Noosa Triathlon is supported by the Queensland Government, through Tourism and Events Queensland, and is a feature on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar.
Noosa Triathlon – Elite Men
1. Luke Willian – 01:47:13
2. Nicholas Free – 01:47:19
3. Lorcan Redmond – 01:47:23
Noosa Triathlon – Elite Women
1. Ashleigh Gentle – 02:00:36
2. Milan Agnew – 02:01:03
3. Sophie Malowiecki – 02:01:38