Australia will be well represented in the World Triathlon Championship Series Eliminator finals in Montreal tomorrow following a solid, action-packed day of qualification racing after officials were forced to reduce the format to a duathlon.
Heavy overnight rain saw local authorities open the flood gates in the St Lawrence River, affecting the water course, making the Super Sprint a 1 kilometre run/7.2km bike/2km run duathlon.
All three Australian men, Commonwealth Games-bound Jake Birtwhistle (TAS) and Brandon Copeland (NSW) qualified straight through to Sunday’s final in fifth and seventh out of the first heat with WTCS debutant Callum McClusky (ACT) running into an impressive third place in a turbulent second heat with the top 10 in each qualifier advancing into Sunday’s Eliminator rounds.
There were some anxious moments for McClusky, who led out of the first transition and then almost stumbled to the floor at the turn on the first of the second laps on the final run in what was a rough and tumble affair.
Another incident saw Hungary’s Gabor Faldum upended and there was further upheaval as Vincent Luis (FRA) appeared to get his foot caught on a couple of occasions, the Frenchman remonstrating with those behind, all too aware of an injury sustained in Montreal last year by one of the competitors when he was tripped on the tight course.
In the women’s racing, US-based South Australian, Commonwealth Games representative for Birmingham Sophie Linn (sixth in the first heat) and WTCS debutant, Sydney’s Matilda Offord who looked right at home in the second heat, both comfortably locked up their spots in the final, with Offord a close-up eighth.
While WA's Hedgeland sisters Jaz (1st) and Kira (7th) along with NSW's Natalie Van Coevorden (10th) all had to back up to seal their spots into the main draw with strong showings in the repechage round.
Officials have confirmed that Sunday’s Eliminator finals will return to the Super Sprint Triathlon format of a 300m swim, 7.2km bike and 2km run, a decision which pleases the Australians, especially the Birmingham bound Van Coevorden.
“The way I train and race the second race (today) was really good for me because I was able to use that knowing I could back up in a few hours and I’m grateful I can come back tomorrow – I actually felt like a fish out of water – I’m really happy we can get back in the water and swim tomorrow,” said Van Coevorden, who after trailing the leaders in the first half of the final run, was able to secure the last spot in the final.
“We had some staff out on the course letting us know where we were so by the time I passed a few of the other athletes I knew I was safe in that top 10, but it was hard out there (the second time), I think it was a lot harder than this morning,”
Sunday’s racing will see the final split into three Super-Sprints, the last 10 across the line being cut at each finish until just 10 athletes remain for one last swim-bike-run for the medals.
Tactics will be key, conserving energy without risking elimination. Recovery time between those final races is short, approximately seven minutes from the first across the line to the next starting horn. It’s going to be fast and furious racing.