Ten of Australia’s elite triathletes will return to the home of some of their greatest triumphs on the cobblestone streets of Hamburg for this weekend’s World Triathlon Series round and Mixed Relay World Championship.
Last year saw the Australians win their first ever Mixed Relay World crown after Jake Birtwhistle and Ashleigh Gentle both finished second in their respective individual races the day before.
Birtwhistle and Gentle were joined by Charlotte McShane and Matt Hauser for a triumphant relay victory in the newest event on the Tokyo Olympic schedule.
They will again be joined by Olympians Ryan Bailie and Aaron Royle as well as Commonwealth Games representative Luke Willian and fellow young gun Marcel Walkington in Saturday’s men’s race and Commonwealth Games representatives McShane and Gillian Backhouse and youngsters Emma Jeffcoat and Natalie Van Coevorden in the women’s field.
All 10 will be vying for places on the Mixed Relay as the Australians step up to defend their title.
The Australian men are sitting well inside the top ten on the WTS Rankings with Bailie (sixth) and Birtwhistle (seventh) and Royle just outside in 13th behind Series leader, Spain’s multiple world champion Mario Mola – Hamburg winner in 2016 and 2017.
The Sprint course (750m swim; 20km bike and 5km run) will certainly suit Birtwhistle – arguably the fastest runner in a field that also includes South African Richard Murray, who is bound to be close by.
Joining Australia’s leading contenders will be Victorian young gun, Walkington.
“I’m really looking forward to racing this weekend. I’ve heard so much about the Hamburg WTS about the atmosphere on course and the race location,” said Walkington.
“I have had a few weeks since my last main race so that has allowed me to get in some quality training to prepare me well for this weekend.”
The women’s field will see Series leader Katie Zaferes (USA) joined by defending WTS champion, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy.
Gentle, 16th on the WTS rankings, will be looking to get things back on track in the lead up to the ITU WTS Grand Final on the Gold Coast in September as will training partner Van Coevorden, the highest placed Australian in 15th.
“After the sickness and disappointment at the Leeds WTS, I'm really excited to head to Hamburg this week,” said Gentle, who made her Hamburg debut 11 years ago.
“It’s always an incredible weekend of racing, with huge crowds out supporting the Sprint race and the Mixed Relay World Championships.
“I was second in Hamburg last year, so I’ll be giving it my all to try and get back on the podium.
“I have memories of my first Junior World Champs, in 2009 ... I feel like the Grandma of the team now.”
Gentle will know she has a group of fellow Australian girls, with their sights set on those Mixed Relay spots.
Backhouse made the most of an opportunity when she came in to play her part in Australia’s gold medal winning team at the Commonwealth Games.
Among the others keen to put their hand up is an in-form Sydneysider, Emma Jeffcoat, after continuing to impress with her recent European form.
“I've been very busy racing recently and really happy with how I'm tracking this season with some consistent top end results,” said Jeffcoat.
“The field is stacked this weekend in Hamburg and I’m certainly geared up and ready to race the best!
“And with the World Mixed Team relay championship on Sunday there's a lot on the line and everyone wants to be a part of that so I know I'm definitely looking to put my best foot forward for that.”
Sat 14th July:
4:40pm Elite Men – 12:40am AEST
6:40pm Elite Women – 2:40am AEST
Sunday 15th July:
2:30pm Mixed Relay – 10:30pm AEST