Tasmania’s WTS debutant Jacob Birtwhistle produced his best performance yet on the international stage with a brilliant top ten finish, while Ryan Bailie continued his great form at the ITU World Triathlon Series in Yokohama today.
The 20-year-old “Tassie tiger” has just emerged from the junior ranks, where he won a silver medial at the 2014 ITU Junior World Championships and now targeting the Under 23 title.
Last year Birtwhistle claimed a clean sweep of Triathlon Australia’s major National Championships in 2015 winning the Elite and Under 23 Australian Standard (Olympic) Distance and Elite and Under 23 Sprint Distance Championships in one season.
Further signs of his potential were seen when he then went on to finish second at the ITU World Cup in Mooloolaba earlier this year.
After finishing 38th in the Auckland round earlier this year his ninth place today augurs well for the youngster and drew big wraps from the voice of ITU commentary, Barrie Shepley.
Praise also from Triathlon Australia’s National Performance Director Bernard Savage.
“Auckland was all about exposing him to that level of competition, he went away learning valuable lessons. His coach Jamie Turner has worked hard on improving these and the results were on display today,” said Savage, who praised his team for a good day all round with some very pleasing results for the program.
“It’s been a fantastic day all round with some great results, from the Paratri team firstly, the competitiveness of the performances is a world landscape for that program.
“It was great to see Australians back on the path to where the team has previously been and encouraging to have two girls (Ashleigh Gentle second and Emma Moffatt third) and on the podium in a really important season for everyone with Rio being the Test event.
“I’m so pleased for Ashleigh, she has always been a threat but today it all came together, while Emma was again consistent, professional and raced aggressive. We cant’ read anything into Emma or Gillian’s performances being first races back.
“The men produced solid results, Jacob to breakthrough for a top ten win at his second WTS is exciting and another consistent performance from Ryan.”
Ryan Bailie was the next best of the Australian’s finishing in 11th place today adding to his impressive performances in the WTS rounds at Abu Dhabi (14th), Auckland (5th) and on the Gold Coast (9th).
The pair both from the mighty Wollongong Wizard squad positioned themselves well all day and then executed slick run splits to secure their results.
Aaron Royal was in the lead group from the start today but that didn’t last long as the packs merged to form a group of 52 in the huge train on the bike.
Australia’s Commonwealth Games representative Dan Wilson was also active and up front on the bike, staying out of any trouble.
Bad luck again struck for Cameron Goode with a second puncture in two races.
Dual Olympian Courtney Atkinson, trying to make his third Olympic team remained vigilant at the back of the group but not in his best form today, withdrawing in the closing stages of the bike.
Royale and Wilson didn’t have the running legs today eventually finishing 26th and 27th respectively.
But the battle of the giants once again captivated the triathlon world as the cream rose to the top at the pointy end of the race.
A brave solo breakaway on the bike by young Belgium Marten Van Riel was not rewarded, crashing on the final turn into transition.
The foot race eventually came down to three – four-time world champion Javier Gomez (ESP), Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee (GBR) and the man most likely Mario Mola (ESP).
After stepping on the gas in the final stages and dropping Mola, Gomez and Brownlee duked it out over the final 1000m of the run and ending in another dramatic sprint finish.
Gomez was delighted to pick up his first win of the season and consolidate his number one position on the Columbia Threadneedle rankings.
“I was probably running against the best runners in the sport in Mario and Alistair, I was feeling good and had something left, I tried with two k to go and dropped Mario but Alistair stayed and then surged,”said Gomez.
“It reminded me a little of Cape Town but this time I kept up and it came to the last 200 meters and at that point anything can happen because we are both very tired and lucky I had a bit more than him and took the win which is great, the first one of the year.
“I have had good races in Cape Town, Gold Coast and Auckland. Being on the podium is great but winning is better. For my confidence as well to know I can run faster than anyone else, it was a great race and this is a great series, getting very exciting with a few guys with some victories, let’s see what happens.”