Time on his time trial bike back home in Tasmania over the past three weeks has been time well spent for prospective Commonwealth Games triathlete Jake Birtwhistle in Sydney today.
The 21-year-old from Launceston, considered unlucky not to make it to this year’s Rio Olympics, has broken through for a well-deserved win in the Nepean Triathlon over the flat 1km swim; 30km bike and 10km run course.
While in the women’s race 2014 winner and 2016 Rio Olympian Ashleigh Gentle was back on top of the podium after finishing second to Emma Moffatt in last year’s race.
Birtwhistle’s victory, due to a powerful bike ride with training partner and Rio 10th place finisher Ryan Bailie, comes after finishing second in the last two Nepean outings.
The Tassie boy, who is based in Wollongong and Vitoria, Spain under coach Jamie Turner, was close up on the swim and he and Bailie stole a march on the field on the bike before Birtwhistle ran away to win in a time of 1:30.03 from Bailie (1:30.49) and David Mainwaring (1:31.13).
Birtwhistle ran home the 10km in 32.31 to Bailie’s 33.17 and former long distance runner and Ironman distance triathlete Mainwaring’s 32.37.
“I’ve been second (to Aaron Royle – 9th in Rio) for the past two years so it’s nice to break through for a victory,” said Birtwhistle.
“It’s a straight forward course but one that I really enjoy, given my previous results here, particularly winning the Youth Olympics.
“And I put it down to the work I have done back home in Launceston on the time trial bike – in the past I have just maintained my fitness for this time of the year but this year I have taken it up a notch and it has certainly paid off.
“The bike is at the moment my strongest leg.”
That’s a big statement given the fact that Birtwhistle came from a solid athletics background that saw him represent Australia in IAAF World Cross Country and with outstanding results over 3000, 5000 and 10,000 metres on the track and road as he transitioned out of athletics to chase his Olympic dream in triathlon.
For Birtwhistle the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is now very much a major goal, especially after going so close to this year’s Olympics.
Birtwhistle, along with Olympians Royle, Bailie and Ryan Fisher provide the Australian men with an exciting future as they build towards Tokyo 2020.
The Gold Coast will also hold the 2018 WTS Grand Final in the September of that year which will also be a huge fillip for the sport in Australia.
Gentle, a Gold Coast girl through and through, will also be firing up in the build up to 2018 and her victory today over fellow Cozumel ITU World Championship team member Natalie van Coevorden and WTS Grand Final bronze medallist from Mexico Charlotte McShane will be a huge confidence builder for her.
Gentle (14.23) was close up on Van Coevorden (14.18) and McShane (14.21) out of the one kilometre swim but stole a march on the field on the 30km bike leg to open up a winning lead going into the 10km run – her strongest leg.
Her 30km bike time of 45.07 to Van Coevorden’s 46.16 and McShane’s 46.55 provided a clear margin as she took over on the two lap run course to split 36.20 to hold off the fast finishing Van Coevorden’s 36.00 minute time with McShane rounding out the podium (37.47).
Today’s results sets up a mouthwatering return battle in next weekend’s Noosa Triathlon in both the men’s and women’s races.
1. Jacob Birtwhistle 1:30:03 Ashleigh Gentle 1:37:51
2. Ryan Bailie 1:30:49 Natalie Van Coevorden 1:38:28
3. David Mainwaring 1:31:13 Charlotte McShane 1:41:59