Gold Coast Commonwealth Games hopeful Ashleigh Gentle has been dubbed ‘the gazelle’ after running from a seemingly impossible position to produce a brilliant bronze medal performance at the World Triathlon Series race in Stockholm tonight.
The 26-year-old from the Gold Coast produced by far the fastest 10km run split of the day – a time of 33 minutes 27 seconds after trailing at one stage by 2 minutes 50 seconds.
As courageous as it was, Gentle was never a chance of catching WTS Series leader, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who Gentle beat in Montreal earlier this month.
Duffy, the World Championship and Games favourite, stole a march on the field out of the swim and through the tricky 40km bike course, which claimed one of the lead riders, American Katie Zaferes, the victim of a nasty crash.
It came half-way through the bike leg as she trailed Duffy around a tight corner with British girl Jessica Learmonth just behind her. She was later taken to hospital for x-rays.
It left Duffy and Learmonth to share the riding duties into the second transition before Duffy took off and was never headed.
But the never-say-die Gentle, who maintains her second place behind Duffy in the overall WTS standings, kept Learmonth honest as she hunted her down.
The fast finishing Australian finished just 12 seconds behind the gallant Brit, who hung on for her first ever podium finish.
In the end Duffy coasted to victory in 2:00:09 from Learmonth 2:01.30 and Gentle in 2:01.42.
Learmonth admitted she was “definitely aware” that Gentle was storming home and putting time into her every lap.
“The first lap I went alright on the run but I knew she (Ashleigh) was chasing me down and closing the gap and I was relieved and delighted to get to the finish ... she’s like a gazelle.”
Gentle admitted she had a “really bad start” in the swim and struggled to catch up once the field was split into two major groups.
“It is hard to get back once there’s a split but it is something I’ll have to reflect on and make sure I get (right) for the (WTS Grand Final, September 14-17) in Rotterdam,” said Gentle, who was also described by WTS commentator Barrie Shepley as “the poster girl for never giving up.”
“There was only two of us really doing any work on the bike and to be truthful I didn’t think I would be standing here (in third place), there were times when I didn’t give myself a chance.”
In what will be a major preview for next year’s Commonwealth Games the WTS Grand Final in Rotterdam will see the top three rankings leaders Duffy (BER) 4000 points; Gentle (AUS) 3507 and Andrew Hewitt (NZL) 3224 all from the Commonwealth as well as another three from the top 12 with Joanna Brown (CAN) 2302 in seventh; Learmonth (GBR) 2254 eighth and Charlotte McShane (AUS) 2201 in 12th.
Although Duffy has five wins to her credit this season Gentle knows anything is possible in triathlon.
“To be truthful I’ve never been in this position before … but Flora is racing so well; I guess you can’t predict what is going to happen and I’ll just try to do the best I can.”
Meanwhile Rio Olympian Aaron Royle will take a confidence boosting eighth place in the World Triathlon Series round in Stockholm, into next month’s Grand Final in Rotterdam.
Royle was in the hunt until the back end of the 10km run leg after he ran himself into second and third alongside Germany’s Justus Nieschleg.
He was out of the water in the top three with eventual winner Johnny Brownlee and triathlon’s fastest swimmer Richard Varga,
And after the 1.5km swim Royle was very active on the tough Stockholm bike course, which suited the former Under 23 world champion.
The lead group of six was eventually cut to three and after a strong ride, Royle was third out of transition.
But as hard as he tried to hang on and push the pace, the pressure eventually mounted.
A tiring Royle fell away as German’s Justus Nieschleg chased the determined dual Olympic medallist, Brownlee.
Royle then struggled to go with the pursuing chase pack, led by defending ITU World Champion, Spain’s Mario Mola.
The six-strong pack charged past Royle with Nieschleg producing his best WTS effort and moving with the pack until towards the end of the race.
Brownlee produce a huge confidence boosting win ahead of a determined Norweigan Kristen Blummenfelt who hung on in a sprint finish with Frenchmen Pierre Le Corre third.
Then came consistent New Zealander Ryan Sissons in fourth, Nieschleg fifth,Tom Bishop (GBR) sixth, Mola seventh and then Royle, with Marcel Walkington in 29th the next best Australian.
Luckless WTS debutant Brandon Copeland was forced out of the race after suffering a puncture two kilometres into the bike. The Dan Atkins coached Copeland will now concentrate on his first ITU Under 23 World Championships in Rotterdam.
|Results: Elite Men|
|3.||Pierre Le Corre||FRA||01:49:28|