Rising triathlon star Jake Birtwhistle will line up for his second “home game” of the season when he chases his second National Elite title in the space of three weeks at the 2015 Wollongong OTU Sprint Triathlon Oceania Cup on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Launceston-born Birtwhistle showed all his class when he returned home to Tasmania to notch four titles in one race over the Standard (Olympic distance) Oceania and Australian Championships in Devonport last month.
The Tassie tiger ran away with the Elite and Under 23 titles with a perfectly timed 10km run to take all four crowns from fellow rising stars Declan Wilson (ACT) and Kenji Nener (WA) who also showed their tenacity in the run home.
Sunday will see the Wollongong-based Wizard roll just 200m down from his front door in North Wollongong to the start of the race at Belmore Basin for a race that doubles as the Triathlon Australia Elite and Under 23 National Sprint titles.
“It was nice to head back home to Launceston and have a win in front of my family and friends and now to return home to where I live and train in Wollongong is another bonus,” said Birtwhistle.
“I only live a couple of hundred metres from the race start so that’s nice and coming so soon after the Devonport race.
“We know the course and the surrounds pretty well and we’re all looking forward to what should be a fun day.”
It will he another perfect hit out for the 2014 ITU World Junior silver medallist who has earned a place on the Australian list for his ITU World Triathlon Series (WTS) debut over the Standard (Olympic Distance) in Auckland on March 28, 29 – alongside proven ITU racers and training partners Aaron Royle, Ryan Bailie and Brendan Sexton, Commonwealth Games representative Dan Wilson and World Championship representative Cameron Good.
“It’s a big step up but something I’ve been aiming for and I also know it’s going to be a tough initiation; it’s a tough course but I know it will be great experience,” said Birtwhistle.
Sunday’s action-packed schedule starts at 7am with the Triathlon Australia Age Group National Championships (Standard Distance -1.5km swim; 40km bike; 10km run) and ITU Age World Championship Qualifier.
It will be followed by the Elite/Under 23 Men’s race at 10.30am and the Women’s Elite/Under 23 Sprint at 11.15am that will see competitors start with a 750m beach start swim followed by a 20km (three laps) bike and five km run to finish.
Apart from Birtwhistle, Wilson and Nener and local Bulli Tri Cross star Ben Allen, the Elite Men’s Sprint field has also attracted a host of Wollongong-based internationals from the Jamie Turner Wizards group – including Canadians Matt Sharpe, Tyler Mislawchuk and Alexis Le Page and Jason Wilson from Barbados.
Wilson will be joined by fellow VIS training partners Marcel Walkington and Joel Tobin-White in a field that also sees joint National Junior champion Matt Roberts and fellow Queenslander Luke Willian, who staged a thrilling dead-heat in the Australian Junior Series final in Devonport.
The Elite Women’s race will feature Wollongong girls and training partners Grace Musgrove and Natalie Van Coevorden who will line up with their international training partners, Canadian Commonwealth Games representative and last year’s Oceania Cup winner in Mooloolaba Sarah-Anne Brault (ranked 18th on the WTS rankings) and Hungary’s Margit Vanek (31st WTS rankings).
Add 2014 Youth Olympic Games gold medallist and Devonport Junior winner Brittany Dutton, Series runner-up Sophie Malowiecki, who suffered a puncture in Devonport and the field also demonstrates an exciting depth of talent.
Musgrove showed her steely determination after climbing off the road following a spectacular crash on the final stages of the 40km bike course in Devonport to run 10km and into second behind Jaz Hedgeland in the Australian Championship.
Bruised ribs and a cut knee have not stopped her preparation for Sunday’s race which will showcase a host of events at the Trithegong Triathlon Festival (Twitter hashtag #trithegong).
Wollongong’s stunning harbour precinct and blue mile of Wollongong City will come alive again this March with a festival of fitness, health and family fun that offers everyone the chance to "have a go" or come along and enjoy the colour and spectacle of the sport of triathlon.
The trithegong triathlon festival offers races for all ages and abilities. Enter as an individual or get some friends together and be part of a team and taste the excitement, exhilaration and sense of accomplishment that comes with participating in the trithegong triathlon festival.
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
The 2015 OTU Sprint Triathlon Oceania Cup and Elite and Under 23 Australian Championships