Two-time Olympian Emma Moffatt and young West Australian Ryan Bailie who has his sights on his first Olympic Games have produced encouraging top ten finishes in today’s World Triathlon Series race in Auckland.
The torturous Auckland layout is described by many experts as having a bike climb as close to the Rio Olympic course as there is on WTS circuit.
Moffatt called on all her grit determination and big race experience to finish sixth over her first major international Olympic Distance race since last year’s Commonwealth Games while Glasgow hero Bailie produced a sterling performance to again finish fifth in the men’s race.
It was a welcome return for the 30-year-old Moffatt who spent the last fortnight soul searching after her disappointing WTS season opener in Abu Dhabi.
She showed why she has been one of Australia’s best over the past two Olympic campaigns in a race that will give her just the kick-along she needs in a bid for a third Olympic campaign.
A noted swimmer, Moffatt actually missed the font pack after the 1.5km swim and had to work with Sweden’s Olympic silver medallist Lisa Norden, who led chase pack charge into the lead group.
There were glimpses of the Moffatt of old who ensured she still had some legs left for the 10km run.
Charlotte McShane, seventh in Abu Dhabi, came from a long way back – at one stage 29th – to put together the fifth fastest 10km run split of the day (35:17) – to finish an encouraging 13th in what was one of her best ever performances over the demanding Olympic distance.
The other Australians were Ashleigh Gentle (22nd) and Natalie Van Coevorden (25th) in a race that was again dominated by defending US world champion Gwen Jorgensen who ran away from the field to win the gold medal from team mate Katie Zaferes and Andrea Hewitt (NZL).
WA’s Wollongong-based Bailie, Australia’s highest ranked male at the end of 2014, showed the experience and fight he has gained in recent years when he rode and climbed his way into a lead pack of 15 for the 40km bike leg alongside eventual winner and Olympic bronze medallist and today’s second placed Spaniard Javier Gomez, the London silver medallist.
And while not even four-time world champion Gomez was a match for Brownlee, who broke his Auckland hoodoo, it certainly showed Bailie is well and truly on track for another big year as the Australians set their sights on Olympic qualification.
Australia’s other finishes saw:
A solid 18th from Dan Wilson, who worked hard in the chase pack on the bike;
Brendan Sexton clock the fourth fastest run leg of the day (30.57) for his 23rd;
While 20-year-old WTS debutant Jake Birtwhistle was far from disgraced with his first up 38th.
Commonwealth Games representative and 2012 Under 23 world champion Aaron Royle was forced out of the race on the bike, suffering a reoccurrence of the flu virus he picked up post the opening round in Abu Dhabi and Cam Good’s day was over when he landed in a barrier losing his bike chain.
Australia’s National Performance Director Bernard Savage said he was encouraged by Moffatt’s return to form after her disappointing season opener in Abu Dhabi, praised Bailie’s tactical nous and also McShane’s fast finishing efforts as well.
“Emma will be happy with that performance I’m sure,” said Savage.
“She didn’t produce the kind of swim she would have wanted but worked hard on the bike to get herself into a lead group that certainly had the kind of attrition rate that you can expect on this course.
“It’s a very tough bike course and the group went from around 21 to 12 and Emma hung on well over a 40km bike leg they say is the closest thing we will see to Rio.
“So for all the reasons it’s a credit for Emma to do the work required to get her a top 10 finish and valuable Olympic qualification points.
“It’s also encouraging with the Gold Coast race coming up – it will give her a lot of confidence.
“McShane also dug deep after a swim that left her well off the pace but she kept her cool and put together a good run leg which put her in the top 15 and following her 7th in Abu Dhabi it’s another good result and it’s the kind of consistency you need at this level of racing.
“Bailie’s effort also to get across to the front bike group from where he was scored 11/10 for mine and the way he reacted quickly, showed quality and commitment and a real tactical nous.
“He then ran really well and to finish up fifth like he did last year was a good result for Ryan and it sets him up for a good crack at the Gold Coast and the rest of the Series.”
The Gold Coast will host round three of the Series in conjunction with the Luke Harrop Memorial on April 11 and 12.
ITU RACE WRAPS