Rio Olympian Aaron Royle has wrapped up a record equaling fifth Nepean Triathlon in perfect conditions in Penrith today – taking the overall honours in Australia’s oldest race.
Royle equals Tim Bentley’s feat to win five Nepean events – although Bentley still has the bragging rights of five straight wins between 1992 and 1996 – in a race first won by Greg Reddan and Gabrielle Howard in 1982.
The 28-year old Royle headed fellow 2016 Olympian Ryan Bailie and Wollongong youngster Max Stapley – running past four times women’s winner Ashleigh Gentle on the run home to take the overall handicap win.
Royle covered the 1km swim, 30km bike and 10km run in 1 hour 28 minutes 23 seconds to Bailie’s 1:30.11 and Stapley’s 1:30.25.
It was the final 10km run where Royle cleared away after he and Stapley had led out of the water, opening up a sizeable lead over Bailie, who knuckled down on the bike, passing Stapley.
But it was Royle, who has been preparing for his end of year tilt at the Nepean-Noosa (November 4) double, who proved too slick in the run around the Nepean River.
“I did get off to a good start on the bike and pushed hard, getting out in front on my own, knowing I just had to try and hang ahead of Sam Douglas, Max and Bailie and although I did open up a decent lead you never know how much it has taken out of you,” said Royle.
“After the first lap I knew I was safe, around a good 200m in front and I knew where the girls were and I set off after them as quick as possible, getting Ashleigh at around the 7.5km mark and I knew then I just had to get myself across the line to win the overall.
“I think it’s around seven years, 2012 since the guys have won outright – so it was nice to take one for the boys”
The women’s race developed into a real battle royal before Olympian and 2018 World Triathlon Series Grand Final winner Gentle (1:36.43) eventually shrugged off determined opponents Radka Kahlefeldt and training partner Natalie Van Coevorden.
It was not only Gentle’s fourth Nepean title but her third in succession.
Kahlefeldt was awarded second and Van Coevorden third as they crossed the line together with the electronic timing giving them the same time of 1:37.07.
Although Gentle wasn’t far off the swim pace set by Van Coevorden and Kahlefeldt it still took her a good while to get up on the pace on the bike.
“I shared most of the work on the bike with Nat and tried to lead and worked hard through the technical sections and then we basically all came into transition together off the bike and onto the run, it was really close,” said Gentle, who had attended her brother Scott’s engagement party the night before.
“It was great to have all the family together for Scott and Emma’s engagement with Mum and Dad coming in from overseas.
“They have all been so supportive of me over the year and they all understood I had to have an early night to get to Penrith for the race.”
Next stop for the Elites will be Noosa next Sunday and Gentle knows she is probably in better shape than she thought she would be – having a disrupted preparation due to her support trip to Kona for boyfriend Josh Amberger’s Hawaiian Ironman assault.
“I’ll head to Noosa in a relaxed frame of mind knowing full well I’m going OK and I’ll be looking forward to it without any pressure,” said Gentle.Although in the back of her mind she knows a good day in the office will mean a record sixth Noosa title – one more than the man who made Noosa his own with five wins – Craig Walton.