Australia’s experienced band of paratriathletes had to call on all their technical bike skills when a torrential downpour created havoc during the Oceania Para Championships in Stockton today.
Paralympic silver medallist Lauren Parker and her Tokyo team-mates David Bryant, Jono Goerlach, Nic Beveridge and track and field transfer Sam Harding were amongst the 17-strong field that were caught in the sudden rainstorm.
And it came after a bright start to the day, despite the normal 750m-ocean swim being transferred to the Stockton Olympic pool because of poor water quality, caused by recent flooding.
Pool racing became particularly tricky for the PTVI (Vision Impaired) duos of Tokyo track and field finalist over 1500m, Harding and his guide Luke Harvey and Tokyo paratriathlete Goerlach and his guide David Mainwaring – who swim connected with a tether.
“We managed to figure out a pretty good way to keep the tether without getting tangled in the pool swim,” said Harding.
“And then Luke did awesome on the ride because it was wet and there were a few puddles, but I felt comfortable, which was cool.”
Harvey admitting it was “better to be safe than sorry.”
“(With the rain) you can either lose a second on the bike or you can lose a couple of minutes by coming down so (I decided to be) a little bit more conservative,” said Harvey.
“I think we were still pretty quick through the turns, but we’ve still got a fair bit of room to improve.”
Goerlach also admitted when the rain kicked in on the bike leg, it made (the conditions) a little bit trickier with the corners in only the pair’s second race back from Tokyo, as the PTIV class prepares for inclusion on the Birmingham Commonwealth Games program.
“We have got new competition now in Sammy Harding. I've been calling him the real deal because he's already racing at the level of the guys that are the benchmark in my category in the vision impairment,” said Goerlach.
“And it's awesome for us to have someone to chase now because I've not had that in the ten years I've been in the sport.
“There's not a lot of depth in vision impaired men and women in sport in Australia, so it's awesome to see Sammy transition across from athletics and he's already doing so well, and he's got an amazing guide in Luke as well.”
In the end it was Harding, with his impressive running background and Harvey who added win number two after their debut success in the Devonport Oceania Cup a fortnight ago, in 1:02.15 from Goerlach and Mainwaring (1:05.09).
The women’s PTVI going to Caroline Baird (1:22.21) with guide Annabel White, ahead of Erica Burleigh (1:32.03) with guide Rosie Nash.
Parker admitted there were times on her handcycle that the driving rain forced her to slow down and was hurting her face it was that heavy.
“On a handcycle your face is skywards and the rain was painful on your face it was that hard – we had to really watch ourselves and slow down,” said Parker, who won her second race in two days after contesting the Mooloolaba Sprint yesterday and flying into her home town Newcastle last night.
“The rain started seven kilometres into the bike and it stopped about one kilometre towards the end of the bike so most of the second half of the bike it kept pouring down with rain.”
Parker made it a double in Stockton, taking the win in 1:10.38 from the Gold Coast’s Sara-Ashlee Tait (1:24.52) while dual Paralympian Nic Beveridge won the men’s race in 1:06.44.
WA’s Bryant was first across the line overall from Victoria’s PTS5 debutant Jack Howell who was only officially classified by World Triathlon on Friday.
Bryant crossed the line in 1:00.49, followed by 20-year-old Howell in 1:03.26 to kick-start a new career as a fully classified paratriathlete for the already accomplished boy from Berwick in Melbourne, while Molly Wallace won the women’s PTS5 class in 1:24.54.
Jeremy Peacock went on to win the PTS4 in 1:03.43 from Liam Twomey (1:05.01) and Clint Pickin 1:07.53 with the women’s PTS4 race going to Hannah Macdougall 1:56.38.
While the experienced Glen Jarvis took out the PTS2 in 1:21.57; Justin Godfrey the PTS3 in 1:10.20 with Anu Francis the women’s in 1:25.18.