Queensland-based triathletes Drew Box, Declan Wilson and Luke Willian will all have an extra incentive when they line up in Saturday’s ITU Mooloolaba World Cup – a place on the Australian team for next month’s World Triathlon Series race on the Gold Coast.
The WTS Gold Coast on April 8 will also double as the first of two selection races for the Australians for the 2018 Commonwealth Games – The criteria: Finish first Australian in the top 10 and earn an automatic Games nomination.
The first of the trio home over the tough Standard Distance course that is Mooloolaba will take the first reserve spot on the Australian team to cover for the expected withdrawal from next month's second WTS race of the season of Rio OIympian and 2014 Commonwealth Games Mixed Teams relay bronze medallist from Glasgow, Aaron Royle.
Royle, now training in England, has almost fully recovered from his plantar fasciitis problem but is almost certain to miss the race.
Australia’s top performed Olympian will get another chance at automatic nomination at the WTS round in Hamburg on July 15.
Triathlon Australia’s Performance Director Ben Gathercole has provided the opportunity for Box, Wilson and Willian to show their wares.
“It is a chance for these boys to step up and they are all eager and willing,” said Gathercole.
“Aaron (Royle) seems almost certain to withdraw - he is close to full recovery and is building towards a full training load – it’s not long term and we envisage he will be back on the WTS circuit and well prepared for the rest of the season.
“But our aim is give these other guys a chance at a home WTS race on the Gold Coast over the Sprint Distance and it will certainly be enticing for them.
“Mooloolaba is a tough course, with a tough swim in the surf, a technical transition and then the (notoriously) tough hill climb on the bike.
“It will be about who handles that bike and then puts together the run – it will be a real range finder that has shown up a lot of good athletes over the years but essentially we want athletes who are in good form moving into the Gold Coast race – it’s perfect.
“For Box, Wilson and Willian it will be an opportunity to race alongside our best Australians and against some of the best in the world.
“It is all about seeing what these guys can produce on the day and I know they are all excited.”
Brisbane-based Willian, at 20, is the youngest of the trio, alongside former ITU Under 23 silver medallist Wilson with another Brisbane boy, Box at 28, rounding out the trio.
Box was the lone Australian in last month’s ITU Capetown World Cup and finished 17th in a race dominated by South African big guns Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman and came after his bronze medal in the 2016 Huatulco ITU Triathlon World Cup.
Wilson, has joined the Chris Lang HP squad in Brisbane and is revelling in the QAS supported program and gets the chance to shine after some encouraging performances over the past two years.
Gathercole said Wilson knew he had to make changes to his daily training environment and he had settled into life under the highly-regarded Lang in a new Brisbane-based TA/QAS program.
Willian, coached by popular Brisbane Triathlon Coach Warwick Dalziel was a stirring 11th over the Sprint course in Mooloolaba last year in a race won by WTS World Champion Mario Mola and in a 60-strong field that included fellow Australians, two-time Olympian Courtney Atkinson as well as Box and recent WTS debutants Marcel Walkington and Matt Baker.
The Mooloolaba winner will join Olympians Ryan Bailie and Ryan Fisher as well as former Under 23 World Champion Jake Birtwhistle, Walkington, Baker and rising star and four-time Oceania champion Matt Hauser, 18, who will make his debut.
The women’s race will see a strong line-up of Australians, led by Olympians Ashleigh Gentle and Emma Jackson, who will be joined by Natalie Van Coevorden, Jaz Hedgeland and Emma Jeffcoat – who will all line up in the WTS Gold Coast race.
Gentle had a standout 2016 year, making two World Triathlon Series podiums along with a silver medal at the Montreal World Cup, before her Olympic debut in Rio.
While she took third place in Mooloolaba in 2015, she has never won the home nation World Cup, so Saturday could be her opportunity to start off her year with a victory after joining Olympic gold medal coach Jamie Turner in Wollongong.
London Olympian and 2014 Glasgow Mixed Teams Relay bronze medallist, Jackson also stands near the top of the women’s start list.
A former World Cup winner, she hasn’t raced in Mooloolaba since 2013, so she will also be looking for some home nation success in the lead up to the April 8 WTS race.
Look out for another Turner-trained Wizard in Van Coevorden, a strong swimmer that earned her first World Cup podium in 2013; former Sydney lifesaver Jeffcoat from the Mick Delamotte stable, who has had several successes in the Oceania race scene and could explode onto the ITU race circuit.
And WA’s Gold-Coast-based former Oceania and four-time Australian Junior Champion, Jaz Hedgeland, coached by Gold Coast HP coach Dan Atkins, who is another Aussie who has just missed out on some World Cup podiums, but has also had some strong performances in Oceania Cups.
ABOUT THE RACE
The 2017 Mooloolaba ITU World Cup is a standard distance triathlon - 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run. The event will be held on the scenic beaches and coastal roads of Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. The Mooloolaba Triathlon has a long history with this year’s event being the 25th Anniversary of the age group triathlon.
The 2017 Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World cup will consist of the following:
SWIM - 2 lap course. Starting on the beach and swimming in a clockwise direction.
CYCLE - 8 lap 5km loop. Out and back clockwise ride along Mooloolaba Esplanade and Alexandra Parade. Gradual climb along Mooloolaba Esplanade from transition to Buderim Avenue intersection before descent onto Alexandra Parade. Sharp turn point at the corner of Maroubra Street before inbound journey along Alexandra Parade. Sharp technical dogleg turn before downhill descent onto Beach Terrace to transition. The “first runner, last rider” scenario is applicable for this event. In this case the rider will be taken off the course.
RUN - 4 laps. An undulating course taking in stunning coastal views along the way. Out and back course ran in a clockwise direction along Mooloolaba Esplanade and Alexandra Parade. Gradual climb along Mooloolaba Esplanade from transition to Buderim Avenue intersection before descent onto Alexandra Parade. Turn around point at Mayfair Street.