Sydney nursing student Emma Jeffcoat and Hervey Bay’s favourite son, Commonwealth Games bound Matt Hauser did Australia proud in today’s ITU Mooloolaba World Cup on the Sunshine Coast.
Jeffcoat, the 24-year-old former champion lifesaver from Dee Why, started the day in style with a break through World Cup victory after dominating from the opening 750m surf swim - a far cry from her World Cup debut in Mooloolaba two years ago when she finished 23rd and an agonising fourth last year.
And the Gold Coast-based Hauser, the 2017 ITU World Junior Champion, charged home for silver behind South Africa’s world ranked No 4 Richard Murray – one of the favourites for Commonwealth Games gold next month in a confidence boosting performance.
But it was Jeffcoat who showed all the experience of a former champion surf swimmer from the Sydney Northern Beaches when she conquered the tricky 1.5m dumping surf swim to open up a 15 second lead heading into the 20km bike.
It didn’t take long for the field to close the gap with Jeffcoat happy to let the chase group of seven riders – including Australian pair, last week’s WTS bronze medallist from Abu Dhabi Natalie Van Coevorden and Commonwealth Games team member Charlotte McShane – who put themselves in the race until the end.
The pack also included Games athletes Nicole Van Der Kaay from New Zealand and Canadian Dominika Jamnicky.
Van Coevorden, Jeffcoat and Italian Angelica Olmo with US pair Kirsten Kasper and Tamara Gorman took turns in holding the pace on the bike with Jeffcoat happy to sit and let her legs do the talking over the last five kilometres on the run.
The swim was outstanding, the bike was smart but it was the run where Jeffcoat has made major inroads under astute coach Mick Delamotte.
“I definitely wanted to race hard and attack from the front and use the surf to my advantage and I love a tough bike course and I’ve been really happy with how my run’s progressing (so) I really wanted to show that today,” said Jeffcoat.
“There was definitely a strong current moving from right to left across the bank and there were waves breaking right on that bank so girls not used to racing in the surf would have been really challenging.
“I’m lucky I grew up racing in surf lifesaving so I could play that to my advantage but I (actually) missed a wave coming up but that’s surf so I’ve grown up with that.
“I was looking at the surf report and as you know like any keen surf athlete looking for the week leading up and I saw it was going to be pretty big so I was hoping that nothing changed out there.
“The wind was really strong out there on that bike course so on the first lap I went by myself and I could see on the far turn around I that the girls were gaining and I kind of sat up and waited to (join) the bunch and we rolled through the turns and I knew it was going to be a foot race.
“I’ve been working hard in the off season on my run and just being all round more efficient, and smarter racing.
“I am relatively new to the sport; I started my first ever World Cup here two years ago and I was 23rd so to come out here today and win I’m stoked.
“I’ve been doing plenty of strength work on the run and just trying to become the most efficient runner I can and least taxing and I felt really good out there today and I was really stoked to be able to put that into practice.
“All my attentions now are focused towards Tokyo 2020.”
Jeffcoat raced away to take her maiden World Cup victory from USA star Kirsten Kapser – fourth in last week’s WTS with Olmo third, Van Der Kaay fourth and Wollongong training partners Van Coevorden following up her WTS bronze from last week with a close up fifth with McShane on her hammer for a solid sixth.
Then it was the men’s race with France’s Max Stapley, who trains under Australian High Performance coach Jamie Turner in Wollongong, cracking a 1.5m wave to lead out of the swim.
But it didn’t take long until a leading group of 30 grew together on the bike with Kiwi Hayden Wilde breaking away to lead on the final lap into T2.
Then the fearless Murray took control of the run with Hauser, Sam Ward (New Zealand) and McElroy hung strong to push the South African all the way to the line.
In the end Murray controlled the back end of the run to hold off the fast finishing Hauser who produced an encouraging Games trial with McElroy taking the bronze.
“I think everything went to plan right from the get go – it was a tough swim obviously with the conditions out there and handled myself well and stayed pretty safe and tight in the bike pack and managed to leave something (in the pack) for the end and I almost got Richard in the end in the downhill but he kicked away in the end but I’m really happy to come out second today,” said Hauser.
“It’s only my second World Cup, obviously getting the win in Chengdu last year and backing it up with the podium here today is very encouraging and it’s only onwards and upwards from here in 2018.
“It has been hours on end with my coach Dan Atkins and our great squad on the Gold Coast and I can only thank my team mates and I’m looking forward to getting back there and putting some more hard yards over the next two weeks leading into the Games.
“I knew I had to stay focused and stay comfortable and run my own race and I saw Richard run up the road and I know I like to build into my run and to be able to kick on that last lap and get away from Sam (Ward) and Matt (McElroy.)
“My run leg has come from strength to strength to have my first full triathlon out of the way and the result is just the cherry on the cake.
“I was blessed to have my whole family here with mum and dad my Nan from the Sunshine Coast and Pop from Barwon Heads; to see them when I’m up there on the podium is very heart warming.”
Hauser’s Games team mate Luke Willian put together a strong race with a barnstorming finish for eighth with Rio Olympian Ryan Bailie 15th, Oceania champion Brandon Copeland 19th with Olympian Aaron Royle 24th and Jonathan Sammut 31st.
2018 Mooloolaba ITU World Cup Results