Natalie Van Coevorden is an Australian representative in Triathlon, having competed on the world stage since she left high school in 2010. The 24-year-old was born in Campbelltown, NSW and now splits her residence between Wollongong, NSW and Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain for training purposes. Van Coevorden has set her sights on representing Australia in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games and is training and competing relentlessly to achieve her goal.
With Abu Dhabi on the horizon, I had 4 weeks of consistent training in our Wollongong base with the knowledge of the demands that the race in Abu Dhabi would have. Building on training and confidence each week was a great starting base for the season. Doing some new sessions in our training environment in this year has lit a new spark giving me confidence back in areas that I had lost. On 16th February I raced in Devonport Oceania Champs where I placed second after a full week of training. It was great to put processes in place under fatigue and get a full race under my belt.
Race day threw everyone off guard with rain starting to fall and a colder air temperature. Abu Dhabi gets about three days of rain a year and racing on the F1 track was going to make critical moments even trickier. Before I even got to the race site, I was covered in sand, water and muck off the roads. I knew that having a good pre-race plan would be key to executing right on race day. Every Tuesday they open up the F1 course to the public to ride which was an amazing experience, surrounded by hundreds of people doing the same 5.5km loop. Not only was this a good opportunity to see parts of the course but also the race familiarisation gave us four laps of knowledge which was the best pre race opportunity I have had before any WTS race.
After having the ability to watch the front end of the men’s race, I saw where the best opportunity to start and what line to take. The swim got off to a good start and having such a lengthy straight to the first buoy gave me a chance to put myself in a good place before the turn. Coming back into the swim exit, I moved up a few places and exited the water in sixth position. I could see the few athletes in front of me so I knew I would have to work hard on the first part of the bike and not panic.
The course is one of the many demanding courses on the WTS circuit where it’s not all about riding fast, it’s about concentrating on skill and basic knowledge. I knew if I wanted to stay upright I had to do the basics right and keep focussed on my own ability. Within minutes people were crashing and I knew that I had to ride to myself even if it took one or two seconds more to get around the corner, it wasn’t worth the risk of doing a season ender. After the second lap on the bike, I got more familiar with where it was still quite wet and I become more comfortable in taking a line I thought worked best. By the end of the ride I was in a group of six girls that entered T2 together and the race was anyone’s to be won with 50 seconds to the next group.
The run quickly spilt the group into a lead group of four. I told myself to keep composed and stay here as long as you can. After 3.5 km of running together we started to split and I fell off the back into fourth place. Coming into the final 400m, we were all still close when I saw the third place girl pull in to the penalty box. I just kicked as hard as I could to the finish line. It was definitely a moment of how much do you want this. It was a photo finish and I couldn’t be happier to get third by one second. It took a while to sink in but I am ecstatic getting my first WTS podium as it is something I have worked hard towards for so long. I knew I had to back myself and race with intent from start to finish.
Thanks to my coach Jamie Turner, Triathlon Australia, my parents and all my supporters who I have helped and followed me in my journey so far. Next up Mooloolaba World Cup this weekend.