Experienced Triathlon Mixed Relay quartet Natalie Van Coevorden, Aaron Royle, Emma Jeffcoat and Jake Birtwhistle have sprinted home to a hard-earned bronze for Australia at the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championship in Hamburg yesterday afternoon.
Backing up their 2018 World Championship silver medal, the Australians put together another solid performance from start to finish to secure their second Mixed Relay podium finish of the 2019 season, with France successfully defending their 2018 title.
Speaking to ITU Media, Natalie Van Coevorden said that the Australians knew they would have to race hard right until the very end if they wanted a chance at a medal.
“We really wanted to be in the game today from the start and have a consistent performance, and we knew that if we were in the game right until the end, we had a chance of being on the podium,” Van Coevorden said.
Anchor Jake Birtwhistle told ITU Media he thought it was one of the more exciting Mixed Relay races this season.
“It was always going to be a close finish today,” Birtwhistle said.
“I don’t think I’ve seen too many relay events come down to such a big group so late on in the race with the third athletes still all bunched together.”
“Me and Hayden [Wilde] (sic) worked pretty strong on the bike to try and do what we could, but it came down to the run, and thankfully I was able to get up for Australia and get on the podium once again.”
Van Coevorden got the Australians off to an assertive start right from the get-go. Taking advantage of slow starts from the American and British teams, Van Coevorden set the Australian side up for a strong race, handing over to Royle in fifth behind Belgium, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
Maintaining the pressure on the leaders, Royle kept the Aussies well in touch throughout his leg of the race, slipping into fourth position as he handed the reigns over to Jeffcoat.
Jeffcoat found another gear in the swim to push the Aussies into the lead in the early stages of the bike leg. After working hard to keep the Australians at the front through the bike, Jeffcoat put forward a solid start to her run before facing a quickening pace and mounting pressure to respond from France’s Cassandre Beaugrand as France catapulted into the lead. Handing over to Birtwhistle in a tight 5th, the Australians were still in touch for a medal finish.
After a tough swim, Birtwhistle teamed up with New Zealand, Canada and Spain on the bike to do his best to close down the sizeable gap that had now opened up between the chase group and France’s Vincent Luis and Germany’s Justus Nieschlag. With Luis showing no signs of letting up, France ran home to their second consecutive Mixed Relay World Championships title, with Nieschlag taking a thrilling second for Germany on home soil.
Pushed to yet another sprint to the finish line, Birtwhistle put his signature powerful finish on display as he overpowered Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand to bring home the bronze medal for the Australians.
Triathlon Australia's National Performance Director, Justin Drew said that he believed the Australians did an excellent job at reading the race and containing from the front.
“It was always going to be fast and dynamic with the added challenge in backing up from the WTS race the afternoon before, and against some teams with fresh athletes. But it’s that commitment and assertiveness that gets you World Championship medal,” Drew said.
The World Triathlon Series now turns its focus towards Edmonton on July 20-21, with both individual and Mixed Team racing featuring once again.
2019 Hamburg Wasser Mixed Team Relay World Championships
3rd – Australia
Photo Credit: Ben Lumley | ITU Media