Newcastle’s Aaron Royle has put together an outstanding performance at Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast on Sunday to claim his maiden win over the 70.3 distance.
In only his second-ever attempt at the 70.3 distance, Royle showed a cool head, and patience during the 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21.2 km run to win ahead of some of Australia’s top long course specialists.
Speaking to Triathlon Australia, Royle said that he was thrilled to get the win in Mooloolaba.
“To be honest, I was pretty scared for most of that race,” Royle said.
“It was a tough race and I had to battle quite hard with Max Neumann who was outstanding today, he did a lot of work on the bike, he pushed hard and he led most of the run.”
“It was only my second half distance race. The whole time I was just expecting myself to blow up but I got to about 3km to go…and lucky [the legs] had a bit to go.”
With the 70.3 distance quite the change in pace to the ITU racing he is known for, Royle said he knew he needed to approach the race differently.
“Obviously the longer race is almost pretty well double of what I’m used to, so being patient, just backing yourself [were key].”
“There was a couple of times there where I felt good but I knew there was still a long way to go, so I just had to remain patient and when the time was right, that was when I really pushed hard.”
Although still remaining focused on next year’s Tokyo Olympics, Royle took advantage of the resumption of racing in Queensland to try his hand at the 70.3 distance.
A strong start in the swim saw him exit T1 alongside in good company, with reigning Australian Long Course Champion Josh Amberger taking an early narrow lead, and Queensland’s Max Neumann not far off the pace.
From there the trio battled it out across the gruelling bike and run course, remaining within striking distance of one another.
With Amberger dropping off the pace on the run and Neumann holding steady mere metres in front of Royle, the ITU specialist picked his moment to make his move for the title, kicking Neumann with 3km to go to sprint home for the win.
New Zealand’s Amelia Watkinson pulled together an exceptional swim and bike to secure a commanding win on a rain-soaked course in the Elite Women’s field, ahead of Australia’s Sarah Crowley and Ashleigh Gentle.
Chasing ITU specialists Gillian Backhouse and Gentle out of the water, Watkinson wasted no time in pushing towards the front of the race. Putting down the fastest ride of the race, the Sunshine Coast local had placed herself in prime position to take out the title as she headed out onto the run. The battle for minor medals quickly became a foot race with chasers Gentle, Sarah Crowley, Els Visser and Renee Kiley pushing hard on the run.
In the end, Crowley and Gentle proved they had the legs to go the distance, rounding out the podium with 2nd and 3rd.
The Ironman circuit will now head to Cairns with Ironman Cairns held on September 27. While Australia’s Elite ITU athletes will continue their 2020 season on the Gold Coast with the 2020 Mixed Relay Invitational set to be held next week.
Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast
1st - Aaron Royle
2nd - Max Neumann
3rd - Josh Amberger
1st - Amelia Watkinson
2nd - Sarah Crowley
3rd - Ashleigh Gentle
Photo Credit: Bec Ohlwein