Gentle conquers Singapore heat to win epic T100 battle with Charles-Barclay

15 Apr 2024

Photo Credit: PTO

In the unforgiving Singapore heat and humidity, defending champion Ashleigh Gentle conquered not just the heat, but also any self doubts, to come from behind on the run and win an epic T100 battle with Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Gentle dug very deep in the latter stages of the 100km race to wipe out a 5 minute 33 second deficit coming out of T2 to beat Charles-Barclay as well as surprise podium finisher Els Visser.

“It feels a bit surreal to be honest. It surprised me a little bit but I’m obviously very happy. It’s just very different. Last year I found my flow and felt really comfortable and strong whereas this year it was very gritty, it was hard,” Gentle said.

“So same result, but the feelings to get that result was so different so it’s just one of those things where you kind of have to persevere no matter what circumstances you’re dealt with and how you’re feeling and I’m just really glad that I was able to stay composed and still perform at a really high level.

“It gives me a lot of confidence [to start my season with a win] because I definitely feel I can perform a lot better at future races so to be able to win is a really good starting point and it gives me good points for the T100 series. It makes me motivated to go home and train harder for the San Francisco T100.”

Even in sweltering conditions, there was no surprise to see Charles-Barclay quickly take to the front in Marina Bay. As in the Miami T100, it was Lucy Buckingham on her feet while Rebecca Clarke rounded out the three-woman group. That trio pushed ahead to create a lead of 1:07 out of the water after the 2km swim.

On the 80km bike course, it was the British pairing of Charles-Barclay and Buckingham who put the hammer down. Gentle soon moved through to third with the gap standing at around 2:45 by halfway. Meanwhile, 2022 Ironman world champion Chelsea Sodaro, who finished third in Singapore last year, was forced to retire from the race.

With just under 30km to go, Miami T100 Champion India Lee put in a surge to overtake Gentle and move into third, with T100 debutant Imogen Simmonds and Lucy Byram – who was sixth in Miami – close by. While Lee subsequently slowed her pace, losing 30 seconds to the group, there were problems up front for Buckingham as she appeared to cramp in the stifling heat with 18km to go, allowing Charles-Barclay to retake the lead.

Meanwhile, Visser was the big mover up the leaderboard, with the Dutchwoman powering inexorably through the field to move past 11 athletes and claim third during the final lap. Despite this showing, Charles-Barclay entered T2 just ahead of Buckingham but with 5:03 to Visser and in the box seat for her first T100 title.

Gentle was just a little further back with 5:33 to make up as she headed out onto the run. The Australian made short work of getting herself back into the podium position by overtaking Visser and her charge didn’t stop there. While Charles-Barclay was running well, Gentle was moving with stunning rapidity in spite of increasing temperatures and rising humidity.

After 8km, the Australian had slashed her deficit to overtake Buckingham and move into second. Continuing to chase Charles-Barclay, Gentle nudged the gap to 1:01 going into the final 6km lap. From there, it was a nail biting competition as Gentle hunted Charles-Barclay, finally making a decisive surge to pass her with 4km to take the lead for the first time in the race.

Meanwhile, Visser continued her hard work in the fight for a podium finish to pull past Buckingham into third, but she was still close to 4 minutes behind Charles-Barclay,

Elated and exhausted, Gentle crossed the line in 3:44:23 to take a powerful victory that will surely send a message to the other T100 athletes. The Australian secured a USD$25,000 (S$34,027) paycheck and the maximum 35 points to start her 2024 T100 Triathlon World Tour season.

Fellow Australian Ellie Salthouse fought her way to a commendable 10th place, while in the men’s race Aaron Royle impressed with a 7th place finish and Josh Amberger also secured 10th.

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