A New Zealander coached by her mum and a Frenchman coached by an Australian have stolen the show at the URBAN Geelong ITU Sprint Triathlon Oceania Cup events today.
Parisian Gregory Rouault made it back-to-back Geelong wins for France after Olympian Laurent Vidal’s victory in last year’s men’s race while emerging Kiwi star Sophie Corbidge from Auckland was triumphant in the women’s.
A member of the Canberra-based Darren Smith international squad, Rouault waited until the third and final run lap to pounce and he was never going to be headed.
Rouault scooted clear with two-time Kiwi National Sprint champion Tony Dodds and local Geelong boy Peter Kerr trying desperately to hunt him down.
Rouault was happy to play a waiting game in the 750m (swim), 20km (cycle) and 5km (run) course after Victorian youngster Marcel Walkington tried to steal the race off the front in the early stages of the run.
Walkington and fellow Australians Troy Main and Ben Anderson came together for the final stages of the bike after Walkington powered away in the early laps.
But when it came to the business end of the helter-skelter five kilometre run it was experience that told with the internationals powering away.
Rouault, from Poissy on the outskirts of Paris, admitted he is not a fantastic swimmer but with the pressure on he came out alongside the leaders after the 750m swim.
"I just joined the Darren Smith group in Canberra and we have been working on lots of different things so this race was good to check in and see how everything was going," said Rouault.
"Obviously the swim is moving forward so I am happy with that and I haven’t worked much on the bike and run so I am excited about that.
"I just sat there on the bike and waited for the run and controlled a bit of the run and picked it up and I knew Tony (Dodds) would be part of the chase group so I pulled back a bit before I made my move.
"Peter (Kerr) was behind too so I had to watch out but I am happy with today’s result."
In the end it was Rouault in 55 minutes 33 seconds who held on to beat Dodds (55.46) and Kerr (55.54) just holding on down the long Geelong straight to take third and the Australian Championship.
But his floundering legs only just managed to get the popular local boy across the line ahead of fast-finishing fellow Australians, Sydney’s Northern Beaches’ Cameron Good (55.55) and
Launceston’s Jacob Birtwhistle (55.55), who were awarded the silver and bronze medals respectively in the Australian Championships.
"I knew I had to watch out for Gregory (Rouault) - he was the one to beat," said Dodds.
"I felt really good in the swim and on the bike and I knew what this course was like and you don’t want to be on the back going down those hills and around the corners.
"I just had to go out hard and stick with them and when you have got Peter Kerr behind you and you have people yelling out his name you have to push yourself hard and out of the comfort zone."
Kerr, who made a stunning break through win in Noosa last November said his result was "testament to the hard work you put in."
"There has been a real turnaround for me since late last year so it’s something I am aiming at. I would have liked to have won the race overall but the two guys ahead of me are absolute talents so I am wrapped to have come third up against those guys," said Kerr.
"I guess it’s a payback for hard work, it never tastes sweeter. I am very happy to have the Australian title.
"I was a bit flat in the swim. I probably would have liked to start a bit better but it did roll and got a good position by coming out third of the water.
"My strength is going to be where it wants to be in the running so it’s all about conserving; so to be in that lead group, minus the breakaway, that’s where I wanted to be.
"My race went to plan. I would have liked to have stuck with the leaders for a bit longer but I am happy with my result."
"Sprint racing is fantastic, it is one of the absolute ultimate’s of the sport. It is an hour of fun and excitement."
Birtwhistle, 17, the recently crowned Australian Youth Olympic Festival champion, looked to be spent with a lap to go on the run but dug deep to surge home.
"I felt like I was gone with a lap to run and then I found something in the final sprint to the line although I probably went a little too soon, not realising just how long the straight was - but they’re the things you learn," said Birtwhistle, who was also crowned the Australian under 23 champion.
"But to come here and get on the podium in my first open elite race is pretty awesome," said Birtwhistle.
Corbidge, who is coached by her mum Dawn in Auckland and has just been named in the New Zealand Development squad for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio was happy to make her move on run after Australia’s Gillian Backhouse led the field off the bike and into the run.
She sat comfortably in the eight-strong chase pack alongside fellow Kiwi Maddie Dillon and Rebecca Clarke, Japan’s Yuko Takahashi and Australian girls Grace Musgrove, AYOF Champion Jaz Hedgeland, Olympian Emma Jackson, swim leader Madison Allen and Sarah Deuble.
And it was obvious why the New Zealand selectors have sleighted Corbidge (1:01.52) for their Rio plans when she charged away with the fastest run of the day (17 minutes 02 secs) to hold off 20-year Musgrove (1:02.03) who finished with the silver with Takahashi (1:02.16) third.
Corbidge said she enjoyed the Geelong course and she was thrilled to take the win across the Tasman, saying "it (the course) was a bit of a mix of everything and quite technical."
"We got into a good rhythm and worked well together around the corners and the run was awesome," said Corbidge.
Musgrove, formerly of Mittagong southwest of Sydney and now in Wollongong, joins Birtwhistle as the first members of Australia’s National Talent Academy to take podium finishes in an open elite event.
In only her second year in triathlon and in her first elite open race and the first time in Geelong, the former NSW Age group 5 and 10km open water swimming champion and Under 20 Australian Cross Country champion is one of a group of emerging young Australian stars.
Discovered by NSWIS coach Jamie Turner at the 2010 Australian Day Aquathon in Wollongong she originally turned down Turner’s recruitment but finally joined his talented young quad after finishing her Year 12 Studies.
"People kept telling me I could do it but I am still shocked that I am standing here in my first elite triathlon having won the Australian championship," said Musgrove.
"After winning those swimming events I turned my attention to running and I always wanted to be as runner and not a triathlete.
"But when I saw Jamie’s squad of Natalie Van Coevorden, Tamsyn Moana-Veale and Ashlee Bailie and Charlotte McShane I went and asked him if I could join and here I am."
Next stop Devonport in two weeks time when she races her training partners.
Backhouse (1:02.19) ran herself to collapse to finish a spirited fourth and second in the Australian Championship ahead of WA’s reigning Australian junior champion Hedgeland (1:02.25) and Jackson (1:02.31).
Jackson admitted she had no expectations coming into the race and although she felt good in the swim, coming out of the water in fourth place, she had "nothing in the tank" for the rest of the race.
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