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Hot field heads for Mooloolaba

14 March 2014

TRIATHLON: Australian triathletes know they face a step up in class with a host of big name international’s sure to keep them honest in Saturday’s opening Triathlon World Cup race of the season in Mooloolaba, QLD.

The ITU Mooloolaba Elite Women will kick-start proceedings at 12:00 noon with the Elite Men at 3:00pm.

Saturday’s men’s race will be headed by Spain’s world ranked number three and one of the real success stories of 2013, Mario Mola. Six of the top 11 in the world will take to the start line including Australia’s early Commonwealth Games nomination in Aaron Royle in the 70-strong field representing 28 countries.

The 24-year-old, Mola from Palma de Mallorca will be joined by vastly improving South African Richard Murray, Portugal’s Joao Silva (6th), New Zealand-based Frenchman Laurent Vidal (7th), Switzerland’s Sven Riederer (8th) and Australia’s highest ranked athlete in 2013 in Royle (11th).

Royle is joined by Australia’s rejuvenated 23-year-old Ryan Fisher, who has made the successful move from Brisbane to Melbourne to join the Danielle Stefano squad at the VIS.

The Aussies had a thrilling shoulder-to-shoulder tussle in Devonport a fortnight ago at the Olympic Distance Oceania Championship. It was the more experienced Royle who edged in front but Fisher heralded his arrival with an eye-catching performance, just two weeks after his impressive victory in the Oceania Sprint Championship in Elwood.

“I’m really happy with how I’m going,” said Fisher, who returns home to Queensland to race in front of his home crowd.

“I have certainly made some improvements from where I was last year and the race in Devonport would have seen me well back in previous years – but the move to Melbourne has given me a new direction in the sport.”

And although he tries not to focus on any other athletes, especially Australians, Fisher admitted if there’s someone you want to finish second to it’s Royle.

“He’s an Under 23 World Champion and all of last year he raced well above expectations; he’s a world class athlete, a young athlete to be inspired to compete with and to race hard with. That’s what it was like in Devonport and Mooloolaba will see the addition of a host of internationals - you want to come to races like Devonport and Mooloolaba and race the best there is.”

Others to keep an eye on will be Royle’s training partner Ryan Bailie and Fisher’s fellow VIS athlete, Peter Kerr, who was first out of the water in Devonport - expect him to be pushing towards the front in the Mooloolaba surf as well. London Olympian Brendan Sexton is also in the thick of the battle for the two remaining Commonwealth Games positions.

Meanwhile the women’s race will see five of the world’s top ten – led by world number three and 2013 Mooloolaba World Cup winner Anne Haug (Germany), Australian-based American Gwen Jorgensen, New Zealand Olympian Andrea Hewitt and Australia’s big two Emma Moffatt and Ashleigh Gentle.

Moffatt has not raced since her 70.3 success in Geelong but loves the Mooloolaba course which will see a 750m surf swim; 4 x 5km laps on the bike out and back along Mooloolaba Esplanade and 4 x 1.25km run laps out and back, also along Mooloolaba Esplanade.

But like Royle, she too has secured her early nomination onto her first Commonwealth Games team to go with her two Olympic Games in Beijing and London.

“It is so good to have that Commonwealth Games nomination sewn up which allows me to map out my season leading up to the Commonwealth Games which is a major focus for me,” said Moffatt, who will attempt to become the first Australian triathlete to contest three Olympics in Rio in 2016.

And Moffatt will relish the opportunity for a hit-out against some of the sport’s biggest names in Haug, Jorgensen, Hewitt and Australian team mate Gentle, who knows that a good race in Mooloolaba could well go a long way to securing her place on the team for Glasgow.

Other Australians in the field are ITU Under 23 World Champion Charlotte McShane, who said she was happy to get a race under her belt in Devonport a fortnight ago – the Oceania Championship over the Olympic distance.

“I’m glad that’s out of the way – always good to get that first race of the season done,” said McShane.

“I definitely found it very tough, but it was a good wake up for the body. It was nice to be back racing again and it helped me find that extra bit of motivation that I think only racing can do – next stop Mooloolaba.”

Moffatt, Gentle and McShane will be joined by two of Australia’s rising stars in Gillian Backhouse and Jaz Hedgeland – who have been two headline acts in the early season domestic races.

Meanwhile at the National Youth Championships on the Sunshine Coast, Brittany Dutton, who has qualified for the Australian team for this year’s Youth Olympic Games in China in August, stormed to victory.

The women’s race saw Dutton steal a march on the field, leading all the way after she came out of the swim in front of Chelsea Gerrard (QLD), Kirsty Deacon (VIC) and Grace Hoitink (ACT).

It was then a solo 20km ride for 34 minutes and 20 seconds before she cleared out on the five kilometre run to win by over a minute 20 seconds in a stunning performance after tonsillitis curtailed her races in Brighton and Devonport.

Triathlon Australia & Olympics.com.au

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