Royle comes of age and Abram fifth in Madrid3 June 2013
TRIATHLON: Australia’s rising star Aaron Royle came of age in the hills around Madrid’s Casa de Campo after mixing it with the best in the world and Felicity Abram continued her great season.
It capped a great weekend for Australian triathletes with Melissa Hauschildt winning the ITU Long Distance World Championship; a sterling performance by Felicity Abram to finish fifth in the women’s Madrid Olympic distance race and Emma Moffatt’s 5150 victory in Cairns.
The 23-year-old Royle who has his sights set on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, finished eighth behind defending ITU World Champion Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), former World Champion Javier Gomez (ESP) and Ivan Vasiliev (RUS) in a gruelling fourth round of the prestigious ITU World Triathlon Championship.
The result leaves the reigning Under 23 world champion in ninth place on the current ITU rankings and very much atones for the disappointment of the flat tire that ended his race in San Diego.
Ironically the Casa de Campo course could well be the triathlon course for the 2020 Olympics as the Spanish city bids to host the Games for the first time since Barcelona in 1992.
The Wollongong-based Royle who grew up in Newcastle dreaming of one day wearing the green and gold at an Olympic Games showed the grit and determination which may well set him on his way – giving the race everything he had.
Royle posted on twitter after the race: “That was hard….I tried for a podium and blew apart in the last 3km…..the tank is absolutely empty.”
To his credit he did give himself every chance with an outstanding swim to exit the water in 14th placed and an excellent transition to ensure he was in touch with the leaders on the first stages of the bike.
At one stage it was Brownlee and Gomez who welcomed the company of Royle, Vasiliev and Italy’s Alessandro Fabian as they looked over their shoulder, inviting the trio to join them on the tough 40 kilometre bike course.
Royle rode shoulder to shoulder with two of the super stars of the sport in Brownlee (GBR) and Gomez (ESP) for a grueling eight laps on the bike which included a tough climb in a breakthrough performance, which will earn him enormous respect.
His Australian team mates Ryan Fisher, in his WTC debut season, finished an encouraging 17th (and sits 44th overall); Cameron Good was 32nd (and is in 16th) while Ryan Bailie was 34th (and is in 13th).
“It was a coming of age for Aaron today to mix it with the big boys for as long as he could,” said Triathlon Australia’s High Performance Director Bernard Savage.
“One of the sport’s most respected commentators Barry Shepley said he thought Aaron was the ‘real deal’ and it is hard to argue with him.
“He swam brilliantly and showed why you have to be on the pace out of the water or the boys like Brownlee and Gomez will be up the road.
“Aaron and coach Jamie Turner probably would have liked to have held his fifth or sixth position but in hindsight to see the calibre of runners who came past him with a lot more in the legs was not to be sneezed at.
“He did a great job and has set himself up for what can only be an exciting back half of the season in Kitzbuhel, Hamburg, Stockholm and London.”
Through the first 20km some experts may have been waiting for Royle to drop off the pace as a group of five – Royle, Brownlee, Gomez, Vasiliev and Fabian continued to extend their lead ahead of the two chase packs.
The determined Royle, who sleeps in a high altitude tent, certainly earned his stripes taking his turns at the front as the five worked together leading into the 10km run were greeted at the top of the climbs by hundreds of fans who lined the streets.
Brownlee, not only the defending ITU World champion but the Olympic bronze medallist and Gomez, the former two-time ITU World Champion and Olympic silver medallist, dictated terms throughout as Royle stayed in touch until T2.
It was the signal for Brownlee to step on the gas and steal the race on the first of the four 2.5km run laps and to ensure that the Brownlee name stayed on the Madrid trophy for the fifth straight year.
But for Royle it was a case of trying to hang on as the race started to unfold ahead of him and behind him with a host of the sport’s best runners building their charge.
After lap one, Vasiliev had a slight five second gap over Royle and Fabian and ran strongly to hold on to that and to claim his first career series podium.
But it was Spain’s Mario Mola who put in the run of the day though, a stunning 30 minutes and 12 seconds, to almost catch Vasiliev in the final kilometre, as he overtook Royle and Fabian to finish fourth.
Fabian claimed fifth - the second consecutive year he’s claimed fifth in Madrid, while South African Richard Murray put in another killer run leg to finish sixth. Britain’s David McNamee was seventh with Royle eighth.
Brownlee‘s season might only be two races in, but the reigning Champion showed his title defence was back on track with another stunning performance.
Abram’s fighting fifth in Madrid
Queensland’s English-based triathlete Felicity Abram remains the highest ranked Australian in the ITU world triathlon rankings after her determined fifth place finish to Great Britain’s Non Stanford in the fourth round of the World Triathlon Championship in Madrid.
The 27-year-old is based in Leeds, where she trains with boyfriend and Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee and his brother, ITU World Champion, Jonathan who won the men’s race in Madrid.
Abram is taking every opportunity in a post Olympic year to lead a new and exciting group of Elite Australian women to this year’s ITU World Championship Series grand final in London in September.
After four of the eight rounds, Abram is sitting 5th with two-time Olympian and two-time ITU World Champion Emma Mofatt (who missed Madrid in favour of today’s Coral Coast 51.50 in Cairns) 7th, Ashleigh Gentle (who also sat out Madrid) 11th and Charlotte McShane (14th) the best of the Australian women.
Madrid presented a tough day in the office over the tough, gut-busting “hot and hilly” bike course in and around Casa de Campo for Abram and her Aussie team mates, Wollongong pair McShane who finished a creditable 18th while 20-year-old WTC debutant Grace Musgrove an encouraging 37th.
The fourth Australian, the third Wollongong youngster in the strong field, Natalie Van Coevorden was forced out of the race mid way through the bike, still suffering from the rib injury, suffered in the bike crash that forced her out of the last round in Yokohama.
“Madrid presented the girls with a tremendously hard course and overall I was proud of the way they raced against quality opposition,” said Triathlon Australia’s High Performance Director Bernard Savage.
“I was particularly pleased with the way Felicity rode today, knowing her strength lies in the run and also knowing what was going on around her with Anne Haug and Gwen Jorgensen fighting their way through the pack.
“She hung in really well and following up her third in Auckland, a solid performance in San Diego and recovering from the sickness which forced her out of Yokohama, she did a great job.
Abram was 40 seconds behind in the swim and it gave New Zealand’s Nicki Samuels and American Sarah Groff the opportunity to steal a march on three chase groups on the bike – leaving Abram in the first chase group of 11 riders.
It was eventual winner Stanford who started to break away on the run, building up a significant lead with three laps to go. But as Anne Haug is apt to do, the German ran her training partner Jodie Stimpson down on the final lap for silver. Abram was 40 seconds off the podium of Stimpson and one minute 15 seconds behind Stanford.
The fast-finishing American Gwen Jorgensen was fourth and remains at the top of the ITU Rankings.
Triathlon Australia, ITU and AOC