Writing a race report as an age group World Champion is pretty special, not only for the fact that it’s nice to reflect on a positive result, but it’s great to take the time to look back on an awesome trip to Mooloolaba with my family.
Coming into the event I had definitely not had the sort of strong, uninterrupted build that I came here with last year due to bouts of sickness. I felt that the relative consistency I had for the past few years of racing would give me a good shot at a podium if I could take my chances on the day. This would all be of course be down to how well I could race and how hot the front end of my age group was on the swim and bike. With some regular juggling of training with family and work commitments I felt in good run shape, but knew that my swim and bike would probably be my more vulnerable areas (no change there).
As race day approached we got to Mooloolaba a few days early, I got to hang out with Dani and Ethan, some of the Balmoral Tri Club crew and do some course recon. I was feeling pretty relaxed come race morning, but a bit apprehensive about the fast swim start, and us having the largest age group wave. The weather settled down and the waters were calm which always helps me a little, so I was keen to get things underway and happy that we were off first.
As we lined up for the start it reminded me a bit of Kona. There was a lot of tussling for a good position on the left hand side of the start, and a few kicks here and there. I started on the second line right behind the fast Aussie guys I knew, and was ready for it to be frantic out there for at least 400m. When the horn went I did my best to swim straight, not give away position with all the arms and legs flailing about and eventually find some clear water. As I had not come in with an amazing swim build, I tried to be smart, get pulled around by some groups and had decided to use my reserves to work pretty hard in and out of the turn buoys. It turns out this was not a bad strategy as each time we made the turn and I surged I managed to pick up a group each time. I came out of the water feeling pretty relaxed in a time of 27:02. I knew I would be at least 2 minutes down on the leaders.
It’s also at this point that I tried to use efficiency in transition and the longer run to make up any time possible. It was tight between the racks and the edge of the transition so I could overtake too many people on the run out.
Onto the bike and I was excited for the new course and glad to see that the monotony of the Highway wasn’t all we had in store. As we moved out of town over a few rollers I was feeling pretty good and was reflecting on a solid swim, ready to get stuck into a solid bike. As we hit the Highway I had a bit of a ‘gulp’ moment when I realised I had just missed the larger group that had formed up the road. I worked hard for 10-15mins @FTP to try to breach the gap but it wasn’t happening, the group was disappearing and I ended up riding almost to the Highway turn around solo until I was caught by a couple of guys behind. I could see at the turn that were two small lead groups of about 4-5 each and the larger group I missed behind them. I figured I was about 30th and from that from that point I was trying to reduce how much time I lost on the big group on the highway before I hit the hills on the hinterland loop, where I thought I would ride better.
I know there has been a lot of conjecture over the bike course and the etiquette of the riding by many competitors from Sunday's race. My take was that I was quite shocked to see either the blatant disregard for the drafting rules or lack of education that many competitors adopted on the ride. The course changes were positive from last year, but the hills, coupled with few penalties didn’t break up the field as much as expected. The two problems I had:
1) Having 2 laps out the back on the hills where the field will ultimately meet up at multiple points meant that every age group wave was nearly always riding with or into other age groups/pro’s. This is not the way to organise a fair, spaced out world championship bike course.
2) Ill-educated riders who are content to sit one bike length or side by side with others riders needed to be penalised, and early in the ride to set precedent. A few trips to the box will hopefully educate. Also the blatant disregard for DROPPING IN was the biggest bane of my race experience. For athletes to jump straight in front of you as soon as you position yourself in the right position is disgraceful. To not ride past the whole group and cut in others is cheating! These tactics slow other riders who are making an effort to get out of a draft zone, causing surging and results in large groups forming. This contributed to the continuous lines (pelotons) of riders around the course that I saw.
As we got off the highway and hit the hinterland hill loops we met with the Pro women going onto their second lap? Not good for us or them. We then had to jostle for position as we prepared to go separate ways on the loop. As we turned right for first hilly section I broke away from the riders around me and got a lead off the top of the steep hill and continued to increase the gap, only to be caught again when we ran back into the outer loop riders who were screeching their brakes barely moving on the downhill section. It was unsafe to pass before the 90 degree right turn so I just had to sit and wait. By the time I hit the flat the group was back on me. The second lap was even worse with congestion as other age groups joined us and at this point I was looking forward to the return to town and being off this section. As I went into town and hit the esplanade area by Alex Hill with just the loop around town to go I saw the AG leaders head out onto the run and I figured I was about 7-8 minutes down. Significant enough, but I knew I had a chance, but it was going to be tight.
I flew through T2 to try to gain some more free time and when I headed out of town I knew I was running too fast. I was sitting around 3.15/km and not where I particularly wanted to be, but that's racing and I quickly passed about 10-15 guys in my age group. I decided to go with it as the guys up the road were also out hard and I felt that I wanted to put pressure on the front people early and try to reduce any gap while I felt good. By the start of the second lap and around 34.20 for 10km, I was only 3mins down. This started to gee me up, but I was starting to get a little cramping feeling in my quads that was playing on my mind. I managed to finally pick up the leaders near 15km and took the lead at 16km (which I wasn’t 100% sure of at the time). As I headed towards town and hit 18.5km my quads started to go and the twitching cramping feeling was coming on strong so I cut my stride and tried to stay smooth. I checked my shoulder a few times to see that I still had time over the guys behind and when I hit the finishing chute carpet with a lead I was so relieved. Still not 100% sure if I was 1st or not at this point I still managed to high 5 some of the supporters and enjoy the run in. When Pete Murray said I was the first home I couldn’t believe it!
It was great to finish near 2nd and 3rd and all get to congratulate each other at the finish. Those guys made me work so hard and it became a real race for us all. Super pleased for Scotty to finish 3rd as we always manage to have great races with each other, and we both know how hard it becomes to train and juggle with work and family life.
ASADA quickly whisked me off to anti-doping so I had to wait to see my family and friends, and was gagging for some hot chips and a beer by then.
So much love and thanks for my supporters. Dani and Ethan kept me going all day and through the tough training blocks this year. My coach Bruce Thomas and Energy Link Coaching as well as my mates at Balmoral Triathlon Club. Giant Sydney, Square One Physiotherapy, Science in Sport AUS, Tokyowheel, Lululemon AUS/NZ + Mosman, Titan Performance Group. You are all amazing.
None of this could be achieved without passionate people who believe in you.