Australia’s Olympians were in the thick of the action in what was a huge weekend in the world of triathlon with Ashleigh Gentle, Matt Hauser, Jake Birtwhistle all on the podium and Ryan Fisher calling time on his decorated career.
Gentle, a 2016 and 2020 Olympian stormed home for her ninth win (eighth consecutive title) in the prestigious Garmin Noosa Triathlon, which saw Tokyo 2020 representative Birtwhistle take out second place in the men’s race behind Charlie Quin and ahead of 2018 Youth Olympic representative Josh Ferris (NSW) third.
Hauser finished the Super League season in Neom, Saudi Arabia, with a bang, digging deeper than ever to win a deserved final race to secure second place overall in the prestigious Series point score.
While 2016 Rio Olympian, Fisher, announced before the Super League final that it would be his last ever race – and he too finished on a high as his Bahrain Victorious Scorpions took the Super League teams title.
Gentle continued her dominance of the Noosa women’s race winning an incredible ninth title in 10 years.
Gentle crossed the finish line on Noosa Parade in 1:57:26, just over a minute ahead of New Zealand pair Amelia Watkinson and Hannah Knighton with Australia’s two-time Commonwealth Games representative Charlotte McShane an encouraging fourth place.
“I guess Noosa Tri’s been in the back of my mind all year, it’s always one that I really look forward to,” Gentle said after the race.
“I felt pretty calm and relaxed heading into the race but, you know, once you get on the start line, you know you have to really focus. Every race I come here always pans out really differently, different competitors each year coming in and with some really great strengths pushing me to the end, that’s for sure.”
Birtwhistle was pleased to get on the podium with his second-place finish behind Quin, as he prepares for Abu Dhabi next month.
Quin set a new course record on his way to the victory, going more than a minute under Tasmanian Craig Walton’s time, which had remarkably lasted since 1997, with fellow Tassie boy, Birtwhistle also bettering Sydney Olympian, Walton’s 25-year-old mark.
“It's great to be back racing in Noosa, I’ve missed it the last few years, so it's nice to be back, it's one of my favourite races to do and to be on the podium is obviously a positive,” said Birtwhistle.
“I would have liked obviously to finish a bit higher, but the bike, the TT (time trial), was just a bit too much for me today.
“I was kind of hanging on for dear life and then just cracked just before the 35k mark into the ride, so they got a bit of a gap and then it was hard going from there.
“I felt quite good through the swim, I stayed up near the front for most of it and then stayed in the pack coming home, so I was happy to come out where I wanted to be, out of the water, and that set me up for a solid bike, run.”
Luke Willian, who will join Hauser and Birtwhistle on the Australian team in Abu Dhabi was sixth. Birtwhistle will also prepare to race in the next WTCS round this weekend in Bermuda.
While in Neom it was Hauser who again added another major notch to his ever-growing list of achievements – winning the last Super League race – running away from triple Olympic medallist, the ever present Jonny Brownlee (GBR) and newly crowned Super League champion, Kiwi Olympic bronze medallist Hayden Wilde.
Wilde began the race knowing that a top 15 finish would secure the overall crown. The frenetic racing action saw the 25-year-old Kiwi finish behind a dominant Hauser and Brownlee on a multisport course like no other.
Twenty-four year-old Hauser raced away to take the Enduro format over three-back-to-back stages of a 300m swim in the warm, salty and buoyant Red Sea, before a single lap 4km bike leg on a mix of gravel and asphalt surfaces, before a final 1.6km run – with a tent city backdrop in the desert.
Hauser, third in the Commonwealth Games behind Alex Yee (GBR) and Wilde finished a dramatic Series of crashes and disputed false start decisions to secure the final round win after breaking away from the decorated 32-year-old Brownlee, on the day’s final run leg.
Hauser’s win saw him finish second overall in the series ahead of Brownlee, with Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca in fourth and New Zealand’s Tayler Reid fifth.
Hauser admitted the desert course left him “absolutely smashed” – saying “that course tore me to bits – Jonny was having a red hot go as he does, in those first two legs and I was just hanging on –I’ve never dug so deep in all my life.
“It has been a dramatic season for me and I was just so pleased to finish it off on top and with second overall which I’m very grateful for, in what has been a rollercoaster ride.”
Hauser will now set himself for the Abu Dhabi Grand Final from November 23-26.
And what a memorable final curtain for 31-year-old Ryan Fisher who started his career back in 2009 at the Australian Youth Olympics, ironically in a race that also featured the winner of that Youth title, Jonny Brownlee.
Fisher, who like so many Olympians, overcame illness and injury to reach his dreams that saw him join Aaron Royle and Ryan Bailie in the Rio team, finishing in 24th place.
A career that included memorable wins in the 2012 Jiayuguan Asian Cup, 2013 Ishigaki World Cup, 2015 Chengdu World Cup as well as Oceania Cup wins in Elwood in 2014 and Kinloch in 2016.
Fisher’s Bahrain Victorious Scorpions dramatically secured the teams title ahead of the Sharks by just two points, with $120,000 shared between the men and women on the team.
And it was Hauser who had the final say on Fisher, posting: “Lastly to my mate Fish, loved every minute with you, was so epic to send you out with a bang...big things to come.”