Australia’s six-strong Commonwealth Games triathlon team will put together their final race touches for Birmingham when they join the world’s best for this weekend’s World Triathlon Championship Series round in Hamburg – for the second time in 2022.
And the streets of Hamburg will be no stranger to many of the Aussies – including Campbelltown’s Games debutant Natalie Van Coevorden, who has raced nine times in the German city, and feels almost at home on this technical bike course, after having fixed her residency in Hamburg two years ago.
And add in Olympian Jake Birtwhistle who won Hamburg in 2019 and was part of the victorious Australian Team that won the World Mixed Relay Championship with fellow Tokyo team mate Matt Hauser, Charlotte McShane and dual Olympian Ash Gentle in 2017 and the green and gold suits have certainly been front and centre on the podium.
Van Coevorden is one of many Games athletes who plans to finish preparations for Birmingham this week, and a top 10 finish would round off what has been a consistent first half of a busy 2022 in which she has grabbed enough points to be the top Australian ranked both on the WTC Series and on the Olympic qualification rankings.
Having finished 11th in the past two WTCS races in Leeds and Montreal has given Van Coevorden the belief that she is in good shape to push into a very competitive top 10.
“Every race is important to me as I want to show myself that I can be consistent at this level and being consistent here shows me I can race with the best in the world at major Games,” said Van Coevorden, right at home in the cobble-stoned streets of Germany’s triathlon capital, she calls her second home.
“It’s been a busy few weeks with Leeds and Montreal and I know my body and mind are ready for the final push in this block.”
The sprint-distance course starts with a 750m swim in the iconic waters of Binnenalster lake that features a dark, 40 metre tunnel section under the pedestrian bridge on the way back towards an imposing transition area in front of the city’s iconic Rathaus.
From there, the course transitions into a flat 6-lap, tight and technical bike course of 21km before the 2-lap run which is sure to bring 5km of high drama towards the blue carpet and the finish tape.
Van Coevorden will be joined in the women’s race by McShane, preparing for her second Games in Birmingham, South Australian Games debutant Sophie Linn as well as ever-present sisters Jaz Hedgeland and younger sister Kira Hedgeland.
Linn, who had not raced any World Triathlon Championship Series races before this season has undergone a crash course in racing the best triathletes in the world and it continues towards Birmingham this weekend.
“I want to build on that in Hamburg and have my best place finish on the circuit. Things are going well and it is definitely going to be a big part of the build-up for Birmingham.
“My training has been going well and I’ve seen a great progression these last two races and am feeling like it’s going to all peak nicely for the Comm Games come the end of July.
“It’s been really hectic and a huge learning experience so trying to soak it all in whilst still staying grounded and calm.”
The Australians will be amongst those trying to close the gap on current women’s Series leader Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) who is not racing in Hamburg.
Bermuda’s three-time world champion and defending Commonwealth Games champion Flora Duffy and Beth Potter (GBR) will also line up for key Games hit outs.
Meanwhile in the men’s race, Commonwealth Games golden boys from Gold Coast 2018 Birtwhistle and Hauser will be joined by men’s team Games debutant Brandon Copeland, the best performed Australian in Hauser’s absence in Montreal and 2018 Games representative Luke Willian, back in the saddle after missing Montreal with illness.
Hauser said he knew he needed to miss Montreal to ensure he had a consistent block with little travel complications, knowing it would be “a very draining weekend” with a lot of racing.
“I very much enjoyed watching the Aussies race though, Brandon (Copeland) getting his best WTCS result yet, and a fellow Hervey Bay boy Toby Powers getting a Junior worlds silver,” said Hauser.
“My preparation for Hamburg has been going really well, I’m feeling like my old self again post Leeds and got a chance to test my fitness and race a couple of French Grand Prixs which I was really competitive in and most importantly had a lot of fun.
“It will be my first time back in Hamburg after being a 19-year-old in 2017 and experiencing a Mixed Team Relay World Championship in my first year of European racing.
“So I’m buzzing to return to this incredible city and know I’m in the kind of shape to challenge for a podium position.
“More importantly to get through the weekend unscathed and another great opportunity to refine our relay ahead of the Commonwealth Games.”
For Copeland, Hamburg will be another opportunity to continue gaining experience and momentum before his final push into Birmingham.
“I'll be looking to have a good hard hit out and put myself in the mix for that top 10 I narrowly missed in Montreal, which was a good confidence boost.
“In a way it just confirmed how the training has been going and was more of an indication of where I'm at.
“The belief in myself is there and I'm excited to see what I can do on a technical and fast course this weekend.”
Wearing the number one in the men’s race will be rankings leader Leo Bergere (FRA) who has finished on the podium in every race so far this year, but has still to land his first gold in a World Triathlon Championship Series.
New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde has also proven to be in great form in his run towards Birmingham, finishing on the podium at the three previous WTCS races: silver in Yokohama, gold in Leeds and silver again two weeks ago in Montreal.
While Hamburg will also see the comeback to the World Triathlon circuit for Spain’s three-time world champion Mario Mola. The Spaniard has not raced since the Tokyo Olympics, but has become a father in the meantime, and has won in Hamburg three times before certainly knows the course by heart, having raced here 10 times before – he will be wearing an unusual bib number 52.
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Elite Women - Saturday 9 July | 9.35pm AEST
Elite Men - Saturday 9 July | 11.35pm AEST
Mixed Relay - Sunday 10 July | 11pm AEST