Devonport Oceania Cup winner Jake Birtwhistle will be hoping to carry on his good form at this Sunday’s all-important New Plymouth Triathlon World Cup in New Zealand.
Birtwhistle, who has prepared for the 2023 season at home in Launceston, will spearhead a team of five Australians, alongside Commonwealth Games teammates, 2019 New Plymouth winner Luke Willian, Brandon Copeland, an in-form Callum McClusky and Willian’s Under 23 Brisbane training partner Oscar Dart.
Recovery has been the order of the week for Birthwhistle, McClusky, Copeland and Dart after a helter-skelter sprint race in Devonport.
“It’s been a case of quickly recovering from Devonport before getting straight back into another sprint race in New Plymouth which will be really tough but another good opportunity to get some more points,” said Birtwhistle.
Second placed McClusky reiterated that the New Plymouth World Cup would be the first big race of the season as he looks to continue his good form after setting a crack pace off the bike last Saturday.
“I want to qualify for the Paris Test event in mid-August so New Plymouth is the big race, being a World Cup and I’ve only done Continental Cups this year, so I want to make sure I get a good performance in,” McClusky said.
When asked about the strong back end of his run in Devonport, third-placed Copeland was quick to reply.
“If I can put the first half of my run in Abu Dhabi together with the second half of my Devonport run then I’ll probably have a decent run in New Plymouth, so if I can put the two halves together, we’ll be able to get a good whole run,” said Copeland.
“I’ll be hoping for another solid performance in New Plymouth, get some good solid points and then I’ll head back over to Gerona with my squad, get a good block of training in and keeping ticking off the World Series races and try and bump that ranking up and chase those Olympic points.”
Missing from this week’s line up will be Birtwhistle’s Olympic and Commonwealth Games teammate, Matt Hauser, Australia’s number one performer from the 2022 World Triathlon Series, who finished with the bronze medal in last year’s Grand Final in Abu Dhabi.
The 24-year-old has made the tough decision along with coach Dan Atkins to reluctantly withdraw from the World Cup event.
“Unfortunately, Matt has had to withdraw from New Plymouth,” said Atkins.
“He hasn’t fully recovered from that opening WTS race in Abu Dhabi, that sickness that he had, so we made what I believe is a smart decision to pull him out, unfortunately.
“As always he wanted to race so badly, he loves racing, but when we put our heads together we agreed we had to pull him back and take a smart approach with so much on the line later in the year.” Atkins gave his appraisal for what will be another challenging race with valuable Olympic points on the line.
“New Plymouth is always a super-challenging course, starting with the open water which will be fresh being in New Zealand and that plays a bit of role there.
“Then there’s the bike course with that hill to certainly mix things up and the Kiwis are not going to want the Aussies to come over and take anything away.
“The course is similar to Devonport with the hill a little more technical early on and the run a little more challenging, when you come out of transition there’s a long straight and you do a U-turn and you go up a little tiny pitch and it’s enough to open the field up.
“So, once you are out of transition and start winding it up you will want to be in a good position to attack on the run.
“I remember Jaz Hedgeland when she won her first World Cup medal there (bronze in 2019), she applied some pressure in that area to the other girls so if they run it well they consider those little aspects of the race, it’s certainly not a straight out and back course, the hill will sort people out, I have no doubt.
“So in the men’s race in the front pack with the likes of NZ boys Tayler Reid and Dylan McCullough as well as trying to stay away from the Hayden Wilde’s of the world, it’s going to be on and will be like an unofficial Oceania title again.
“There are also plenty of internationals in there led Spain’s David Castro Fajardo (who won the Oceania Triathlon Cup in Taupo last month).
“New Plymouth has some fantastic fields…with 70 on the start lines in both fields so they will have us all watching that’s for sure.”