Six members of Australia’s Elite triathlon group will use Sunderland’s World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) debut this weekend in preparation for next month’s Olympic Test Event in Paris and the first automatic nomination race for 2024.
Olympians Emma Jackson, Jaz Hedgeland and Jake Birtwhistle will be joined on the start lines by Commonwealth Games representatives Brandon Copeland, Charlotte McShane and Luke Willian.
While Tokyo Olympian Matt Hauser and Birmingham Commonwealth Games representatives Natalie Van Coevorden and Sophie Linn will by-pass Sunderland in their route towards the first Olympic Nomination race.
The Sprint Distance triathlon on Saturday will feature an anti-clockwise 750m swim off Roker Beach in what is expected to be a choppy, chilly North Sea.
The fields will then head out onto a flat, five-lap 21.3km bike course with three fast sections, one switchback and dead turns, before wrapping up with a two-lap 5km run for the blue carpet.
Sunday will see a round of the popular Mixed Triathlon Relay (MTR) Series which is always an added bonus for teams preparing for the Paris Olympics after its successful debut in Tokyo two years ago.
For 32-year-old McShane, Sunderland will be her first WTCS race since Abu Dhabi in early March and she will be out to lay the platform towards the exciting build up to a Test Event that will showcase triathlon and paratriathlon in the City Of Light.
Australian athletes can secure an automatic nomination to the Australian Olympic Committee with a top-eight finish in Paris or a top-eight finish in the WTCS Grand Final in Pontevedra, Spain in September.
“It will be perfect timing to reacquaint myself with WTCS racing ahead of the Paris Olympic Test Event - my key focus of the 2023 season,” said McShane, who has found a new lease of life under coach Dan Atkins at the Triathlon Australia Performance Centre on the Gold Coast.
“It has been useful to do some slightly lower pressure racing with Continental and World Cups across a few different continent circuits.
“Finding my groove again after a few underwhelming performances has given me confidence physically and mentally to line up against a world class field.
“I’m really looking forward to racing on Saturday and having had a look at the course it seems like it may be one that will suit my strengths well.”
After a fourth-place finish in the Huatulco World Cup in Mexico and a tenth-place finish in the Tiszaujvaros World Cup in Hungary, McShane headed to Banyoles in Spain to spend time with the Gold Coast Performance Centre group under Atkins.
“I had a couple of easier weeks recovering from travel and racing in the heat of Mexico before I started to find my rhythm again and now have a few weeks of solid work behind me,” said McShane, who admitted that training partner Matt Hauser has been an inspiration.
“It’s been really inspiring watching Matt achieve some incredible performances over the past few months and it’s definitely lifted the morale of the whole Aussie team.
“Whilst he won’t be racing in Sunderland this weekend, hopefully the rest of us can make up for his absence with some solid performances.”
Atkins said he was really excited to see if McShane can put together a well-rounded race after her last two World Cups have shown she is finding her form again.
“I believe she is improving with every week in training,” said Atkins.
“Char has some real confidence for Sunderland and also wants a spot in the MTR- there is no hiding from that, Char is going to Sunderland with one thing in mind - compete with the world's best.
“I believe from what I have been seeing in training day-to-day she can execute this.
“It’ll all come down to her intent in the swim - I’m confident that her bike-run will match it with the top competitors.”
The Australians can expect some stiff opposition from the French connection in both the women’s and men’s events.
Last start Hamburg WTCS winner, Cassdandre Beaugrand will be joined by Emma Lombardi and Leonie Periault in the women’s field.
Beaugrand is also looking to build into August’s Paris Test Event with another win that would catapult her into second place in the rankings behind the absent Beth Potter (GBR).
While in the men’s event Copeland, Birtwhistle and Willian won’t have to look too far to see where the action will be with WTCS leaders Vasco Vilaca (POR) Hayden Wilde (NZL) sure to be at the pointy end from the get-go.
While France’s defending champion Leo Bergère, also sure to be amongst the front runners as the chase for World Championship points continues to heat up.
You can catch the action from WTCS Sunderland on Saturday, July 29, from 10:44 PM AEST TriathlonLive.