Tasmania’s prodigal son Jake Birtwhistle will return to where his triathlon journey to the sport's biggest international stages first began when he lines up in tomorrow’s 2023 Oceania Triathlon Cup and Sprint Championships in Devonport.
Launceston’s 28-year-old Tokyo Olympian and three-time Commonwealth Games medallist will spearhead the men’s field over the Mersey Bluff sprint course, starting at 1:45pm local time.
Birtwhistle will be joined by a talented group of Elite men including Kingscliff’s Gold Coast-based WTS racer Brandon Copeland, ACT’s Callum McClusky, NSW trio, the Schofield twins Jayden and Luke, and Luke Bate.
Kye Wylde, Kurt Wesley, Yoann Colin, Chris Deegan and Samuel Mileham round out the list of Australians on the start list.
McClusky is in good form after winning the Oceania Cup opener in Wanaka, where he produced the run of the day to beat Kiwi pair Kyle Smith and Tayler Reid to take the win. Luke Willian finished sixth, followed by Luke Schofield, and Jayden Schofield.
Birtwhistle will be hoping to continue his happy homecoming after winning the Tasmania IRONMAN 70.3 in Hobart in a spectacular distance debut last month.
His first race was over the Mersey Bluff course some 16 years-ago as a schoolboy when he attended Riverside Primary School.
“It’s kind of cool to have a couple of races down here in Tassie, Hobart was a blast and now the Devonport Tri, I can’t wait,” said Birtwhistle.
“I remember doing club events when I was 12-years-old so I’m really familiar with the place. And even back then I was always chasing – I was never much of a swimmer, particularly in the open water and even back then I would bring it home with a strong run.
“That’s when I first got into the sport and found a love for it. It is really nice to be home. I haven’t raced in Devonport I think since I won the race back in 2015.
“I always seemed to be overseas somewhere – it just hasn’t fitted in with the racing plans – so it’s nice that I can get back here after such a long time.
“To have a race like Devonport not too far from home is kind of cool, being the Oceania title and some good points on the line, it means a lot.
“And with the National All-Schools on earlier this week it conjured up memories when I first represented Tassie at Devonport – it was my first Nationals in triathlon.
“I was in grade seven when I was 13, so it’s nice to have memories going all the way to back to racing again at home in Devonport.
“We have been able to schedule some of the longer races into this season’s regular training plan – so we haven’t changed things too much.
“The focus is on the shorter races still, with the New Plymouth World Cup after Devonport next weekend and then onto the regular WTS schedule after that.”
The women’s race will feature Birtwhistle’s Tokyo teammates; three-time Devonport winner Emma Jeffcoat and 2015 winner Jaz Hedgeland and sister Kira, as well as one of the real finds of 2022, Commonwealth Games relay medallist Sophie Linn, who finished a strong fourth in the Birmingham individual race.
Jeffcoat recently finished third behind New Zealand pair Nicole Van Der Kaay and Brea Roderick in a promising start to the season at the Oceania Cup opener in Wanaka. And she will know where her competition is with Van Der Kaay leading a five-strong Kiwi contingent across the Tasman into Devonport.
But it’s a race that Jeffcoat has made her own since taking her first win over the Mersey Bluff climb in 2017, defending her crown in 2018 and adding a third title in 2021.
The 2023 Oceania Cup and Sprint Championships gets underway at 12:30pm AEDT (elite women) and 1:45pm (elite men) on Saturday 18 March at the Mersey Bluff, Devonport. You can catch all the action live on TriathlonLIVE.tv from 12:15pm AEDT.