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Atkinson Wins Noosa Trifecta

By Dan Sowden

Triple the competition. Three times the event. Thrice the drama. The Noosa Triathlon is back and this time Australia’s highest profile triathlon will be bigger and better than ever. The triathlon is a huge achievement for a small town on the Sunshine Coast. It competes with international cities like London and Chicago, as one of the major triathlons of the world.

The Noosa Triathlon combines an irresistible mix of entertainment and sport in one of Australia’s most popular destinations, meaning whatever your fancy it’s sure to be tickled. Add a whole host of high profile personalities and it’s little wonder spectator numbers swell to more than 30,000 with a total of 10,500 competitors across all events.

Australia’s Courtney Atkinson capped off his season with a win and installed himself as the new ‘king’ of Noosa, while Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen claimed her first major victory in her new adopted home at the Noosa Triathlon on Sunday.

An appreciative crowd turned out to see Atkinson win his third successive title over the 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run. He is only the second man to do so behind Craig Walton who fell short of his goal to claim a seventh title, finishing 12th after back cramping hampered his run leg.

“I didn’t feel good from the get-go,” Walton said. “Nothing felt right out there today, it was all hard work.

“But I don’t want to make excuses. Courtney has won three in a row now and I’m really happy for him and he’s taking over Noosa now.” New Zealand’s Kris Gemmell recorded his best Noosa performance to finish second, just not having the leg speed to keep up with Atkinson but good enough to keep ahead of surprise packet Peter Kerr who picked up third place in a strong field. Walton emerged from the swim in the lead, with Bryce McMaster and Josh Amberger with another group that contained all the contenders including Atkinson, Gemmell, James Seear and Peter Kerr.

After 40km of riding it was long course specialist Paul Matthews who led into the final change-over with Walton hot on his heels, but not the big lead over the chasers he needed. Once out on to the run Atkinson made short work of hauling in the leaders and was in a class of his own, running away with a comfortable win.

“There was probably more anxiety today than in the previous two years because of the competitors I had to race against,” said Atkinson.

“This was actually difficult for me because since Craig’s retired, at times, he’s helped me and I’d call him a bit of a mentor who has pointed me back in the right direction.

“It was always going to be a tough race with Craig being back and unknown, and I knew Chris would be firing.

“My tactics were ideally to get rid of Kris (Gemmell). Noosa is too fun to battle someone in a sprint finish. If you win you want to enjoy it here. It’s a great place.

“At the 3km mark I thought ‘help’, I’m going to pay for this.  I thought if I could get away it might just play with their heads.” Gemmell made a race of it, getting within 30 seconds on the run but in the end ran out of time. Kerr recorded his best performance at this race to grab third, claiming some impressive scalps along the way.

“I was really happy with my race, I gave it everything I had,” said Gemmell.

“In the first 500 metres of the run Courtney went out of the gates ballistic, and I knew there was no way I could keep up with that, I just tried to peg him back.”

“We race all over the world, there is no better place than Noosa.  I could easily lose my passport tonight.” The performance of the ‘Swiss Miss’ was all the more impressive given she finished second at the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii just three weeks ago.

“I’m very surprised and very proud to come first.  It was really hard especially on the run and in the last 1km,” said Steffen.

“After Ironman I did nothing for one week and then I started to pick things up and have been enjoying the last three weeks and focused on getting ready for this race.”

Ashleigh Gentle, 19, made a successful step up to Olympic distance racing, claiming second place after a blistering run leg to finish just four seconds behind Steffan while New Zealand’s Nicky Samuels put in a solid performance to claim the final podium position. Samuels led the field out of the water followed by youngster Amy Roberts, Olympian Maxine Seear and Emma Jackson. A strong bike leg by Steffen saw her ride clear of the field over the non drafting course despite giving away a minute lead in the swim.

“Usually in ironman you have a 5-6 minute lead so it’s different to have someone much closer to you and I’m not a good sprinter so I pushed really hard to show the girl coming at me that she had no chance,” said Steffen.

Steffen was the first to hit the run course, Samuels next but nearly 30 seconds off the pace. Jackson was next through but more than a minute further back. At the 3km mark Steffen had increased that lead over Samuels and Jackson but Gentle was the big mover in the field with a 34.46 run split. Steffen was good enough to hold on for the win but Gentle got within 4 seconds of the Swiss sensation, Samuels just holding out the defending champion Jackson.

“My coach told me to do it for fun and enjoy it and that’s what I did,” she said. “My goal was to finish top 5 so I’m really happy.

“I like the hot conditions so it was good out there.  I am based in Mooloolaba with boyfriend David Dellow who was cheering for me on the race course.  This win is a little bit for him as he was disappointed not to be on the start line after having an operation last week.” Gentle was pleased with her run leg although admits her swim needs some more work.

“I had a pretty bad swim but I was happy with my bike, picking up a few girls, and my run was my saving grace today,” the Gold Coaster said.

“If you would have told me I would come second by five seconds when I was cycling I definitely wouldn’t have believed you.”

Jackson was philosophical about her performance.

“I had a pretty good swim, didn’t feel good in the last 10km of the bike and had no legs on the run,” Jackson said. 

“The season has been long – it’s been a whole year so I’m looking forward to a break now. I probably went one race too many.

“Ashley did a great race today and I’m happy for her. I had a little bit more pressure on me than last year. From today’s race I have learnt to keep training hard and not slacken off so much.”

A further 8000 triathletes were also part of the 28th Noosa Triathlon, competing as individuals or part of a team.

Also taking part were V8 drivers Garth Tander (2:43:07), Will Davison (2:28:18) and David Reynolds the quickest (2:17:48).

“I’m all in one piece so that’s a good start,” Davison said. “I was a bit worried as I busted some ribs in Bathurst a couple of weeks ago but they didn’t trouble me.

“I improved my time by over 10 minutes since I last did it in 2006, so I’m happy.

“I heard my name called out and the crowd cheered me on – it’s unreal.

“In Bathurst you’re in a car with a helmet so it’s a very different atmosphere.”

Swimming champion Susie O’Neill and husband Cliff Fairley also completed in their first triathlon, beaming as they crossed the line. Cliff has bragging rights finishing in a time of 2:18:35 and Susie 2:29:27.

“I nearly needed my (doctor) husband out there on the run leg,” said Susie.

“It was a lot harder than I expected. I made sure I kept wetting myself down a lot to make it feel like in the pool but it still felt bad.”

“In swimming butterfly it only goes for 2 minutes and the pain is only for about 15 seconds.”

Results
Men

1.  Courtney Atkinson             Gold Coast         1:46:54
2.  Kris Gemmell                 Palmerstone North 1:47:06
3.  Peter Kerr                     Warrnambool       1:48:10
4.  Samuel Betten                 Brisbane           1:48:40
5.  James Seear                 Brookfield           1:48:49
6.  Paul Matthews                 Murwillumbah       1:49:08
7.  Dan Wilson                   Sandgate           1:49:22
8.  Bryce McMaster               Daisy Hill           1:49:33
9.  Pete Jacobs                   Freshwater         1:49:45
10. MarkWidmer                   St Gellen           1:50:01
Women
1.  Caroline Steffen               Swiss               2:01:18
2.  Ashleigh Gentle               Robina               2:01:22
3.  Nicky Samuels                 Wanaka             2:03:30
4.  Emma Jackson               Joyner               2:04:27
5.  Melissa Rollison               Holland Park         2:04:27
6.  Kirralee Seidel                 Buderim             2:05:37
7.  Lisa Maragon                 Waterloo             2:07:59
8.  Amy Roberts                   Albany Creek         2:09:17
9.  Maxine Seear                 Brookfield           2:14:27
10. Tara Prowse                   Willoughby           2:14:33


Source: The Noosa Journal

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