It was a Bahrain Endurance 13 sandwich on the podium as Vicky Holland of Great Britain stormed to the win and Ashleigh Gentle of Australia powered into third place at the Mooloolaba World Cup on Saturday.
With the cancellation of WTS Abu Dhabi as well as further races until end of April, the Mooloolaba tilt was for many athletes their first race of the season as well as their only chance to earn some Olympic qualification points for a while. Rio Olympic bronze medalist Holland and Mooloolaba Cup title holder Gentle faced down a stacked field racing the Sprint distance on a choppy surf swim, technical bike course, and challenging run.
Having been in pre-season camp based out of the Gold Coast, Holland took cues from surf lifesaving training to navigate the swim and exit with the lead group. She then worked with some strong cyclists including compatriot Georgia Taylor-Brown in the lead pack.
Meanwhile, Gentle worked the chase group to stoke its pace, eventually pulling them up to the leaders. With 30 competitors getting off the bike within seconds of each other, the run would prove to be decisive.
As the athletes negotiated the run that included steep Mooloolaba Hill on each of its three laps, strength proved the key as Holland and Taylor-Brown moved into the lead. Then, Holland unleashed her speed to pull ahead and take the win.
“This was a bit of a last-minute decision; we were supposed to go to Abu Dhabi,” revealed Holland. “This winter I really worked on my swimming and biking. Running I’ve not done much yet, so I’m really pleased with how I ran there today. To start off the season with a win is amazing.”
She added, “I was expecting Georgia to pull away from me at some point. I knew we didn’t have a big gap on Ashleigh and the group. So I decided to make it my race to push on, to try to break that little elastic. I managed to do that but I thought I’d gone a bit hard. I thought Georgia might be able to take it on from me, but I used that last downhill to my advantage and managed to break away!”
Gentle duked it out with Andrea Hewitt and Elizabeth Bravo, eventually winning the battle for bronze.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t battle with the British girls,” Gentle said. “I gave away too much time at the end of the bike and T2. They were better on the day anyway, but I’m really happy that I could sprint away for third.”
World and paratriathlon rankings as well as Olympic and Paralympic qualification rankings have been frozen alongside the suspension of races. We hope to see the world healthy again soon and these athletes back on the starting line.