So I won a race this past weekend, and it kinda feels like a big deal so I’m going to write about it. I’m
certainly no blogger, and the people that will read this I’m 100% sure already know what happened
and probably even streamed it on triathlonlive.tv. However for the purposes of basking in my glory
one last time before I’m smacked back to reality by the best athletes in the world, AKA my training
partners during our current altitude training camp, I’ll talk about it some more. So here goes..
Leeds World Tri Series is known for being one of the toughest races to do as an ITU racer, a course
that has the perfect mix of hills and technical sections to make sure no matter where you finish, your
body will be screaming for the suffering to end.
The morning of the race I was nice and relaxed spending time in the hotel room and out on the
streets getting the body moving and ready for the afternoon race. There was a grey cloud looming
though, literally. I’m not a fan of racing when it’s cold, the rain doesn’t bother me, unless its
accompanied by cooler temperatures which is exactly what the weather apps were predicting. Skip
forward now to the athletes lounge 30 minutes before the race start and we still had cool and dry
conditions. By this stage I had already committed to racing on 28mm tyres with wet weather
pressure and at the very last minute decided the undershirt under my race suit was a good call.
Once the race got underway everything seemed to click, at this point it didn’t matter how bad I felt
in the warmup, racing instincts took over and pushed through the sensations. I got away to a good
start in the swim, but with 56 athletes all aiming for one turning buoy things can go pear shaped in
an instant. This day it didn’t though. I pushed hard to stay in a good position for as long as I could
knowing if this continued, I would be exiting the water in a great position ready to attack the next
stage; the bike.
Early on groups were established and I was amongst some other strong riders within striking
distance to the front of the race and it wasn’t long until we were amongst the leaders after pushing
hard at the start. This course is designed for a breakaway to stick, once on the city centre circuit as
there are so many turns and flowing corners that you can ride faster in a small group and this was
clearly a race tactic of a lot of guys because there were attacks and moves made on every lap. I did
my best to stay towards the front of the main pack to take the opportunity to get away with a small
group if it arose and to mark any other moves. After many attempts, the front group was all back
together entering T2 to start the run.
By this point I was hurting, I managed to follow the front group of runners for the first 5k passing
athletes one by one as they dropped off the pace. On a couple of occasions I thought I would be one
of the athletes dropping back, until I made the conscious decision to push up and down every hill to
stay in contention for as long as possible. Before I knew it there was just 5 of us left and the attacks
had started, Schoeman was the first to establish a gap. I remember thinking during the 6km mark
that this is usually where I start to really suffer in races, but I was feeling okay still, “so why not have
a go myself? I could win this!” I’d usually back myself to take the win over the last mile with my
finishing speed, but for whatever reason I took the risk of running away with the lead early on and
ran the last lap solo. I guess I had a feeling it would work out alright.
I have run down the finish chute in first place before in a WTS event, in Edmonton. That day it was
clear I wasn’t listening during the race brief though and it turned out I had only done two out of
three run laps... So I would be lying to myself if I said that thought didn’t cross my mind over the last
few hundred meters in Leeds, it definitely did.
Leeds World Tri Series 2019; the day I counted four run laps, and won my first World Series race.
I need to say a huge thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point, coaches, training
partners, sponsors, those who I love and the people who have supported me. Now onto the next
one, the journey continues…
After seven months of racing around the world the World Tri Series has finally come to an end for 2018. The racing was intense at every stop from the first event in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of March right up until the Grand Final this past weekend in Gold Coast, AUS.
After a 5th place, 2nd, 5th, 3rd, and a 3rd place finish I was entering the Final event in second place on the rankings behind 2016 and ’17 series winner, Spain’s Mario Mola and just ahead of training partner Vincent Luis from France. I knew I would need to race well to hold onto a podium position, and thankfully I did enough. **Spoiler alert, I finished 3rd overall in the WTS rankings for 2018**
We were faced with some tough conditions as winds approached 40km/h on race day which made for tough going in all three legs with the choppy water and then high winds on the bike and run. I got off to a great start in the water and eventually managed to exit the water in maybe my best position all season which had me confidently onto the bike and soon in the mix with the leaders. An aggressive ride with plenty of attacks and close calls switched the focus to marking the right moves and staying safe. I rode towards the front of the group for the most part and eventually lead the large group out onto the run with just two athletes up the road.
I was feeling great in the water and on the bike and continued that early on in the run leg but after not too long I was starting to feel the fatigue creep in and once that was set it became a long hard grovel to the finish line. The six leaders at this point had put some time between us and I was now running with Jonny Brownlee in 7th/8th place in a battle to keep up the pace and stay focused on those ahead of us. The two of us worked together swapping turns into the wind but as we closed in on the finish line it became clear that we had become too far removed from the leaders and were then racing for 7th. Without knowing the exact position I had to finish to hold onto my series position I knew I had to fight for every place and I eventually ran away in the final stages of the run to claim 7th place.
Far from my best day, but it was still such a relief to cross the finish line and be done for the year, it was a nervous wait to find out if I had done enough to claim the overall podium finish and I was so glad when I finally heard the news!
To stand on the podium at the world championships has been a huge goal of mine for as long as I remember and it is a moment I will remember for a very long time! Bronze is the starting point, so now I’m already excited for the years to come. But first I think I’ll need a bit of time to relax!
Montreal in 2017 was one of my worst ever World Tri Series results ever, after a long day I finally crossed the finish line in 40th place, and even with a performance like that, I loved the race. The city itself is an amazing place that I think is really cool, and then the race site, and the crowd set this event apart from others in my memory. Every event I go to I am there to give it my all, but at certain events there can be another incentive to perform. This year in Montreal I had two reasons. Reason one; redemption for last year, and reason two; the world series points standings.
My number one goal for the year was to win at the Commonwealth Games in March and at the time I had not really thought much ahead of that. The Commonwealth Games was part of a bigger 3 year plan, and for that reason it was my one goal. I knew once that was over I would be pretty quick to switch focus for the next task as that’s the kind of person I am, that’s why I’m competitive and why I live to race. So onwards with the year of racing ahead and the focus on the WTS ranking. It took me quite a while to feel like I was getting any traction on the overall rankings and mainly due to the way my race schedule was set out I have been able to make a late surge for overall points. I am sitting in second place overall between training partners Mario Mola and Vincent Louis after this past weekend’s race in Montreal. Here’s how the action unfolded.
First noteworthy thing to mention from race day; rain, a lot of rain. I don’t mind racing in the rain, I quite like it actually but there is no denying it sucks pre-race when trying to prepare and get everything sorted at the venue.
I got off to quite a good start in the swim, I had some space and clean water and managed to hold a good position through the early stages which unfortunately didn’t last too long. I began to have a bit of a hard time through the water as groups started to bunch up. I was doing all I could in the back end to hold it together and I eventually exited the water in an okay position, certainly not where I wanted to be but I was around some good athletes and was still in contention. The bike dynamic changed quite a lot during the race, between being aggressive in fighting for every position to being conservative on the wet rain soaked roads. Some tactics came into play during the bike leg as the main bunch was put under pressure by a small breakaway and for a period there was a race within the race of those in contention for the world series podium.
As transition two approached the gap to the lead 5 had grown to over a minute which would make things interesting however the lack of class runners in the group meant only one stayed away to eventually finish second. Mola was running super fast right from the start as myself and Richard Murray tried to hold on. After 2.5km the three of us split up and began to set our own pace for the remaining 7.5km. I entered the final kilometre in 4th place still behind Murray but with only a small gap. I made a real effort to hold my pace during the middle stages of this race and it paid off as I entered the closing stages of the race once again within striking distance of the podium. I needed to produce a big final surge and really give it everything to eventually make my way into the bronze medal position which I managed to do in the final 200 meters. A bronze medal for me and in doing so I jumped up the rankings to enter the final round in the silver medal position.
I have spent the last week at home in Tasmania and am now off to re-join my training group on the Gold Coast for the final preparations before the grand final on September 16th.
Edmonton was host to both the World Tri Series’ 7th round for 2018 as well as the third and final leg of the Mixed Relay world series; which made for one big weekend, again. After completing the same double only two weeks earlier in Hamburg, with the sprint individual and MTR, I was unsatisfied with my individual performance in Hamburg where I finished 5th and was left feeling like I underperformed on the run. 5th place was still enough to move me up in the overall series rankings to 4th place. Racing again within the fortnight, I was able to maintain my form and carry it on to the next event where I would use both the disappointment and the ranking boost as motivation for a strong performance.
I have good memories from Edmonton having performed well there in the past and made mistakes there as well (I lost count of the times I was reminded it was a 3-lap run, not 2 after last year’s race!).
The swim, I find, is hard to get right there, with a sharp left hand turn first up and then the remainder of the lap is a continuous right-hand bend which makes positioning tough. I wasn’t in a great position, but I was confident knowing that a tough, hilly bike course was up next. This plays to my strengths and I should be in a position to fight for the win. It ended up being a large group together, therefore, the focus turned to holding a good position towards the front and assessing any moves, as many athletes tried to break away.
Early into the 5km run there was a lead established by 6 or seven guys and the pace was on! I found myself hanging onto the back and began to fade off the pace during the middle stages, before clawing my way back into the podium race over the last 1.5km. I always know I will be able to bring back some time, but it’s impossible to know just how much, and to be honest, I surprised myself here. With 1km to go I was still in 6th place and trailing behind Alarza, Brownlee and Louis, but thought I had the chance of making my way into the top five. I gave it my everything until I crossed the finish line and in doing so I managed to pass the three in front of me and cross the line in the bronze medal position. In doing so, I improved on my world ranking again to move into third with two events to go.
Day two and relay time. It is never easy to back up after the individual race, and this time was probably the worst I have felt having to back up for a relay. Thankfully, once the race was going, the adrenaline flowed and I was able to put together a strong leg for the team. I raced as the anchor and thanks to my team mates, Nat Van Coevorden, Aaron Royle and Ashleigh Gentle, I was in a good position to fight for the win.
I started my leg on the back of a small group with just two more athletes up the road and we were in a great position to take the win here. Having made my way into third during the swim, it wasn’t long until we caught the guys up front and, from there, it became a tactical affair on the bike and the 6 top teams began the run in one group. I wanted to control the pace set on the run, so I went to the front and ran the race exactly how I wanted to, an honest pace. Over the last 500m, I applied the pressure and tried to stretch out a lead before the final kick at the end and it worked out just as planned! I was able to round the final U-turn into the finish chute and cross the line first for Australia once again. I love this relay format and am glad to have the opportunity to compete in it with several capable Aussies!
I am currently training in Flagstaff, Arizona, in the lead up to the last race of this overseas stint in Montreal, before heading home to Australia to finish off the WTS season back on the Gold Coast.
The comm Games seemed like just Yesterday but already another race was on the horizon and it was time to travel to Yokohama for race three of the season. I have always enjoyed racing in Yokohama as I have had some good results there from the early years of my WTS career.
Having now entered the Olympic points cycle (this being race one) as well as being in the Country that will host the next Olympics makes this event extra important. Performing in this environment is key to success as I work towards the most important race of my life, the 2020 Olympics.
I spent the weeks leading into this event at home in Tassie for the most part which is starting to become my favourite training location. I spent this period ticking things over trying to maintain my fitness and conditioning from the Comm Games and I was feeling ready to race again and looking forward to another chance in Yokohama.
It is always hard to know exactly what is going on once you’ve dived in and the swim is underway so I didn’t know where I was positioned but I did know it was still very bunched up because there were athletes everywhere. It was near impossible to find any space to swim, it was 1500m of fighting for positions and trying to stay above water. I had recognised a few good athletes around me on the last lap of the swim so I knew I would have some strong riders to ride with. As it turned out it was bunched up from the start and before not too long on the bike there was a bunch of 40+ athletes riding around the course. There is always some athletes in the bunch you know to stay away from, because they aren’t the safest but when there is that many people around it makes things a challenge. Anyway, I managed to stay upright and it was onto the run.
The last time I raced a standard distance tri was Noosa back in November, so it had been a while. I wanted to run my own paces for this 10k, which normally wouldn’t be the best move but I am happy with my decision. I picked moments to extend myself in closing gaps to athletes which I had to do a few times, and after the final surge I ended up crossing the finishing line in second. I'm super happy with my silver medal performance and it's nice to stand on the podium in a standard distance race for the first time in a World Series event, something I hope to do a lot more of this season.
I am back home in Tas now for a while before my next couple of races in the UK next month.
Welcome to the biggest stage of your career, so far.
I always get asked if I get nervous, and generally the answer is no but this time around there were some feelings creeping in the closer we got to racing. Not the same type of nerves that I would get as a 12 year old though. It was more of a realisation that this Commonwealth Games, these next two races were going to be the most important of my career to date.
Choosing to stay at home in Tasmania was the best move I could have made. Being the only Commonwealth athlete from my training group meant I would go through my final preparations solo, which is fine for me, and no other location makes more sense than home did. Training in Launceston gives me access to some of the best training in the world, and the most convenient and it allowed me to stay out of the spotlight and avoid the build up hype as the Games approached.
I was in the best shape of my life, and was very excited to get on that start line.
I was in a familiar scenario out of the water and on the bike with very few people willing to help close any gaps to the leaders. Richard Murray and myself did the bulk of the work in our large bike group and eventually arrived to transition with time to make up. Onto the run.
Once I was running, it was one step at a time. I wasn’t concerned with where I was or if I was catching, I just wanted to run as fast as I could. To run my way up to the silver medal position was an amazing feeling. It is all a bit of a blur still, but I remember the noise from the crowd was incredible during that last run lap which helped me lift.
Next up the Mixed Team Relay two days later.
Coming in as the current world champions and the locals, all eyes were on us and teaming up with Gillian, Matt, and Ash I knew we would be hard to beat. We raced in that order with me as the anchor, and right from the first leg it was a two horse race between us Aussies and the English. We know first hand that anything can happen in a relay after coming behind to take the world chamionships last year but I was confident in the team. Gillian and Matt set it up perfectly and Ash then handed over to me with a 30+ second lead. The most important thing for me to do was stay safe, all I had to do was complete the course at a solid pace and we were guaranteed the gold. There isn’t much that can go wrong in the run so once I left the second transition I think my smile started to grow, as did our lead. The Support out on the road and in the stands was epic, and to be able to actually enjoy that is something I will always remember.
After taking some time off after the Noosa tri and the completion of the 2017 season I began the build up of training from home in Tasmania. Launceston is probably my favourite place to train and being my home town makes it that little bit nicer as well. The running options are some of the best I have seen around the world, the swimming is easy and some amazing roads for cycling always make it pretty enjoyable to get out and get work done. Once the new year rolled over it was time to jet off to join up with the rest of the JFT crew for the first camp of the year in Fuertaventura which is probably about as far away as you can possibly get from home. With 40+ hours of travelling down I finally got settled and began the preparations for my first race of the year in Abu Dhabi.
Fast forward six weeks and we’re racing. That is kind of how it felt as well, I don’t know why but before you know it you’ve gone from the off season with no training and eating chocolate cake for lunch, to eating chocolate cake for lunch, in Abu Dhabi.. and you’re about to race!
If you’re reading this, you obviously have an interest in triathlon so you no doubt know all about what went down on race day in Abu Dhabi so I’ll keep it brief, and just take you through the race from my perspective. Being the first race of the year I didn’t really know what to expect, it is always hard to make predictions but I knew from training things were going well so I was looking forward to the hit out. The swim was pretty uneventful for me, it wasn’t the best but I got through it and onto the bike where the real action began. I managed to make my way around the circuit safely which was better than most and finish up the bike with the main hitters. Unfortunately I was just missing the legs to go with the pace set early by Mola but managed to back end the run pretty well to finish up in 5th. My best first race of the season result to date, so I’d say things are looking good for the year.
I am just closing in on 12 months of training under Joel Filliol and with his group and I am really excited to get a whole season under my belt beginning a program from off season all the way through to the end of the season.
Fast forwarding again to today, I am home In Tasmania adding the final touches and working on the things I was lacking in Abu Dhabi ahead of the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Everything is going well and I am really looking forward to competing on the 5th in front of an Australian crowd at my first ever games.
In an extraordinary turn of events the 22-year-old charged down the finish chute believing he was about to win his first WTS race – only to realise he had only completed two of the scheduled three laps of the five kilometre Sprint Distance course after the 750m swim and 20 kilometre bike.
Half-way down the blue carpet chute and realising his mistake, the long legged former Under 23 world champion who just two weeks ago anchored Australia to the World Teams title, hurdled the barriers and kept running. He was eventually caught by two-time and defending WTS champion, Spain's Mario Mola, who bolted away to win his fourth race of the season.
But despite his legs burning, Birtwhistle dug deep to produce an incredible final 1.5km lap to keep bronze medallist South African Richard Murray at bay and claim a memorable silver medal.
I think this article sums up the day pretty well, so I'll just add; my bad!
Race highlights below. *incident from 2.30
Aside from the obvious, I left Edmonton pretty happy. It was a big confidence boost for me to manage to stuff up so badly, but still claim the second step on the podium ahead of one of the strongest WTS fields of the year. To be able to push on for an extra lap after emptying the tank shows me know that I can go deeper than I thought possible which is pretty exciting to take forward into my future races.
Birtwhistle admitted he got to the front too easy and then doubted himself.
“But in the end the damage wasn’t too bad and I finished off ok,” Birtwhistle said.
Imagine getting to the end of a hard session and your coach makes you do another rep. In that next rep you have to hold off Gomez, Brownlee and have a sprint finish with Richard Murray... not a real nice thought is it?
And the final words belong to commentator Shepley who said: “This kid from Down Under is going to be a superstar one day and when he learns how to count he may even win a race.”
Montreal WTS the following weekend was brutal! I had some time to make up after one of the roughest swims I've ever had which meant I had to really work the bike hard. With just a few other riders either willing or able to help, it made for a tough ride and once we started to get really close, there was two crashes within the lap and I lost the help of the stronger riders who were unfortunately taken out of the race. Entering transition for the penultimate time on the bike I had finally caught the main group, but I destroyed myself in doing so. After forcing my way into a good position in the group my legs seemed to have had enough, the very last time heading up the hill was one too many and I popped. In that last lap I lost more time than what I had gained over the eight laps prior, and still 10km to remain.
The 22-year-old Tasmanian’s day didn’t get any better, the spent silver medallist from Hamburg and Edmonton, jogging across the line in 40th place.
Results aside, Montreal put on a great event, and the atmosphere was amazing. One very significant factor in me making my way to the finish line.
Next up for me is Rotterdam WTS, I am looking forward to lining up again with the number 44 on my race suit as the 44th male athlete to represent Aus at the World Championships or grand final.
The following weekend, Super League is back, this time in Jersey!
An island shaped by the sea where some of the most astonishing tides in the world circle the coast and feed the land. An island that's small on size, but big on personality, where country lanes open to cliff top views and the sea is never more than ten minutes away.
Over two days you can see a Triple Mix competing three stages with alternating sequences of swim, bike and run. With Sunday features an Eliminator race that again features three stages with the top 16 from the first race moving to the second round, with the top 10 from that race heading into the final.
I’m looking forward to lining back up in the Super League suit to fight for the top spot on the podium once again. This time we know what to expect, so the racing is going to be stepped up once again!
Hamburg 2017 has come and gone. Here is some pieced together comments and thoughts from my weekend of racing both the individual and the teams mixed relay. Spoiler alert, I was on the podium both days.
My favourite event on the series and a successful one again in 2017. I'm pretty happy with the individual race as a whole. I was comfortably up towards the front in the water, played my cards right on the ride, took some chances at a break but it all ended up in a big bunch. I pushed the pace early in the run but found myself dropping back in the middle stages.
Birtwhistle looked like his race was over when he dropped back to fifth after sitting in second place in the early stages of a five kilometre run dominated by eventual winner, world champion Mario Mola of Spain. But with the finish line in his sights he found a second wind and charged past the veteran Gomez before claiming Sissons.
I was in top gear for as long as I could be over the last km and in doing so closed some pretty significant gaps from 6th to eventually finish second. It certainly wasn't my plan to come from so far back over the last km but it's times like that I'm thankful to know I have that 1 more gear!
“Since my days as a track and field athlete before I became a triathlete I’ve always had that little something extra, I’m rather happy I am able to call on it when I need it.”
I needed it this day, to run my way back into second place to stand on the podium alongside training partner Mario Mola and Ryan Sissons.
The mixed teams relay played out in similar fashion to the individual race for me as I came from behind and ended in a sprint finish, this time though it was a sprint for gold.
“we were all able to put together a good race and end up as World Champions, it is pretty awesome!”
We were reminded many times that afternoon that it’s not every day you win a world championship. With the recent announcement of the relay in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program this certainly is a priority event to perform at and a result I am very proud to have been a part of.
I am currently spending some time in Girona before getting right back into racing next weekend for the Canadian stops of the World Series. First up Edmonton for another sprint distance race then onto Montreal over standard distance the following week.
My first official JFT training camp is now well underway. For the past couple of weeks we have been training in Les Angles with the group which is situated in the Pyrenees at 1650 meters above sea level. It has been quite a long time between racing for me which has given me the perfect opportunity to start fresh and with Joel work out the best training program for me. There have been plenty of long training days banked during this time and the speed is coming back now as we get closer to the next block of racing. Les Angles has probably been one of the nicest training locations I have ever been to with some great running options and probably some of the coolest rides I have ever done. I will certainly be happy to be back later in the season to prepare for the WTS final in Rotterdam.
Hamburg WTS is next up on the race schedule, I got my first WTS podium there in 2016 so I am looking forward to returning and I will be looking to do something similar this year. Training is going well and everything is feeling good so I’m starting to get pretty excited to be back on the start line ready to go again soon.
Before leaving Australia in early May I spent a couple of days shooting some images for an Australian Triathlete Magazine feature. I was fortunate enough to have Glen AKA Korupt Vision come visit me in Wollongong to capture some new content, including a shirtless cover image...who would have thought! If you haven’t already, go and grab yourself a copy to find out a bit more about my plans for the years ahead and catch an insight into my move to train with Joel Filliol Triathlon.
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