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.
Fancy yourself as a Trivia expert? Head over to tourtimetrivia.com to put your cycling knowledge to the test, and go into the draw to win a Zipp 302 Wheelset, valued at $2299.00. #zippspeed #tourtimetrivia
The 2017 season has begun and I’ve left Australian to continue chasing the sun. First up I made my way over to Yokohama, destination two (for me) of the 2017 WTS season. During my last few weeks in Australia I had been going solo with training which I always find pretty enjoyable. Over the years I have spent plenty of hours training solo during my time at home in Tassie, and have really grown to like putting in work with just myself as motivation. The reason I was training solo this time though, was because I had made the move to train with Joel Filliol and his squad which has been a great change. I am really enjoying training and excited for the year ahead of racing and training in many new destinations. My new current location is Banyoles, ESP. I was here briefly a few years ago competing but it is a really nice place to settle for a while and begin some solid training.
The race in Yokohama wasn’t what I was hoping for, I think thanks to the weather gods it wasn’t the race a lot of people had hoped for.. I haven’t spent a winter at home in almost 5 years now so apparently my body doesn’t quite handle low temperatures like you would think it would after growing up in Tasmania. The race simply was not a reflection of where I was at physically at the time which is annoying, but it is done now and we are moving forward to what’s next!
Next up was The Dunkirk French GP where I started again with my team Valance. It was a very quick weekend in and out of France, it was also a very quick race. Dunkerque never disappoints to deliver a super fast, action packed race. With almost 100 on the start list, and a couple of hundred meters to the first turn buoy, things get ugly. I finished up 6th after chasing hard all day which I’m reasonably happy with for the day.
Whilst making my way to Dunkerque I had a night spent in Barcelona where I made sure my hotel was located across the street from Foto K, a camera store. With a new purchase and new motivation to create, I just wish there was more hours in the day.. If you want to see my life outside of triathlon, have a look at my other account, @eternal_chase, on Instagram.
Also check out Multisport online magazine for all the info on Super league. Thanks to the team for supporting what was probably my favourite event ever.
Now I am in to a long training block here in Banyoles and onto Les Angles before I’ll be lining up to race again. Time to get back to work!
It was a super busy week, with both plenty of racing and also other commitments working with the staff to make the launch go as well as possible. All of the athletes were happy to give up some time for the media, as with an even playing field it can benefit all parties to increase the reach of this event and it's athletes out to as many viewers as possible and get the public more interested in triathlon again.
For those that aren’t aware information on the event can be found on the Super League website but the event consisted of three days of racing, with three different formats over the same 300m, 6km, 2km course.
Day one was the Triple Mix, three races ten minutes apart totalled together to determine the days winner. Swim-bike-run-10min-run-bike-swim-10min-bike-swim-run. I had a vague idea of how the body would feel switching up the orders like that but Wow! This was the hardest day of racing I think I have ever done. I won the first stage, chased a time bonus in the second (which I got despite commentary) and then hit the wall on the third to finish up the day in a pretty disappointing 9th place. I knew I had the speed to be great over these distances so sitting down the field after day one was tough to swallow, so I was out to prove myself on day two.
A bike TT in the morning followed by a swim-run-swim-bike-run in the arvo giving any time deficit from the morning as a head start. I have read quite often over the years that people assume just because I am a runner, I can’t ride a bike and I’m not willing to push the pace during the bike leg so today seemed like a perfect opportunity to show that I am much more of an all rounder than many people would know. I set myself up perfectly for the day by finishing 2nd in the morning, 2 seconds behind TT winner Cameron Dye to give me a nice head start for the afternoon session. I was able to stay towards the front of the field and even conserve a bit of energy thanks to starting around 10 seconds ahead of the major contenders. I jumped on an opportunistic breakaway with Ryan Bailie with 2 laps to go on the bike which gave us a nice buffer on the last run leg. Just like on day one Richard Murray had the legs to run and he put on a show taking the lead and surging away with no one able to respond in time. He took the stage and I finished the day in second. A much more pleasing result than the day before which moved me up to 5th overall. Making my way right back into the race with one day to go.
With the Eliminator remaining Murray was in the lead with a perfect score of 40, but 2nd-5th was separated by just a few points. Super league was far from over and with a wild rain storm hitting the island things were getting a bit tense. After making it safely through the first and second stages it was down to the final race with just 10 athletes to start. I had another great swim and exited the water 2nd in the wake of Richard Varga, a position I would certainly like to get used to! After making our way around the bike course for the last time somewhat uneventfully it was down to the final run. With plenty on the line including a share of $200000 there was no holding back and watching the footage there was no time to think about a poker face! Murray dropped off the pace just over 500m out to leave Mola and myself. In my head, at no point was I getting beaten today and that’s exactly how it played out.
I loved the short fast racing and from what I have seen it was a crowd pleaser as well. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done and I am looking forward to seeing how Super League takes off and being a part of what’s to come.
2017 is well and truly underway by now and plenty has been happening in my world. I have been back based in Wollongong and into some solid work as the new season is closing in and we prepare for a big year.
My first event of 2017 was once again the Australia Day Aquathon in Wollongong where I battled it out with training partner Ryan Bailie before going on to win for the 4th year in a row. I think the local Newspaper titled it, the battle of the calves or cramps or something similar. It was the first time we had dusted off the race flats and stepped into some speed and the legs weren’t all that thrilled about it to say the least. It was once again a well organized event and once the legs settled down a good day celebrating Australia. My family was in town for a couple of days so it was nice to see them and show off the cool little apartment my girlfriend and I will call home for the next few months.
If you haven’t heard already.. there is something new coming to the world of triathlon this year. Called the Super League, bringing the best athletes from all around the world to compete over race formats we haven’t seen for years. Stage one is held in one of my favourite Australian destinations, Hamilton Island, and I can 100% guarantee that this course will be brutal. To make it worse, we have to race back to back to back over three days with the overall winner taking home plenty of bragging rights and a slice of history as the first ever Super League event winner.
“Super League Triathlon is here to bring mainstream attention to triathlon and usher the sport into the big leagues of sport entertainment,” Super League Triathlon co-founder Chris McCormack said.
Televised live, finally triathlon has the opportunity to really show the world what this sport is all about. I’m looking forward to kicking off my racing season at this event next month.
To find out all you need to know about the super league click here.
Recently in February I found myself in Canberra. As a non-natural swimmer, I am constantly thinking about what I'm doing in the water and after spending some time working with biomechanist Marc Elipot at the AIS we have a bunch of new things to work on. I am Currently back in Canberra at the AIS with the rest of the squad, trialling this environment and most importantly allowing me to reconnect with what I worked on last month with Marc and take yet another step with my swim efficiency.