THE only person that had second thoughts about Ashleigh Gentle creating history at the Noosa Triathlon was the Queenslander herself.
But the world No.6 need not have worried as she became the first woman in the 36-year history of the event to claim six Noosa Triathlon crowns.
Gentle, 27, surpassed her idol Emma Frodeno (nee Snowsill), who won five times at Noosa during her golden career, and joined former coach Craig Walton as a member of the six-time champion club.
It was Gentle’s fifth-straight triumph in the elite women’s race around the triathlon and tourism mecca and it came after a trademark blistering run leg with the lady in red showing her rivals a clean pair of heels.
She started the 10km dash around Noosa Parade 38 sec behind the leading group of Radka Kahlefeldt, Natalie Van Coevorden and Annabel Luxford but caught them by the halfway mark of the run and powered away.
Van Coevorden and Kahlefeldt filled the minor placings, 50 sec after Gentle ran down the blue carpet to the familiar roar of the thousands of spectators lining the course.
“(I had) so much doubt. A few people had said, ‘You’ll do so well. You had a great race on the Gold Coast (ITU World grand final)’, but that was seven weeks ago,’’ she said.
“I just had to hold as much fitness as I could. I found it really difficult but I’m always so motivated to get here and still be in good shape.
“It’s a relief. I think I say that every year. To win my sixth title, it will probably only sink in this time next year.
“Today I had a terrible swim and made it really hard for myself because I had to really work hard on that bike to reel in the top three girls. Thankfully I pulled back enough time to put myself back in the game.
“I knew those girls were in great form and I’d be up against it. It makes my victory even more special knowing those girls are racing so well.’’
Gentle will be back in Noosa next year to defend her title and hopefully become the first triathlete – male of female – to win Noosa seven times.
“I always love finishing my year at Noosa and I feel as though I’ve got a few more Noosas left in me,’’ she said.
She will go camping on Moreton Island for the next week to unwind after a long season that included a mixed relay gold medal at the Commonwealth Games before focusing on her 2019 campaign that includes the test event for the Tokyo Olympics in Japan in August.
A ROYLE WIN
AARON Royle was behind the mic at the Commonwealth Games in April.
On Sunday the 28-year-old got on his bike and showed that a career in TV commentary can wait with his third victory in the elite men’s race at the Noosa Triathlon.
The Rio Olympian was left out of the Australian team for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but was recruited to be part of the broadcast.
Royle does not intend on being sidelined again and has Tokyo in 2020 at the forefront of his mind.
And his third win to go with Noosa victories in 2013 and 2014 was a reminder that he is still a force in the sport.
Royle pushed himself to the absolute limit and collapsed over an esky behind the finish line to beat a fast-finishing Max Neumann by just three seconds with Ryan Bailie 11 seconds further back in third.
Defending champion Jake Birtwhistle pulled out of the race after the bike leg. He had a bad fall after the ITU World grand final on the Gold Coast in September and came to Noosa below his best. He was in the second group after the swim and lost further time on the bike leg.
Royle was in the leading pack after the 1.5km swim at Noosa’s Main Beach and kept Max Stapley in reach on the 40km bike leg. He passed Stapley shortly after the start of the run and held on for dear life.
“I was going through some pretty dark places…I am absolutely spent. I pushed as hard as I ever have today. With about 3-4km to go, I thought I was in a bit of trouble,’’ he said.
“With 2km to go, I honestly started to doubt whether I was going to get to the finish line.
“My legs started to give way, I started to cramp and I knew they were coming from behind. I got to 1km to go and thought I’ve got to put the head down.”
Royle has three wins and a second from four trips to Noosa and said the victory will give him a boost heading into 2019 after an indifferent 2018.
“This Noosa race is an amazing event…it’s one you want to win. To do it three times is more than I would have ever imagined,’’ he said.
“The ITU season was a bit rough (this year). Wins are hard to come by and it’s a nice way to finish.
“You doubt yourself sometimes, especially when you haven’t had a great year but this is a nice confidence boost.’’
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