The Queen of Noosa, Ash Gentle, was a woman on a mission at the 37th Noosa Triathlon Multi Sport Festival, and with Bond like precision she dispatched all comers to become the first athlete to win the illustrious Noosa Triathlon title a record seven times.
After a disappointing ITU World Grand Final, Ash was thrilled to be able to bounce back so well, secure the win and record a little bit of Noosa history along the way.
“It was a really fast race. The swim was tough, with rips and big swell so that was challenging. On the bike everyone was really pushing the pace. I tried to do a lot of work and Sarah Crowley came around, then Kerry and Radka. So, I knew I just had to do my own thing on the run. So, I hit the lead early and just tried to hang on,” she said.
“There has been a big build up leading in and I have enjoyed it, but it was definitely good to cross the line first and there was real sense of relief. It will take a while for the seven wins to sink in, but relief is one emotion I am feeling at the moment. I don’t know if I will get used to the title ‘Queen of Noosa’, but I guess I will take it.
“Next year is massive for me. The Australian team isn’t picked for Tokyo and it is fully discretionary. So, it is all about turning up to races, performing and putting your best foot forward.
“Noosa isn’t a selection race but it is still a quality race, it is Olympic distance and a good opportunity to show the selectors I am still here and want to go the Olympics,” Ash declared.
The former record holder, Craig Walton was the first person to congratulate Ash on her dominance and longevity.
“Seven in a row is amazing and no matter what way you look at it, Ash is an amazing athlete and thoroughly deserves it. Seven wins is seven wins and you can’t take that away from anyone. It is a great, great effort. I don’t know how old Ash is, but old is definitely not the right word, she is still young. One hundred per cent she has more wins in her, at least another two or three, so ten is not out of the question, if she plays her cards right.”
It was a second place again for Natalie van Coevorden, who had to fight off a determined challenge on the run from Ironman champ Sarah Crowley, fresh off a third place at Kona three weeks ago.
“Every race leading into the Olympics is very important, to us as a confidence booster but also to show that we are in good form leading into next year. The swim was a great opportunity for me to get a gap on the field but that meant I was by myself on the bike which is not ideal with a big group chasing but I worked hard. I knew the run was going to be pretty tough and Sarah Crowley really gave it to me the whole way. I was thinking there was going to be a repeat of last year’s sprint finish, so I knew I had to go on the bridge. I didn’t want anything decided in the last 50 metres. I am really happy to get second here again,” Natalie said.
“I am happy with the result but I couldn’t really kick down at the end there,” Sarah said. “I just didn’t have that and haven’t practiced that at all. I tried to drop Natalie with a few surges near the end but I couldn’t get away. It was head to head there for a little bit but probably after the first km of the run I was questioning what I was doing there. I didn’t know how I was going to get through another nine kms at that pace. But I got there in the end. It is nice to know I can still race any distance, any day.”
After a disappointing Noosa in 2018, a determined and healthy Jake Birtwhistle made amends, dispatching Henri Schoeman in the final kilometres of the run, to record his second Noosa win. Defending champ Aaron Royle filled out the final podium position.
“It was quite tough conditions out in the water and for the athletes racing after us, it was the best move to alter the swim course because swimming against that current would have been quite challenging for a lot of the age groupers. It changed things up a little bit but at the end of the day it was still swim, bike and run. Although there was a little bit of extra run in between.”
“After a disappointing race last year I had a big motivation coming in, so it is nice to come back in good shape and be able to put it together on the day. The was a bit of cat and mouse there with Henri on the back half of the run, so it was a matter of waiting for the right moment. I was confident that if I went at the right time, I might have him covered and I guess I timed that well. It was a tough run to the finish line from about 500m, but it was well worth it.”
“I changed my preparation up a little bit this year. Last year it was on the end of a long season and the body needed to rest and I tried to keep on pushing but it wasn’t to be. This year I took a little bit of time to refresh after the World Series Grand Final and was able to build up the motivation and the energy again, ready for a last push into this race.”
“It is great to be back in Noosa and be able to put together a performance in the last race of the season. It was one of the tougher races and I really had to work for it, so now it is time to recover. This win is a real confidence booster and a nice way to finish the year on a big positive and go into some time off for the rest of the year, ready for a big 2020. Over the break I will map out the plan for 2020 and sit down with my coach Joel Filliol and work out how we are going to build into Tokyo. The year will start off like usual, joining my training group and we will be all pushing towards Tokyo 2020,” Jake said.