By Margaret Maccoll
Commonwealth Games team members Ashleigh Gentle and Jake Birtwhistle shut down all challengers and recorded stunning victories in the 35th running of the iconic Noosa Triathlon.
Gentle made it four Noosa titles in a row and five overall, equalling Emma Snowill’s record, while Birtwhistle had his breakthrough race, improving on his third and second places of previous years.
Gentle’s fifth title had far more significance than her previous wins and she dedicated her race to her long-time supporter and friend, the late Garth Prowd.
“Garth will always be a part of Noosa tri and I am so happy that I was able to race well and race for him as well,” she said.
Emma Snowsill shared the moment with Ashleigh at the finish line.
“All credit to Ash she has really come through and like a lot of us in Australia we have used this race as a platform to the international stage. Ash has shown that this year being number two in the world, qualifying for the Commonwealth Games team and coming away with her fifth win at Noosa,” Snowsill said.
Gentle will return in 2018 to defend her title.
After making the podium for the past two years, Birtwhistle’s victory was very satisfying and a childhood dream come true.
“Noosa is a race that everyone wants to do and everyone wants to win. Especially for us Aussies who grew up watching it and idolising the champions of this event,” he said.
Birtwhistle’s win didn’t come easy and he had to call on all his resources to hold off challenges from former winners Aaron Royle and Dan Wilson, and Olympian Ryan Bailie.
“It was good conditions but a bit hot for a Tasmanian,” he said.
“But I was happy to hold it together. This was the most stacked field I have raced in at Noosa, a quality field and that makes it all that sweeter to get the win.
“Commonwealth Games is my focus now. I do take a bit of confidence from this and I am ready to prepare for early next year on the Gold Coast.”