The field at Noosa this year was perhaps the most competitive field in my short history of the race since 2007. The race this year also had the added excitement of Craig Walton's comeback to racing. Contrary to the collective good of my own self, I came into this competitive field the most unprepared since my debut in 2007. I finished the race in 4th, a few seconds off the podium when I was 18, 5th when I was 19, and 3rd last year when I was 20. My times had gotten better each year, specifically the bike split, and it is interesting to know that the first year I did the elite race in 2007 is considered Craig Walton's farewell race, even though he retired 5 months or so after. Going into 2007's race as a non-drafting virgin, the only goal I had in my head was to stick with Craig for as a long as I could. I succeeded easily in the swim, but failed at about 3km into the bike when I popped. It is however this thought that had me saying to myself during Sunday's race that the position I found myself in was one that you could only dream about (read more to find out why).
The swim was quite easy for me, and I had the pleasure of sitting on Walton's feet for the duration. It felt easy, but it was certainly fast. In 2008 I lead the swim and pushed hard, but wasn't able to get the feet suckers down past about 5 heads. On sunday, only myself and one other athlete were able to stick with Craig. So in this respect, it was the fastest Noosa swim I have done. I quickly took charge onto the bike and was waiting for Craig to ride past me at a similar speed to that I witnessed back in 2007. There were rumors floating around pre-race about Walton doing a 53minute 40kmTT, which soon changed into a 52minute 40km. Regardless of discretion, everyone knew he would be storming on the bike. So I was waiting and waiting, and it finally came at about the 5km mark. I stuck with Craig this time and looked back to see no one else in sight. The Noosa bike course is tough, and you go over rollers for the first 10km before you hit a steady 3km climb. The 3km climb is a draft legal section because it's quite technical, so usually if there's a group of us we bunch up and swap off. As soon as we hit the hill, I rode up to Craig and suggested swapping off, he said 'why not', so I got to work. About a minute into it I pulled off but he didn't come through, and perhaps for the first time ever in Noosa history, someone had dropped Craig Walton on the bike. It sounds cocky, but at this time I had myself saying (as I mentioned earlier) that these are the kinds of races you could only dream about. Up the top of the hill I put my head down and rode hard to the 20km turnaround with still seemingly no one in sight. I thought I could drop Walton the win was imminent. However as I made the 20km u-turn, about 200m back was a bunch of 10 looking like they were swapping off to catch me...my heart sunk. I relaxed and waited for the inevitable. I rode in the bunch for the rest of the ride, which was pathetic to say the least. I feel sorry for myself not because I got caught, but because I got caught by a group of 10 drafting. Sure there were a few honest ones in a group, but the deeds of the honest guys are ultimately canceled out by the majority of dishonest. There was a draft buster with the pack the entire time, but did not make one call or one decision (what's the point of rules if they not enforced?). There isn't much to say about the run, I just couldn't keep up with some of the fresh legged drafters, and was never going to be able to keep up with Gemmell or Atkinson.
So in 2007 I finished 4th about 4 minutes back from Walton after getting dropped by him on the bike. Yesterday, I dropped Walton on the bike, but was still about 3 minutes behind winner Courtney Atkinson to finish 11th. I was certainly pleased in myself that I could ride off the front after such a bungled and disjointed preparation, and this only makes me more confident that I can stay away for the entire 40/10km of the race next year. Sure I could have chosen not to take a month off in September, and not to miss another 10 days of training to go to Delhi, but I have no regrets. I showed to myself and perhaps a few others what I could do on such a limited preparation.
I should probably add here that I got chicked by my girlfriend Ashleigh Gentle (34: 30) on the run by about 30 seconds. She had an amazing come from behind race to finish second to recent Kona 2nd place Steffen. Ash is only getting faster, and is approaching big things so it's certainly exciting times for her.
Congratulations to everyone else who competed at Noosa, it's such a fantastic event and should be experienced by everyone who considers themselves a triathlete :) Hopefully there will be some pictures floating around soon for me to post up.