Royle’s ready for battle with Birtwhistle
AARON Royle will attempt to capture a third Noosa Triathlon crown this weekend, bolstered by an imposing victory at Penrith on Sunday.
The 28-year-old has endured an “off” year but will head to the iconic event with a significant morale boost, after beating a field including Olympian Ryan Bailie at the Nepean Triathlon.
He covered the 1km swim, 30km bike and 10km run in 1hr 28min 23sec.
“It gives me a bit of confidence going into Noosa, knowing that what I’m doing is on the right track,” he said.
“If I can replicate, if not go a bit better than I did at the Nepean, then I should be in with a good chance of claiming a third title.”
Royle’s performance at Penrith was one of the most eye-catching there in recent years.
He overcame an eight-minute handicap to women’s winner Ashleigh Gentle, passing her with 3km remaining.
It was his fifth triumph in Australia’s oldest triathlon race.
But he won’t head to this weekend’s event overconfident.
“There were a couple of really good athletes who weren’t at the Nepean, like Jake Birtwhistle and Ryan Fisher, so I know it’s going to go up another level in Noosa and I’ll have to raise myself as well.”
Royle finished runner-up to world No.3 Birtwhistle at Noosa last time around.
And this season, he’s endured “a bit of a tough year”.
“I just never really found my groove,” he said. “There were a few races here and there I was happy with but it (otherwise) didn’t seem to click for me.
“When that happens you sort of find yourself forcing things a bit and that never really works in your favour. We’re two years out from the Olympics so if I was going to have an off year this was the time to have it.
“Next year there’s an Olympic qualification race so that will be the main aim. After Noosa, I’ll have a break and then it will be all go, trying to qualify for Tokyo.”
Royle has no qualms about doing two events in seven days.
“Some people don’t like to do the Nepean and Noosa because they feel it wears them out but I feel it (the former) gets you ready to go and hopefully by Noosa I’ll be (firing on) all cylinders.”
He did the Nepean-Noosa double in 2013 and 2014.
Birtwhistle will be tough to beat, but the 23-year-old from Tasmania has struggled with injury.
He is the highest ranked Australian male for many years and a win in Noosa would put the icing on a season of racing that included a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, three podiums at WTS events and an overall third place at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final on the Gold Coast.
“It has been a really good year for me but it was a bit different to normal with the inclusion of the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
“Being so early it changed things up a little but I was happy to be in the team, race well there individually and in the mixed relay, then move onto the rest of the WTS and got podiums at Yokohama, Edmonton and Montreal.”
“I have a really good group to train with and Mario (Mola), Vincent (Luis) and I finished the season, one, two and three overall in the WTS, so I literally have the best training partners in the world that you could have. It is really good to train with those guys as they are the main competition.
“After the series final on the Gold Coast my next event was Super League in Jersey. It was a two-day event that turned into a one-day event for me when I got taken out on the bike and wasn’t able to finish. So it was a 65 hours of travel for 15 minutes of racing which was a bit of a shame.
“I went down quite hard on my right side and took a lot of skin off and had quite bad bruising to my hip. I was barely able to walk on it and that kind of knocked me around and was out of action for a week after that. Then just as things were coming good I got sick.
“The last month hasn’t been ideal and training hasn’t been amazing but I am kind of hoping that with a bit of a taper and a freshen up, the racer in me will come out. I haven’t done the work I would normally have done leading into Noosa but I am still going there to win and have a good result. So I am hoping the body remembers what to do on race day.”
There will also be a strong local contingent racing in the elite men category.
Experienced long course racers Luke McKenzie and Casey Munro will be out to see if they can stay with the youngsters, while former Coolum-based ITU athlete Ben Shaw will also be on the start line.
In an exciting opportunity for Bokarina 19-year-old Jake Hynes, he makes his elite debut after an impressive junior career under the guidance of Toby Coote of Sunshine Coast Tri Academy.
CONTENDER: Aaron Royle was runner-up in last year’s Noosa Triathlon. PHOTO: WARREN LYNAM
DEBUT: Jake Hynes.