Matthew Sharp was the sole shining light in the opening of the ITU Triathlon World Series in Auckland, but British observers can be heartened by a top performance elsewhere by Non Stanford.
With Olympic medallists Alistair and Jonny Brownlee opting not to begin their campaigns until round 2 in San Diego, much of the attention was focused on female triathletes Jodie Stimpson and Katie Hewison, the latter of which was taking part in her first World Series event. Stimpson came fifth in Auckland at last year’s Grand Final, but suffered hypothermia in the cool conditions this time and was forced to retire. It was far from an ideal welcome for Hewison either, as she pulled out of the race hours before the start with a stomach bug.
Over in the men’s race, Olympian Stuart Hayes also withdrew from the race, pulling up 6km into the run to protect a niggling injury. That left Matthew Sharp as the sole senior finisher and he put in a real performance to narrowly miss out on a podium finish. Sharp started badly and was well behind the leaders after the swim, but bridged the gap over the 40km bike ride. He had a podium place in his sights, but cramp affected his breathing and he was left to be happy with a fifth place finish. Sharp now plans to sit out the next two rounds of the World Series, making way for the Brownlee brothers, but will be back in time for the fourth event in Madrid.
Brendan Purcell, British Triathlon’s new performance director, was pleased with Sharp’s performance: “Matt is an under-23 athlete who has been a world champion and now he’s put himself in the top five in the seniors,” said Purcell “That’s exactly what we need as a focus for the team. There is a lot of junior and under-23 talent in Britain and we need to bring that on.”
Away from the World Series, the European Cup was also getting under way in Quarteira, Portugal and it was a perfect start for current U23 champion Non Stanford, who claimed the win in the women’s race. Such was her dominance that she had opened up a 50 second lead after just 2.5km of the race and it was left to the others to fight amongst themselves for the other medal places.
Lois Rosindale finished six minutes later to finish in 11th, followed by Natalie Milne (14th) and Hannah Drewett (21st). Rhys Davey was the fastest male Brit, finishing in 28th, with Richard Stannard and Nick Beer some way back. Cameron Milne, Duncan Macarthur, Andrew Hood, Alex Matchett, Graham Leitch and Ewan Mulhearn also all finished, but Greg Turner did not.
You can watch highlights of the opening ITU World Series race in Auckland on BBC2 this Sunday afternoon at 2pm, but you can always catch them again on BBC iPlayer.