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European Cup


from Triathlon Ireland website Fantastic Debut by Aileen Morrison.

Gavin Noble loses out in qualification For Beijin…… Updated with Aileen’s race report Three of our athletes competed in the European Cup Brno, in the Czech Republic on Sunday, one of the largest entries Ireland have had for an ITU race. With this being the final scoring race for Gavin Noble, and Aileen Morrison’s debut Elite race this was a landmark day for Irish Triathlon. Please read on for an account of the day.

Triathlon Ireland sent out our largest team of the year to the Czech Republic this weekend. With Gavin Noble competing in his last race to count for Beijing, and Aileen Morrison (Triathlon Ireland Development Squad and North-West Tri) making her debut on the ITU European circuit. Brian Jenkins (Triathlon Ireland Development Squad and Limerick Tri) was also competing in the men’s race. Chris Jones completed the team as our National Coach. Chris has been leading the coaching for the Triathlon Ireland Development Squad for the last six months, during which time athletes such as Aileen have followed a program that has enabled them to make the jump from domestic racing to testing themselves out on the ITU circuit for the first time.The team arrived and made sure that they were well prepared with knowledge of the course, race day quickly arrived.

The womens race was first off in the morning. Aileen lined up for her first time on an ITU pontoon. The high quality field of 32 athletes included women such as Frintova, Dimaki (currently in the European flag spot for Beijing qualification), Koch (a World Silver medalist). In the swim Vodickova (CZE) broke away from the main pack, finishing the swim in a time of a few seconds over 19 minutes, Aileen set the scene for the race to come and exited in 10th place with a time of just over 20 minutes. A main pack formed on the bike, which Aileen joined. Despite very little biking experience, Aileen held the pace, in a pack of strong bikers, and came into transition well in the mix for a good position going out onto the run, exiting transition in 12th place. Aileen at first showed the toll that the tough bike had taken, taking a while to find her normally strong running legs (following improvements Aileen had made in the Triathlon Ireland development squad, she was third in the NI senior cross country, third in the Irish University Championships, and competed for Ireland in the World University Championships).

After the first lap Aileen dug deep and competing like a hardened racer, rather than a first-timer, started to pick off the triathletes ahead of her, moving first into the top 10, and by the line up into a fantastic sixth place finish. In the process of achieving one of the best ever debut performances from an Irish triathlete. Aileen was just over a minute from a podium place; had beaten Koch (a former U23 silver medalist); and had beaten Demaki (who at the start of the race was holding the European Flag place for Beijing qualification).

With lots of work and improvement still to come as the Triathlon Ireland Development Squad moves into the next phases of our progression, this performance has set a great standard for Irish Elite Triathlon and what could lie in the future. Well done to Aileen who as well as training very hard towards her first race, handed in her final piece of work for her PGCE the day before travelling to the race. Aileen’s progress owes thanks to the hard work of Chris Jones and the Triathlon Ireland Development Squad, assistant coaches Peter Kern, and Aoife O’Connor. Also a big thanks to Aileen’s sponsors Wheelworx Bike Shops.

The men’s race was up next with both Gavin Noble and Brian Jenkins competing for Ireland. Gavin was facing a deficit of 199 points between himself and Pavel Simko of Slovakia, who at the start of the race held the European Flag Beijing qualification spot. Simko had pulled out a career best performance out when he needed it most in the European Championships in Lisbon, placing sixth. He had been rewarded with 609 points.

This was a massive gap for Gavin to bridge, as the winner of the race would get 250 points. Despite facing the almost impossible task, Gavin was determined to give the race his best. He swam hard and coming out just behind the first pack, and onto the bike where a big pack formed. Unfortunately Brian Jenkins had fallen behind in the swim and was retired from the bike course. With great resolve Gavin did a lot of work on the bike and put in some spirited attacks. With strong athletes like Ospaly in the pack the attacks were countered and the pack arrived into T2 together.

The field started to string out as athletes such as Ospaly, and the strong running German athletes cranked up the pace. Gavin held on and finished in 19th, two places and 14 seconds behind Simko, who now will be going to the games as the European Flag qualifier.

It’s been a long road for Gavin, one that started over a 18 months ago, and he’s been very unfortunate to not make it after coming so far. Gavin was the first Irish Triathlete to get in such close contention for an Olympic qualification spot, starting on the qualification path at a time when much less support was available to Irish Elite athletes than is around now.

Gavin was very motivational in Triathlon Ireland setting up our current development squad and gave his assistance whenever possible, even supporting Aileen during her first racing experience this weekend. Elite triathlon owes Gavin for blazing a trial and showing that Ireland can compete at this level.

Whatever decision Gavin makes next, Triathlon Ireland wish him all the best.

Aileen’s race report
Race report- My first ITU race Brno, Czech Rep

So glad we arrived on the Thursday, time to recover from the previous week and journey was needed. Saturday we spend practice transitions. Pete’s practice in the park in Dublin was very good. I’m now confident hopping on the bike with the elastics (at a reasonable speed). I also practice my left U turns (I’ve only done right). I decided my goggles weren’t right in the lake, but lucky Gavin has a spare pair I wanted to borrow, he says keep them. I’m like- ‘Thank you, I’ve got Gavin Noble’s goggles’!. He says ‘sell them on e-bay’, errr.. No.. I’ll keep them, thanks. Gavin was a font of Tri knowledge. Very helpful, thanks for the tips Gav.

Race day arrives, over breakfast Chris says things like ‘In the front pack you’ll have to do……’, after a while I’m starting to feel the pressure. I had a little bit of an emotional moment/ blubber (I was more worried about getting lapped on the bike and having to drop out).

Final preparations go according to plan and I line up on the pontoon. Holy….

The first 30 sec of the swim were absolute mess, between legs, arms, fists etc. On the second lap I calmed down and found some feet to follow, I got a good line on the inside of the bouys and made it out of the swim in about 8th/ 9th , I panicked and forgot how to get wetsuit off. Some girl ran up behind me & pulled the zip up. Ta. Onto the bike and I catch up with the lead pack.It felt easy on the first lap (drafting races, less energy, thank the lord).

I sat on the back of the group like Chris said. I had to work hard out of corners and on the hills as sometimes someone tried to break away. New bike setup feels good, and I rid on the drops for most of race. On the 6th lap I took a turn at the front, thought I’d better if I wanted to try to get there on the last lap. Last lap I’m sitting on the wheel of leader, then in 4th place coming round last corner. Perfect?!.

Then take feet out of shoes and mess it all up as the field pass me (15 or so girls), hop off bike and run to shoes, take 15 seconds each, too long, field gone. I caught 5 on the first lap, running strong. 3 on the second, running tired and 1 on the last. I was exhausted but the Swiss girl was in the distance for ages and I knew I was closing a gap. 800m to go and I manage to sprint finish.

I’ve just come 6th in my first International race. Chris is delighted, Jag is on the phone. I call mum and she cries. I’m so happy. It was all worth it. Chris says, ‘that’s you doing the European cup series then’. Another 6 ITU races to go!!!

Men’s race- Brian is nervous, and Gavin is in the zone. The heavens open and it pours, making for an interesting race. Gavin is out in the lead pack whilst Brian was behind in the swim, and so has to time trial (solo) to make up the difference to a group. The French breakaway lead cyclist is very strong, and caught Brain, so he must retire. He tried his hardest on the bike, but suffered because of his swim.

Gavin meanwhile is leading the lead pack. The Slovak in the group needs to not finish (or come last) for Gavin to be back in European flag slot (because of his big points advantage from the European champs). At least 6 men crash out on the wet slippery roads. An ambulance stopping for one. The run is the decider. Slovac finishes just ahead of Gavin, and he looks wrecked as he crosses line. No words can help. What do you say?

I had a great time away, I had so much fun, and learned a lot from both Brain and Gavin. Thanks to everyone, Chris, Rob, Jag, Pete (and the rest). Next up Try-Athy at home. See you there…

with bells on.