Athletes from Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia cleaned up the all the ‘hardware’ and kept their Olympic dreams alive, dominating the iconic Sunshine Coast season opener, ITU World Cup Mooloolaba.

Former ITU World Champion Vicky Holland (GBR) was in control all race but finally turned up the heat on the run to shut down team mate Georgia Taylor-Brown and Australian Olympian Ashleigh Gentle, in an impressive display she hopes will help secure her a spot at the Tokyo 2020. It was a welcome return to the top step of the podium for Holland, who came prepared for anything Mooloolaba could throw at her, spending time in Burleigh Heads working with surf ironman legend Phil Clayton.

“I wanted to see how my winter’s training has gone because I have done a lot of work on the swim bike and I felt they were both pretty solid. I haven’t really started my full run training yet and I am probably about 60-70 percent on volume, so I am over the moon with that result. I didn’t think I would run that well but I got the bit between the teeth and I thought I would have a dig and I came out on top.”

“With one lap to go it was between myself and Georgia. I thought I might have over cooked it a little bit and was going to struggle at the back end. But as soon as we rounded the top turn, I decided to use the downhill and flow as much as possible, and try and stride out. I could hear on the PA that I had put a little gap into her but didn’t want to look back, so I only took a peek with a 100 metres to go, just to make sure.”

“I have raced here twice before but not since 2012, so in 2010 and 2012 it was Olympic distance. I am a different athlete to all those years ago and it is nice to come back as a contender and win. It is a really iconic race and something I am really chuffed to say I am the winner of.”

After winning the ITU World Championship in 2018 Vicky had high hopes for 2019 but struggled to find form all year.

“It was tough to take, but it did give me a renewed enthusiasm to kick on this winter. We spent six weeks in Burleigh Heads working with the surf lifesaving guru Phil Clayton, so I couldn’t have been in a better place to prepare for a race like this. He is a legend of the surf world and we have been doing two or three swims a week, learning everything we can and soaking it all in. It has been brilliant working with him.”

“On paper this was a World Cup race and not a World Series race, but because of the current climate this race means a lot more than that. None of the national federations put any selection criteria on, so there was almost nothing riding on it, but at the same time we all know that we might not race again in the near future. There were so many athletes who had done so much training who are so keen to show the results of their work so we were all in very spirits going to race. I think we found ourselves in a happy place. So hey, lets go and enjoy this,” Vicky said.

Third place Ashleigh Gentle said Mooloolaba is always a tough start to the year, but she thoroughly enjoy it.

“For first race of the season I am pretty happy that I could come from behind after an ordinary T2 and grind my way up into third. Going into the last lap I didn’t think I could catch the lead girls because they went out so fast and had such a gap, so I just focused on the last downhill and the two girls I was running with Andrea Hewitt and  Elizabeth Bravo. I made sure we had a gap to Emma Jeffcoat and then slowed down a lot and sat in behind Andrea and Elizabeth. They are very small girls but I tried to get them to break the wind and when I knew I could finish it off to the line, I sprinted as hard as I could. I haven’t done much speed work, so I was pretty happy that I had that sprint in my back pocket.”

“The last 24-48 hours has been distracting and hard to remove yourself from what is going on. It was nice to have the starting gun go and I was really grateful we could race. The organisers did an amazing job to still host the event in such a professional manner. It was super weird not seeing any of my competitors before the race but they put those procedures in place to ensure we separated ourselves from people who have come from different parts of the world. It was definitely a strange build up to the race but obviously it was responsibly handled to make sure we kept our distance from anyone from overseas,” Ash said.

In the men’s race New Zealand’s Ryan Sisson finally scored the Mooloolaba win that he has dreamed of, and a Kiwi double with team mate Hayden Wilde, kept the best performed Aussie Luke Willian in third.

“It is a good feeling. The last two years have been pretty average, I have had some good races and I have had some absolutely terrible ones. The last two races of last year I didn’t even finish. I had really good summer of training with the group in Cambridge high performance Centre. I came here determined to win, I wanted to win this race. I have always wanted to win this race, it is a great one to race at.”

“I did everything I needed to do and I put myself in the best position on the swim, right in contact, on the bike I was at the front the whole time and I went off on the run as hard as I could and let everyone else chase and it paid off. Knowing this race was on was a bit of a miracle and to come here and race as good as I did is amazing. I did everything I needed to do, I am absolutely stoked about it,” Ryan said.

The fact that Hayden Wilde made the start line was combination of luck and determination, his second place performance was simply stunning considering he and his partner had been involved in a collision the day before.

“My partner and I were riding along the bike course to see what it looked like and two young boys came off the footpath onto the road. They were every lucky we weren’t a car because it could have been worse for them. We didn’t see each other and we went head on into them and over the handlebars. It was quite frightening and terrifying to be honest because Hana was out for a good three minutes.”

“Hana went to the hospital and I was there for most of the evening to keep an eye on her. Luckily the scans came back with no bleeding to the brain and everything was fine. I got off lighter with a tight sore calf and a twisted ankle. I had no expectations of this race, so I decided that if I came out of the water and I felt alright I would carry on. The whole body was tight but I just had to push through it. Running into the finish I had to go early because I knew that if I sprinted the calf wasn’t going to enjoy it. Ryan pipped me at the end, but I am stoked to be here,” Hayden said.

Third place Willian was delighted to be back in Mooloolaba and to have the opportunity to perform in front of the selectors one more time.

“Ever since I was 13 or 14 I have watched the elites race around here and to do that now as an elite is amazing. Mooloolaba is one of the greatest races and I really love it. On the bike all I was thinking about was position, position, position, without that you just can’t get into the race. If you are trying to run from 15 seconds back out of transition, you just can’t do it on this course. It was all about not hesitating, just trusting my ability and getting to the front. On the last lap I got boxed in at the top of the hill and that it where the Kiwi boys gapped me. I let the gap get a little bit too big and couldn’t close it. But they were running quick, so they made it hard.”

“Mooloolaba was the opportunity to show everyone what I was capable of. Considering everything that is going on, it was great to just get the chance to race. Everything is so unknown at the moment, all you can do is roll with the punches and see how you go,” Luke said.

Elite Men

1          Ryan SISSONS                      00:51:49          00:07:56            00:27:36          00:15:04

2          Hayden WILDE                       00:51:49          00:07:57            00:27:42          00:14:58

3          Luke WILLIAN                        00:51:53          00:07:52            00:27:46          00:15:06

Elite Women

1          Vicky HOLLAND                     00:57:45          00:08:51            00:30:38          00:16:54

2          Georgia TAYLOR-BROWN    00:58:00          00:08:52            00:30:35          00:17:10

3          Ashleigh GENTLE                  00:58:12          00:09:12            00:30:23          00:17:19