Ash Gentle wins Noosa Tri, puts Olympic disappointment behind her

Back in her natural habitat, Ashleigh Gentle was made to stalk her prey before going in for the kill to clinch an eighth Noosa Triathlon title.

The two-time Olympian hopped off the bike nearly one minute behind Milan Agnew but overtook her with about 3 kilometres to go on the 10km run leg to win in two hours and 36 seconds.

Agnew (2:01:03) was second while Sophie Malowiecki (2:01:38) rounded out the podium places, on a morning that provided calm water and enough cloud cover to produce fast racing.

The 30-year-old Gentle’s seventh-consecutive Noosa title comes after the disappointment of Tokyo, where the multiple World Triathlon Series winner was lapped on the run leg and failed to finish.

After hitting “rock bottom” on her return to Australia, Gentle said a return to her happy hunting ground had helped process that disappointment and rediscover her best form.

“It’s been a long two years; it was so crushing not to have Noosa last year [due to COVID-19],” she said.

“It was all a bit unknown; I hadn’t shown good form in a while.

“I have a quiet confidence I can show good form, but still have to get up for it.”

Laughing at the comparison to Rafael Nadal, who has won 13 French Open titles, Gentle now has two Noosa wins more than any other competitor and shows no signs of slowing down.

“They’ve tried that [bringing in elite international competitors to beat me],” she told AAP.

Luke Willian (1:47:13) celebrated his first Noosa triumph, emerging from a six-man pack that kept their buffer on the bike to outsprint Nicholas Free (1:47:19) and Lorca Redmond (1:47:23), who both collapsed as they crossed the line.

Luke Willian holds a blue banner above his head and grimaces wearing a red triathlon suit
Luke Willian won his first Noosa Tri.(AAP/The IRONMAN Group: Alex Polizzi)

The 25-year-old Willian missed Tokyo selection so was happy to finish a tough season on a high.

“It’s been a hard year not being able to race, a really tough year with the Olympic selection process and it always stings when you work hard for something,” the Brisbane native told AAP.

“It’s just the way the sport is … we’re all working to benefit Australia.

“I left it all out there, now I can reset for next year and Paris [2024 Olympics] is the big goal, and LA [2028].

“Were a proud triathlon country with a lot of history and we’ll be pushing each other on and on.”


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