Ireland’s Aileen Morrison achieved the best ever result by an Irish triathlete with a second place finish at the Madrid ITU Triathlon World Series on Saturday.
Morrison, already confident of Olympic qualification, was using the race to sharpen her fitness and test herself against the best triathletes in the world ahead of the Olympic show down in Hyde Park on 4 August.
With water temperatures above 26 degrees the swim was classified as non wetsuit, giving the stronger swimmers an advantage. Lining up 7th on the pontoon, Morrison found the going tough in the early stages getting caught up in the scramble to round the first buoy. The physicality of the first 750 meters meant she exited the water 32 seconds down on the leader in 35th position. Over the second half Morrison found her rhythm and moved up to 26th by the end of the 1,500m swim.
Right out of T1 athletes where faced with a 12% incline lasting almost 1.5km. Morrison found herself in the 2rd pack working hard with a number of other favourites including World Number 2 Andrea Hewitt to close the 30 second gap to the leaders.
“We’ve been working on Aileen’s biking over the past number of weeks so she can deal with tough bike rides like Madrid and still run well afterwards. The Strava Hill just outside Banbridge has been great for doing interval training on,” said Triathlon Ireland’s cycling Coach Tommy Evans.
The chasers hard work paid off after 10kilometers as they regained contact with the leaders at the foot of the steep hill.
Entering T2 the lead pack contained some 30 athletes. Morrison was disappointed with her transition and gave up 12 seconds to the front of the group. However, she quickly went about remedying the situation with the quickest first lap of any athlete.
“Luckily they were running at a nice steady pace at the front and I just slowly made my way there.” Morrison commented.
On making contact she was not content to sit in and moved to the front in an effort to pile on the pressure and whittle down the group.
“I tried to push it on a wee bit and thought we might lose a couple of people and it’ll make it easier when I get to the last lap.”
With just over a kilometre to go it was Morrison setting the pace with Nicola Sprig of Switzerland, Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile and Anne Haug of Germany sitting in behind. As a gesture of sportsmanship Morrison offered up a bottle of water to her competitors who had missed their opportunity at the final water station.
Sprig was the first to kick and upped the pace in an attempt to pull clear. “In that last 800m I just thought I would finish fourth. My legs were like jelly. I can’t believe I managed to hold on for second.”
Photo credit: Delly Carr/ITU