Britain’s Matt Sharp had a breakthrough race in the opening round of the 2013 ITU World Triathlon Series (WTS) in Auckland. The former U23 World Champion finished fifth in his WTS debut as Spain’s Javier Gomez claimed the top spot.
Sharp, 23 and from Enfield, provided the highlight for the small team of British triathletes as Katie Hewison had been forced to withdraw hours beforehand with a stomach bug and Jodie Stimpson suffered hypothermia during the race.
Stuart Hayes was typically visible during the bike leg with his attacking style, but withdrew after 6km of the run to protect a niggling injury.
Sharp didn’t have the best of starts, exiting the water well down on the race leaders after the 1500m sea swim. However, he was able to bridge the gap and ride sensibly on the 40km challenging city centre bike course before unleashing his run speed over the final 10km.
He said: “I had a terrible start and had to ride hard to catch everyone. I was riding on my own until (Mario) Mola caught me and we were able to ride together. Once I got onto the run, my legs didn’t feel the best so I just gradually picked people off.
“I thought at one stage that I could get onto the podium but I got a bit of cramp, which affected my breathing. I had thought beforehand that I’d be happy with top 15 so for a first World Series race I’m happy.”
British Triathlon’s newly appointed Performance Director, Brendan Purcell, commented: “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. 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.
“Jodie is gutted, absolutely disappointed, especially after her good early season results. It may not look it, but there’s a cool breeze here and nearly all of the course is in shadow.”
The Series moves to San Diego later this month (18-20 April) where a larger British team, including Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, will take part. Points accumulated from the best four WTS performances during the season determine who qualifies to race at the Grand Final in London.
Matt Sharp plans to miss the next two WTS next races, and will next feature in the Series in Madrid (1-2 June). The Grand Final will take place in London’s Hyde Park, 11-15 September, providing an opportunity for athletes to experience the Olympic venue in Hyde Park.
1. Javier Gomez, ESP, 1:55:51
2. Mario Mola, ESP, 1:56:03
3. Joao Silva, POR, 1:56:22
4. Laurent Vidal, FRA, 1:56:33
5. Matthew Sharp, GBR, 1:56:51
Image: Delly Carr/ITU