Aaron Royle dominates Devonport Triathlon, sights still set on Glasgow while Backhouse begins win streak

Aaron Royle takes title in Devonport. (Photo: Emily Dimozantos/Delly Carr/ITU/triathlon.org)

Newcastle’s Wollongong-based 2014 Commonwealth Games nomination Aaron Royle out-sprinted Melbourne-based

Queenslander Ryan Fisher at the Devonport Triathlon, which also doubled up as the Australian and Oceania Olympic Distance Championships, on Saturday, 1 March.

Last year’s ITU World Championship Under 23 bronze medallist Declan Wilson finished third with Launceston’s Youth Olympic gold medallist Jacob Birtwhistle finishing seventh in the elite category in his first ITU Olympic Distance race and second to Wilson in the Under 23s, with Matt Baker (NSW) third in an all National Talent Academy finish.

Birtwhistle, who suffered soft tissue bruising and a head cold heading into the race admitted he was “hurting” over the longer 10 kilometre run but would be better for the experience.

But it was Royle and Fisher who locked horns with a real shoulder to shoulder tussle over the final kilometre with Royle holding his line on the inside to dig deep and race away for a thrilling victory.

“No matter what I did he (Fisher) just wouldn’t leave me alone,” said Royle, who has finished second on two previous occasions in Devonport.

“I wanted a hard race today. When you come up against the Brownlee brothers and Gomez and those kinds of guys they are not easy races. So you want to try and emulate these races as much as possible.

“I decided with about two kilometres to go that I just didn’t have the legs in me and I was going to save myself for a sprint finish. I decided just to keep that tempo going so Ryan still had to work to catch me but I backed it off a little bit, to save for that sprint finish. It really hurt…today it hurt a lot.”

Backhouse takes two straight wins in as many weeks

The re-incarnation of Brisbane triathlete Gillian Backhouse continued in Devonport yesterday when she added the Oceania

Gillian Backhouse wins the Oceania Olympic Distance Championships. Photo: (Emily Dimozantos/Delly Carr/ITU/ triathlon.org)

Olympic Distance Championship to her resume.

Just two weeks ago Backhouse, 22, achieved her best ever elite result when she conquered the wind, the rain and the surf to win the Australian Sprint Championship at Elwood Beach in Melbourne.

And yesterday in perfect sunny conditions in Devonport her extraordinary success continued when she put her hand up for ITU Under 23 World Championship selection with another stirring victory.

“The training is paying off that’s for sure and especially in the run leg, not just over the five kilometres but the 10 kilometres as well,” said Backhouse who beat NSW pair Natalie Van Coevorden and Melinda Vernon.

“I moved across to QAS head coach Steve Moss after a stint with him in France last year and it’s been really great training with Olympian Emma Jackson and Dan Wilson and our squad members and it has kept me on the ball.”

Traditionally a strong swim-biker, Backhouse admitted she had to play catch up after coming out of the 1500m swim in the second pack.

“Most of the hurt was done on the bike; I was out of the water in the second pack and it was still a fairly solid swim but the girls in front me, like Maddy Allen, Natalie Van Coevorden and Penny Hayes are really strong swimmers.

“I know Nat can run and I didn’t want to let her get away on the bike so I really hammered the first couple of laps and fortunately I was able to get on and we worked pretty hard on the bike.

“We had to try and keep building on the gap to keep the likes of Melinda Vernon at bay and it worked out.”

Vernon is a former Deaflympics gold and silver medallist who has switched from a 10,000m track runner to triathlon and is being coached by Australian coach Darren Smith in San Diego.