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Beijing World Cup triathlon CREDIT: Frank Wechsel/triathlon.org
Bevan Docherty CREDIT: Frank Wechsel/triathlon.org
Like Debbie Tanner and Sam Warriner before them, Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell ran themselves into Olympic nominations with outstanding races in Beijing today with 3rd and 4th place finishes respectively while Terenzo Bozzone’s hopes were dashed by an early crash on the bike leg.
Spain’s world number one Javier Gomez was untouchable in winning the 12th round of the BG World Cup, splitting the field with a blistering opening lap on the testing run course, turning out the 2.5km in an incredible 6 minutes 40 seconds.
But the focus for the Kiwis wasn’t in winning the race, their first priority was meeting the tough criteria set by Triathlon New Zealand to earn nominations for the Beijing Olympics.
With that in mind both Docherty and Gemmell raced superbly well today, always at or near the lead from early in the 40km bike leg before closing with strong 10km run splits to confirm not only their Olympic nominations, but the fact they are both genuine medal contenders in a years time.
Docherty was a relieved man moments after crossing the line.
“Relief was top of mind when I crossed the line. It was a great race on a good course and for both me and Kris we proved we are a force to be reckoned with.
“I wanted to pace the first two laps and bring it home strong and once I saw Javier was up the road I wasn’t prepared to risk it for fear of blowing up. I stuck to the plan and did what I had to do today, which was qualifying for Beijing.”
Docherty suggested that running for gold will bring different challenges however.
“Twelve months will be a different story. The deal today was simply to qualify but to win an Olympic medal you have to do something special and go out on a limb like Javier did today. We will analyze tactics ahead of the race but it will be different again, a month earlier in the year and hotter than we experienced today.
“I will now put together 10 months of training and make sure I am in the best possible condition, go one better than Athens and bring home gold next time. Kris’s effort proved we are in contention to repeat the double medal haul from Athens.”
For Gemmell it was finally a chance to exorcise the ghosts of missing Athens in 2004.
“What a bloody good day. I had to race my own race and stay focused on the lead but at the same time had to look out for the other Kiwis. Bevan and I have been the best of friends for a long time and we agreed that if we could, we would help each other out and control the pace of the race. Javier ran his own race though and while we thought about getting him in the end selection for 2008 was more important and we backed off.”
In a great sign for the games in less than 12 months, Gemmell is confident there is more to come on the testing Beijing course.
“To be honest I felt pretty comfortable for the whole run. I suffered a little from cramp on the downhill on the last lap, but made sure I made the line and didn’t blow up. I know now I can prepare better, race better and truly believe that a repeat of Athens is not out of the question.”
For Gemmell racing into the embrace of long time friend Docherty as he crossed the line to book a nomination to the NZOC made it all the more special.
“We are all pretty good mates, including Courtney Atkinson (Australian in 2nd) and enjoyed the run home together. Like me, Courtney missed Athens and I must admit the tension lifted in the closing stages with a few laughs exchanged knowing we had achieved what we wanted today. As for finishing fourth and behind Bevan, I’m not too disappointed; the focus will be on making the podium next year though for sure.
“The great thing about our sport in New Zealand at the moment is that the hardest part is just making the team, I found that out in 2004 and that has been with me for a long time. Part one is complete and I am really confident about part two. I have a chance, now I’ve got to make the most of it.”
Shane Reed was the next best of the Kiwis but was not able to maintain contact in the run after exiting the bike in touch with a large lead group of 60 athletes, eventually fading to finish 38th over two minutes behind Gomez.
Terenzo Bozzone’s race and chances were ruined by an early crash on the bike, one that removed former World Champion Tim Don and others from the race. But the 22 year old Kiwi remounted and continued on in a gutsy display but one that left him shattered at the end given his high hopes after his stunning 7th at the World Championships a fortnight ago. Bozzone completed the race in 55th position, just one place ahead of Clark Ellice from New Plymouth.
Ben Pulham withdrew early on the bike leg when already trailing the leaders by over a minute, suffering in the heat and smog. He wasn’t alone though, in all 16 men succumbed to the tough Beijing course and conditions and failed to finish, including big names such as Rasmus Henning, Filip Ospaly, Sven Riederer and Simon Thompson.
So Docherty and Gemmell join Debbie Tanner and Sam Warriner in securing nominations to the NZOC while the other athletes, notably Andrea Hewitt, Nicky Samuels, Shane Reed and Terenzo Bozzone must now focus on the World Cup race in Mooloolaba in March next year. Tri NZ has identified this as the next selection race and the chance for athletes to gain the third and final spot in both men’s and women’s races.
However, that third spot is only awarded by the ITU to the top 8 nations in the world when rankings are assessed midway through next year. This puts pressure on all New Zealand athletes to maintain their high rankings to ensure they as a country qualify a third position before it can even be awarded to an athlete, regardless of who that might be.
BG World Cup Triathlon, Beijing, China
Elite men results
J. GOMEZ (ESP)
C. ATKINSON (AUS)
B. DOCHERTY (Auckland/NZL)
K. GEMMELL (Palmerston Nth/NZL)
S. WHITFIELD (CAN)
S. REED (New Plymouth/NZL)
T. BOZZONE (North Shore/NZL)
C. ELLICE (New Plymouth/NZL)
B. PULHAM (North Shore/NZ)