The Irish trio of Bryan Keane, Ben Shaw and Conor Murphy impressed at the opening leg of the World Triathlon Series in Auckland over the weekend as all three men were among the top 25 finishers.
The 1500 meter swim, 40 kilometre bike and 10 kilometre run took its toll of the elite men as 19 of the 65 starter’s did not finish.
It was Ben Shaw who got off to the best start of the Irish athletes as he rounded the first swim buoy after 350 meters inside the top 10. He took a tight line and managed to avoid much of the scramble setting him up for a great swim.
Behind , the field hadn’t had a chance to stretch out and was 6 and 7 athletes wide as they attempted to make the 90 degree right hand turn. Bryan Keane and Conor Murphy were in the middle of it and were forced to scramble over bodies left and right and avoid the inevitable underwater dunking as 65 men fought for their position.
The warm conditions resulted in a non-wetsuit swim which the like of Richard Varga and Henri Schoeman were relishing. Once in clear water they turned the screw and started to splinter the field.
Varga was first to touch the pontoon in 17:47 with pre-race favourites Jonny Brownlee and Javier Gomez just seconds behind. 22 year old Ben Shaw emerged from the water in 9th place after a brilliant swim.
Murphy and Keane were some 30 seconds back at this stage but flew through transition and onto the bike.
Up front Gomez and Brownlee were drilling it through downtown Auckland and putting the hurt on the chasers. Shaw had to go well into the red zone in order to claw his way back into the leading group of 14, but once there he looked comfortable and was never going to be dropped.
Murphy and Keane had the likes of Mario Mola, a winner of two World Cups this season and 2004 Olympic bronze medallist Sven Riederer for company however they couldn’t close the gap on the 14 up front.
Into transition 2 and Shaw and 13 others were onto the run with a 1:45advantage. He toughed it out picking off some of his first pack companions but was caught by some of triathlons fastest runners from behind. Among them was Bryan Keane who clocked 32:08 for the 10 kilometres, running himself into 17th place.
Bryan’s cycling pedigree clearly stood to him as the savage bike pace and nasty hills did little to affect him and he posted the 11th fastest run split.
Conor Murphy in his World Triathlon Series debut ran under 33 minutes from the chase group to move up to 22nd position. The result will be a welcome boost for the Armagh man and should see his world ranking jump up considerably.
Ben Shaw dropped some places over the final kilometres of the run but will be pleased with his 21st place finish.
Triathlon Ireland’s Technical Director Tommy Evans was out on course providing split times and feedback to the team.
“There were good results all round. To have 3 in the top 25 at the toughest course on the World Triathlon Series circuit is great to see.”
Spanish World Number 1 Javier Gomez went on to win, breaking the resolve of Jonny Brownlee thanks to a 30:42 final 10 kilometre run. Behind Brownlee the battle for bronze was between 3 Aussies with U23 World Champion Aaron Royle getting the better of his country mates.