By Sebastian Gallery, March 2018.
Three hours south of Sydney on the foreshore of Jervis Bay lies the small coastal township of Huskisson. It is here where the sand is boasted to be some of the whitest in the world, morning dolphin sightings are the norm and the townships exudes old fashioned Australian seaside town charm.
For the past 13 years Huskisson has been so much more than a spectacular holiday spot. For NSW and ACT triathletes Huskisson is the destination of their annual February holiday, a pilgrimage that attracts in excess of 4500 participants and 10,000 spectators. Each year this number swells as athletes are starting to flock not only from interstate but international origins as well.
Over its existence, The Shimano Husky Triathlon festival has gone from a single event that started with under 300 participants to a three-day 4500 person festival. From small beginnings, the festival is now clouted as the second biggest of its type in the southern hemisphere holding ocean swims, fun runs, kids triathlons and three different distanced triathlons.
Changing of the Guard in Showcase at Husky 2018
The showcase event at the festival is Ultimate Husky, a race that regularly has a roll call of the likes of Craig “Crowie” Alexander, Pete Jacobs, Radka Vodickova and Mel Hauschildt. The modified long course event sees athletes compete across the 2km swim, 83km undulating bike course and breathtakingly scenic flat 20km run.
For the past two years it has been multiple world champion Craig Alexander that has claimed the coveted title but after a serious cycling incident whilst training late last year, Australia’s most successful long-distance athlete was ruled out of defending his title at the 2018 Shimano Husky Triathlon Festival. Alexander’s exclusion from the event left the door wide open for a changing of the guard, with last year’s second runner up Kieran Roche keen to cut the finish tape in 2018.
Amongst the other male professionals was four-time Ironman Champion Tim Van Berkel, Nuru Somi and last year’s second-placed Michael Fox. The professional field made up part of a 1000-strong field of competitors who competed in the Ultimate distance.
Roche no longer the bridesmaid
In the Ultimate distance it was Fox and Roche that exited the water within five seconds of each other with Somi a further minute back. During the bike leg Roche kept Fox very honest with the pair throwing down the hammer on the three-lap 83km course where the lead swapped a number of times. Out of transition and onto the run, the final leg promised to be the highlight of the day with Fox holding onto a narrow seven-second lead as temperatures hit the early 30’s.
At the 7km mark Roche, who is known for being a strong runner, used his opportunity to pounce on Fox taking the lead and storming to his maiden victory at the Husky Triathlon Festival, finishing in a time of three hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds, three minutes and 38 seconds ahead of Fox (3.52.51) and Alex Reithmeier, who ran himself (3.57.38) into third place.
“Knowing that Crowie was out injured this year gave me great hope to come back and try and win it this year. I love racing here, with all the crowds cheering you on along the run course and through town. It was tough out there with the temperature picking up on the run, but I’m glad to come away with the win in front of all my friends and family,” said Roche.
In the women’s race, a last minute decision to race proved to be fruitful for Jane Fardell as she took a seven-second lead onto the bike where she was able to further her lead by taking an extra two minutes and 55 seconds out of Holly Khan. Fardell, a pro triathlete that has had a recent stint in marathon circles looked at ease as she cruised to victory in the women’s race to finish in a time of four hours 25 seconds and 38 seconds.
In the minor placings were Khan (4.30.28) who has only recently stepped up to elite level racing and Moya Johansson (4.35.37).