Stakes raised as Yamba pro aims high at Coffs Tri
TRIATHLON: Lindsey Wall admits he will need to produce the race of his life to claim a third consecutive BCU Coffs Tri title.
The 27-year-old Yamba professional says his form leading into this Sunday is identical to his previous wins. But this time the stakes have been raised with the event doubling as the NSW Olympic Distance Championships and a world championship qualifying event.
"It's going to be a bit more challenging than normal," Wall said. "Coffs is going to be bigger and better than ever.
"This year has attracted a lot of top athletes, including Rio Olympian Ryan Fisher. It will be good to compete against someone at that level just to measure myself against the best in the world."
In the two weekends prior to last year's event, Wall won the Trial Bay Triathlon at South West Rocks followed by the Elite Energy TriYamba in front of this home crowd. He completed the trifecta of wins at Coffs to be named Clarence Valley's Senior Sportsperson of the Month for February.
This time around he didn't compete at Trial Bay while the Yamba event in 2017 will be held in the last week of April. Instead he opened his 2017 campaign with a fifth placed finish in the Hell of the West at Goondiwindi - an event he won in 2015 - and two weeks ago finished outside the top ten in 12th spot in the Geelong 70.3.
The results don't flatter on paper. But temperatures at this year's Hell of the West, which doubled as the Australian Elite Long Course Championships, peaked at 42 degrees and Wall hit the wall, so to speak.
"It was a strong field at Goondiwindi," he said. "All of a sudden we had current a world champion (Timothy Reed) competing.
"But what the results don't tell you is that I was in second place until 5km to go. It was a particularly hotter year than usual, the heat hit me and I fell apart completely. I finished in a walk.
"I was disappointed because I was in such a good position and it all came apart. But once it happens there's no coming back, so I just had to finish the race and improve for next time."
Meanwhile an unprecedented field lined up at Geelong. The Harwood Island Public School teacher said it was the strongest and biggest field of professionals ever assembled for a half-ironman or ironman event in Australia.
"Every guy who finished in front of me is a full time athlete who competes all over the world. So to measure up against them I was actually happy with my race despite my position.
"No one else actually works. They're all full time and actually make a living in the sport."
So despite the rise in stature of the Coffs Tri, the Clarence Valley Triathlon Club member remains upbeat about his chances.
"The last two years I had luck come my way and things fell into place," he said. "But I'm in very similar form so it will basically be about racing well tactically. If I make the right choices and race smart, there should still be no reason I can't finish on the podium."