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Australia’s Erin Densham dominates season opening ITU Mooloolaba World Cup

25 March 2012 by Merryn Sherwood
Australia’s Erin Densham dominates season opening ITU Mooloolaba World Cup

Australia’s Erin Densham put in one of the most impressive performances of her career, leading the swim and then crushing the field with a stellar run to win her second career ITU World Cup in Mooloolaba on Sunday.

Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig took the silver, a result which also completes her Olympic qualification.  New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt finished seven seconds behind Spirig for bronze.

Densham exited the water in the lead for the first time in her entire ITU career, before working with a group of nine women on the bike that went into T2 with a 90-second lead on the main chase group. But when it came to the four-lap 10km run, Densham burst off the front and while Spirig went with her to start, it didn’t last long. Densham then pushed the lead out from 30 seconds at the 5km mark to win by almost a minute.  She broke the tape at 2 hours, 3 minutes and 32 seconds, punctuated by the day’s only sub-35:00 run among the women.  Densham said afterwards she couldn’t keep her smile off the face from the start, after her surprise swim.

“That swim was a shock for me, I had a good start and then kind of got pushed back a bit at one of the buoys and there was a gap to the lead four and somehow I managed to bridge up, which is quite unheard of for me, just ask anyone,” Densham said. “I’ve never been out of the water in front so that was a win for me right at the start, I think I laughed at the start because I was just so shocked.”

The dominating performance has also done Densham’s Olympic selection campaign no harm, but the 2008 Beijing Olympian said it wasn’t on her mind during the race.

“I wasn’t giving them a message, I was just running my race and doing what I normally do, what I know I can do. Whether that impresses them or not I don’t know, but it’s in their frame of mind now, I just did what I had to do. I love to run fast, it’s enjoyable, it hurts but it’s enjoyable,” she said. “My last World Cup podium was a long time ago it was hard to remember I’ve had so many ups and downs in the last few years, and I know this is where I can be. I’m just really happy to actually show people that’s what I’m capable of.”

Spirig’s second place was enough to secure her qualification for the Swiss Olympic team, it acted as a confirmation result from her top-10 finish at the London World Triathlon Series event last year. After an injury riddled 2011 season, she said it was great result in her first race of 2012.

“It’s great to be back, it’s so nice to train without injury, I’m really happy,” she said. “That was my qualifying for the Olympics so it’s great to tick it off and now train for the Olympics. It was a training race for me, I didn’t really taper for it, it’s just great to get that result and to qualify, I’m very happy.”

Andrea Hewitt said she was happy with a podium in her first race of 2012.

“My whole race was pretty good today for the first race of the season but I just couldn’t hold on with Nicola at the end and congratulations to Erin, because she had such a great run today,” Hewitt said.

Densham’s victory started from the swim, where she was out of the water in a leading group of four that included Liz Blatchford, Laura Bennett and Hewitt.

That four were first into T1, but were joined on the first lap of seven by Emma Moffatt, Rachel Klamer, Daniela Ryf and Pamela Oliveira. Behind them were six different chase packs, that condensed into five when the first and second chase group merged on the first lap. But with the pack chase including notable runners like Lisa Norden, Gwen Jorgensen, Melanie Annaheim and Lauren Campbell, Densham said the front pack worked together to made sure they increased the gap. They did, at a rate of 10 seconds each lap and headed into T2 with a lead of almost 90 seconds.

In the first lap of four on the run, Densham and Spirig went off the front. But what was even more incredible was that even when Spirig dropped, which was before the end of the first lap, Densham never slowed. She eventually won by an outstanding 52 seconds on one of the toughest ITU courses, and her run split was the fastest of the day by 43 seconds.

While Densham’s performance threw up questions for the Australian selectors - who have already pre-selected Moffatt, Bennett and Blatchford also put themselves in Olympic calculations for the USA and Great Britain team’s respectively. Ryf’s sixth place will be important in the Olympic points qualification, it could possibly give Switzerland three women’s spots on the startline in London - for now. While Klamer’s fifth will bode well for the Netherlands in terms of Olympic qualification points.

Reigining Olympic champion Emma Snowsill was a late withdrawal from the race due to illness, while Kirsten Sweetland, Jodie Stimpson, Danne Boterenbrood and Felicity Abram also did not start.

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