Wearing the number one for the event, Gemmell was forced to retire due to mechanical failure on the bike, when his derailler broke, bringing his race to an abrupt end.
But one man’s misfortune was another man’s gain and Royle, runner-up in last year’s Oceania Championship, seized the opportunity to record a 4-second win over Dutchman Jan van Berkel in second with fellow Australians Jamie Huggett and Peter Kerr in third and fourth respectively.
“I came into this race confident, it is my first race for the year and I know I am probably the fittest I have ever been,” said Royle. “I was able to get a good swim and really take it out on the bike (and it was) the bike that got me the win today. We had a good group, (including) Rawles and Davison and for a while Richard Varga.
“I was concerned knowing that there were a few good guys that could bridge the gap on the run if my legs didn’t keep me going but I was able to push through to the end and hold the lead.”
Meanwhile in the women’s race, New Zealand’s Kate McIlroy recorded an impressive season opener, running away from the ever improving Dutch pair of Rachel Klamer and Danne Boterenbrood. McIlroy’s teammates Debbie Tanner ran home fourth and Nicky Samuels finished fifth.
This group of five established a strong lead early on the bike after exiting the 750m swim together, with the field trailing behind as the pace went on around the tight and demanding multi-lap 20km bike course.
Onto the 5km run it was Samuels who faded first, leaving the two Dutch and two Kiwis to hammer away in front of a huge crowd lining the Kinloch course. Into the home straight for the final time it was McIlroy who proved strongest, pulling away in a great display of strength and leg speed, especially for so early in the season.
“I’m really happy, it was a really hard race, we pushed the whole way,” said McIlroy. “The bike was aggressive and on the run there was a group of us pushing the whole way. Team tactics didn’t come into it at all; I think we all had a plan of trying to bike really hard and keep the chasing group away from us and maintain that gap.
“Once on the run the pace was on the whole time, Danne went out quickly so there was no time to rest. There were a few surges on the last lap from Rachel, I made sure I stayed with her the whole time and got ready for the sprint, it isn’t the strongest part of my racing but I managed to find enough today.”
With files from Triathlon Australia and Triathlon New Zealand