Tyler Phillips and Kate Bramley captured the overall men’s and women’s titles at the inaugural XTERRA East Gippsland off-road triathlon Saturday in Eastern Victoria, Australia.
It’s the second age group win in as many races for Bramley, who won the 30-34 division and placed 2nd overall to Emma Jeffcoat at XTERRA Callala back in December.
Bramley posted the fastest swim, bike, and run times of the day, despite a crash on the bike, to take the tape in 2:59:47, 20-minutes ahead of runner-up Britta Weller. Miia Rahja was third in 3:21:28.
“My aim for this race was to place in the 30-34 category to earn a qualifying spot for the XTERRA World Championship in Maui,” said Bramley. “My plan was to be strong but steady all race as I knew the bike and run courses were difficult and the weather would be heating up.”
Bramley lives in Geelong and trains with the GPC Squad under coach Stephane Vander Bruggen. Saturday’s race was just her second XTERRA, but she won the 25-29 age group race at the 2016 Snowy Mountains ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship. She has also competes in off-road duathlons, trail runs, and mountain bike races.
“I’m really looking forward to racing in Maui at XTERRA Worlds and seeing how I stack up against the world’s best off-roaders,” said Bramley.
In the men’s race, Phillips was fourth out of the water after Ryan O’Neil, Josh Dew, and Warren Keegan.
Phillips has a strong background in competitive swimming but didn't spend a lot of time in the water before the race, which was his first-ever XTERRA.
"To get out of the water under 20 minutes and in fourth was a really positive result," said Phillips after the race. "T1 went relatively smoothly. At the 2K mark on the bike I was in a group of three and we were about 90 seconds back from the leader. I generally lose time on the bike in a triathlon so I thought to myself if I could stay within two minutes of the leader I'd be happy. I was pushing hard and had one rider on my wheel. We got another time check at around 12K and had brought the gap down to 45 seconds so I decided I'd push. We joined the leader at about the 22K mark and I was starting to fatigue so decided I'd sit on for the remainder and we'd have a running race. In 2017 I'd taken a year off triathlon to focus on buying our first house and I ran the Melbourne Marathon in October in 2:43. That's about the only specific running background I have but I was hopeful that I might still have some running legs from that."
Phillips took a commanding lead after T2 and ran his heart out for the first three kilometers of the run.
"I had no idea what was happening behind me. I just pushed at my limit the whole way and tried to enjoy the beautiful course for what it was," said Phillips. "It was a really special run being so isolated with no other athletes or spectators. Being in the bush by yourself is pretty cool. It was probably only in the last 500 meters that the course opened back up a bit and I could see nobody was in sight that I knew I had the win and could relax a bit for the first time. The finish chute is always special but it is even more so when you're running towards the winners' tape, even if I was too spent to fully take it in. I had a fantastic day out, I executed a good race and absolutely loved the venue and the course. It was a great mix of terrain that suited a range of athletes in different sections. It is definitely a race I'd love to return to."
Phillips went on to post the second-fastest mountain bike split of the day, and the quickest run for a winning time of 2:34:10. Mack Clarkson was second in 2:39:28 and Ryan O’Neill was third in 2:42:24.
The event featured three distances for participants. The main event featured a 1.5K swim, 30K bike, and 11K run, and there were also Sprint (750swim/ 14k Bike/ 7k Run) and XTICER (200m swim/9.5K Bike/1K Run) options.
Fantastic weather conditions greeted athletes from across Australia and the state in the beautiful and peaceful Swan Reach town known for its wilderness, situated on the Tambo River. Just shy of 100 athletes took part in the inaugural event that will be known as an impressive destination for off-road triathlon.
East Gippsland forms part of the XTERRA Australia series in which athletes are required to participate in a minimum of two of the three national races to obtain eligibility for qualification for the XTERRA World Championships held in Maui, Hawaii.
Mark Emerton, the CEO of Elite Energy - the operators of XTERRA Australia - said “We are very excited to be bringing a series of races to Australia. XTERRA is a world recognized brand and I believe the courses that we have carefully selected are some of the best in the world.”
Saturday’s event was made possible by local volunteers who came out in support of the community event to raise funds for local groups and charities.