Ashleigh Gentle claimed her fifth Noosa Triathlon title in style, drawing strength from the memory of Garth Prowd – the Godfather of triathlon in Australia.

Text and images by WITSUP


“To be honest I felt terrible in a lot of spots during the race – I felt every single race that I’ve done this year while I was running,” Gentle explained. “But I really wanted to race well for myself and also for Garth. I knew he would be up there thinking, ‘come on, you’ve only got two kilometres to go, you can do this … Give it what you’ve got and leave it all on the line!’ So I’m really happy that I stayed strong in the last few kilometres when I was really hurting.”

Gentle had a solid swim, not allowing too much of a gap to the leaders out of the water, which put her in a good position early in the day. “I was really happy with the swim,” she said. “I maybe dropped a little around the last bouy coming in but for me Natalie [Van Coevorden] and Gillian [Backhouse] are really strong swimmers, and I knew they would be setting the pace, so I was really happy when I was running up the beach and I could see them just up ahead – that was a real positive.”

Gillian Backhouse lead the small group of three out of the water with Natalie Van Coevorden and Tamsyn Moana-Veale in close succession. Liz Blatchford who was making her return to racing five months after welcoming her daughter to the world, followed with Gentle 19 seconds off the lead.

Further back, eyes were on the Duathlon World Champion, Felicity Sheedy-Ryan hitting dry land, with 53 seconds to make up on the leaders, and a few more spots to pick off along the way.

Van Coevorden hit the gas early trying to take advantage of her swim/bike strength. “My race plan was definitely around those two key things – swim and bike hard,” she stated. “And I thought if I did that well I had every chance to give the Noosa title a crack. I think I executed that as well as I could but I definitely paid for it on the back end of the run, but that’s just learning and hopefully in the years to come that will improve too.”

By the far turn around Van Coevorden had managed to push the gap out to 50 seconds to the chasers, while Sheedy-Ryan had surged ahead up Garmin Hill and found herself leading the chase pack with Gentle and Backhouse.

“I haven’t been able to ride the TT bike that much so this was a good confidence booster,” Sheedy-Ryan exclaimed. “I was wrapt with the ride. I rode well up the hill and climbing well I think is what made my race.”

Sheedy-Ryan and Gentle broke away from Backhouse, and worked well together to try and minimise the gap to the powering Van Coevorden. As they were moving away from the others behind them, they couldn’t make up any time on Van Coevorden ahead.

“Felicity [Sheedy-Ryan] rode really really well,” Gentle explained. “She’s obviously coming along well now at the end of the year after injury earlier. I was happy to be working with her on the bike!”

As the two worked together, Backhouse was riding solo, and the second chase group including Ellie Salthouse, Blatchford and Moana-Veale has been joined by Sarah Crowley just three weeks after finishing third at the Ironman World Championship.


As the top three hit the run course, Van Coevorden had a lead of 82 seconds over Gentle and Sheedy-Ryan – the two fastest runners in the field.

“I had a feeling that Natalie [Van Coevorden] would really go for it after last weekend in Nepean,” Gentle said. “I didn’t know if she had gone out too hard and spent a but too much energy on the bike or not but I also had Felicity [Sheedy-Ryan] with me so I knew I had to have good legs on the run.”

Sheedy-Ryan set the pace early between the two chasers, and lead for the first couple of kilometres setting the race up to be hotly contested one until Gentle managed to put in a few surges to break away as the two caught Van Coevorden at approximately the four kilometre marker.

“I was pretty nervous running with Felicity. I tried to put the pressure on a bit on one of the small uphills over the bridge, but I wasn’t gaining much!” Gentle exclaimed. “A couple of times I tried to signal to people on the sidelines to tell me how far behind she was because I didn’t want to turn around – that’s a sign of weakness when you’re running, so I didn’t want to let her know I was hurting – I was definitely kept on my toes the entire 10 kilometres.”

As the two passed Van Coevorden she tried to keep herself collected to hold on for third place. “I kept focus on the things I could control like cadence and arm position – it was all about one kilometre at a time when the others passed,” she said.

On the return home, Gentle turned up the heat again leaving Sheedy-Ryan behind her. She hit the finish chute, blew a kiss skyward, saluting the late great, Garth Prowd, and earned her fifth Noosa Triathlon title and equalling Emma Snowsill’s record.

“It’s a big relief to be honest – it feels great, I really wanted to win today,” Gentle said. “Obviously beforehand I wasn’t trying to think about the five wins, I just wanted to make sure that I swam the best, biked the best and ran the best that I could. I’m just really happy that I could drain all the energy, put it all on the line and come away with the win.”

Sheedy-Ryan put on an impressive display, adding another top performance to the back end of the year after a tough few years. “I’ve had a few ups and downs over the last few years – arguably more downs with injuries and having to change coaches a few times,” Sheedy-Ryan explained. “But I started training with Cam [Watt] at the start of the year and it’s been working really well – he’s really good and understanding and helped me get on my feet after a bit of a rough patch.”

“He’s been there for me with hands on coaching and I’ve missed that over the last few years, so now having a coach on deck has made a big difference. I took a bit of a gamble making some changes, but I trust Cam. I just had to take a chance, which is scary to make a drastic change so late in my career, but sometimes you have to throw your hat in the ring and hope that it all comes together.”

After owning the front of the race for the most part of the day, Van Coevorden comfortably held onto third place ahead of Crowley who had the third fastest run of the day.


1 Ashleigh GENTLE (31) 1:59:11 0:19:56 0:01:43 1:00:54 0:01:56 0:34:41
2 Felicity SHEEDY-RYAN (45) 1:59:43 0:20:30 0:01:44 1:00:20 0:01:55 0:35:13
3 Natalie VAN COEVORDEN (33) 2:01:49 0:19:40 0:01:42 0:59:42 0:02:03 0:38:41
4 Sarah CROWLEY (40) 2:03:20 0:21:09 0:01:47 1:01:14 0:01:56 0:37:13
5 Gillian BACKHOUSE (32) 2:04:04 0:19:37 0:01:40 1:02:40 0:02:06 0:38:00
6 Tamsyn MOANA-VEALE (34) 2:04:49 0:19:43 0:01:37 1:03:00 0:01:45 0:38:43
7 Liz BLATCHFORD (38) 2:05:09 0:19:48 0:01:47 1:02:36 0:02:10 0:38:46
8 Ellie SALTHOUSE (44) 2:05:29 0:20:20 0:01:46 1:02:02 0:02:07 0:39:12
9 Ashleigh WILLIAMS (47) 2:10:53 0:21:03 0:01:49 1:06:49 0:02:07 0:39:04
10 Kate PEDLEY (43) 2:11:25 0:23:22 0:02:02 1:05:26 0:02:06 0:38:28
11 Jo MILLER (35) 2:12:36 0:20:25 0:01:46 1:05:05 0:02:05 0:43:13
12 Laura DENNIS (41) 2:14:57 0:21:03 0:01:46 1:09:24 0:02:02 0:40:40
13 Brittany DUTTON (42) 2:15:44 0:20:20 0:01:53 1:06:50 0:02:22 0:44:18

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