By Kent Gray/
As the triathlon world watched on in wonderment at Ashleigh Gentle doing things only Ashleigh Gentle can seemingly do, the cameras very nearly missed another Queensland-based Antipodean nabbing a little global limelight for herself at the latest T100 stop.

Saturday was most definitely Gentle’s day in the brutal battle of attrition that was the  T100 women’s race in steamy Singapore, the Aussie superstar overcoming a 5½ minute deficit off the bike to first run down wildcard Lucy Buckingham and then fellow Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay for a statement victory.

It was the Brisbane 32-year-old’s first official T100 win in her first start if the year, a third straight title over the sport’s new 100km distance and her fifth individual podium in as many starts in PTO racing. Two silver medals, at last year’s US and European Opens, are the Aussie’s worst results in the sport’s new sweet-spot distance and it seems she’s the woman to beat for the inaugural T100 Triathlon World Tour title, if that was ever in doubt.

But just as Gentle (3:44:23), Charles Barclay and, eventually, bronze medalist Els Visser were being lined up for interviews, Amelia Watkinson caught the streaming coverage cameras and commentators on the hop as she crossed the line 4th.

The Sunshine Coast-based Kiwi had somehow fought back from 16th (out of 20th) out of the water and 13th off the bike to overhaul Buckingham just before the blue carpet for a PTO best 4th place.

Watkinson (3:52:03) eclipsed her previous PTO best of 6th, at the then PTO Asian Open on the same Singapore course last year, with a run almost as remarkable as Gentle’s 1:09:10 split for the 18 sweltering k’s around the man-made Marina Bay foreshore. The Kiwi’s 1:12:13 effort was the second best of the day (Charles Barclay ran 1:16:18 and Visser 1:16:32 by comparison) and capped an impressive series bow with stops in San Francisco, London, Ibizia, Las Vegas and Dubai to come before the Grand Final at a Middle East destination still under wraps.

Fellow Kiwi Rebecca Clarke had been third after the 2km swim and held her own on the first lap of the bike before the heat started to bite. Clarke was later seen walking in the opposite direction as the cameras followed then race leader Charles-Barclay on the run, underscoring the oppressive conditions with the early evening race starting in 34.4 degrees C before the humidity nudged 78 percent on the run.

Clarke (4:09:41) eventually finished 16th after completing the 18k in 1:27:59 and will have a job recovering in time for Ironman Texas on April 27.

Gentle won by 1min 34sec from Charles-Barclay and emphasised just how tough the conditions had been.

“That’s like one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. It was a brutal day, it was ridiculously hard,” she said. “Lucy was amazing and made it really difficult for me.”

Indeed, Charles Barclay led out of the water, as the Brit is want to do at most every triathlon she starts, and set the pace on a bike course featuring a series of overpass ramps that proved increasingly challenging with each lap. Charles-Barclay had to settle for a second successive silver after being beaten by countrywoman India Lee at the T100 series opener in Miami.

Lee, who contemplated a no-show in Singapore after falling ill post Miami, along with freshly-minted Ironman NZ champion Chelsea Sodaro had notable DNFs posted against their names on Saturday. It was further evidence that Clarke had done well to even finish.

“Yeah, I mean, played my cards and came out with second today, It’s bitter sweet being at the front all that time but I felt really strong and I just want to build every race,” Charles-Barclay said.

“I definitely felt miles better than Miami so…but yeah, Ashley had me running scared though.

“I knew she was coming, so strong on that run and like I said, I really had to push it on that bike to see what I could do and it wasn’t quite enough today but it’s definitely motivation for the next one.”

The problem is Gentle reckons she has plenty left in the tank too, even if she had to empty it on Saturday.

“I’m really not that confident, well, most of the time, especially at the start of the year and there were parts of this race where I was like, maybe I should have done a race before this one because this is so brutal,” Gentle said.

“But yeah, I just tried to stay really focused. There were a few times there when I was really losing focus a lot and mentally I had to bring myself back and just fight to the very end.”

Expert comments man Jan Frodeno noted Gentle had looked happy ‘all week’ in the lead-up to her impressive victory.  

“Yeah definitely, the last couple of years have probably been the most enjoyable of my career, and yeah, I’ve been  really loving these T100 series [previously PTO] races. I really enjoy hanging out with all the ladies and men, I think there’s a really good comradery between all of us and I think that makes a really big difference.

Gentle admitted she had “definitely surprised myself” with her strong finish. She didn’t love being touted as the pre-race favourite all week but the outcome was comforting.

“I guess coming here there was a lot of expectation after winning last year and I just wasn’t so sure how I’d do but I think that’s part of the game, that’s part of being a professional athlete, you have to lay it all out there and take the good with the bad and I just feel very happy that I was able to put a really strong performance together today and come out with the win.

“But I also feel like I’ve got so much more to give. So I guess, once I’ve recovered from this one, it will be exciting to look ahead.”

The men’s race, featuring Kiwi wildcard Kyle Smith, starts at 7:15pm NZT on Sunday with coverage on the T100 YouTube channel and from 7pm.

Singapore T100 – Saturday, April 13 2024
2km / 80km / 18km

1. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) – 3:44:23 [27:41/2:05:26/1:09:10]
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) – 3:45:58 [26:03/2:01:18/1:16:18]
3. Els Visser (NED) – 3:51:38 [30:02/2:02:37/1:16:32]
4. Amelia Watkinson (NZL) – 3:52:03 [30:04/2:07:24/1:12:13]
5. Lucy Buckingham (GBR) – 3:52:10 [26:07/2:01:39/1:22:06]
Full results

T100 women’s series standings
1. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) 56pts
2. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 35pts
3.India Lee (GBR) 35pts
4. Lucy Byram (GBR) 34pts
5. Haley Chura (USA) 30pts

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