Former world under-23 champion Matt Sharp declared himself satisfied with his top-five finish on his World Triathlon Series debut at the opening round of the 2013 season in Auckland.
The 23-year-old was behind the race leaders after the 1500m sea swim but bridged the gap over the 40km bike ride through the city before using his speed over the final 10km run.
Sharp finished fifth 1:56:51hours however his British teammates struggled with Katie Hewison being forced to withdraw hours before the women’s race with a stomach bug.
Jodie Stimpson suffered hypothermia during the race and Stuart Hayes, who represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics, withdrew after 6km of the run to protect a niggling injury.
Sharp himself believed a top-three finish might be on the cards before suffering cramp but he was nonetheless pleased with his maiden World Triathlon Series outing.
“I had a terrible start and had to ride hard to catch everyone. I was riding on my own until (Mario) Mola caught me and we were able to ride together,” said Sharp. “Once I got onto the run, my legs didn’t feel the best so I just gradually picked people off.
“I thought at one stage that I could get onto the podium but I got a bit of cramp, which affected my breathing. I had thought beforehand that I’d be happy with top 15 so for a first World Series race I’m happy.”
Sharp plans to miss the next round later this month in San Diego, which will see Olympic medallists Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee race, as well as the third leg in Yokohama.
He will return for round four in Madrid in June and British Triathlon’s newly appointed performance director, Brendan Purcell, was equally satisfied with Sharp’s finish.
“Matt is an under-23 athlete who has been a world champion and now he’s put himself in the top five in the seniors,” said Purcell.
“That’s exactly what we need as a focus for the team. There is a lot of junior and under-23 talent in Britain and we need to bring that on.
“Jodie is gutted, absolutely disappointed, especially after her good early season results. It may not look it, but there’s a cool breeze and nearly all of the course is in shadow.”
Javier Gomez, who won Olympic silver in between Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee at London 2012, won the men’s race in 1:55:51 while Anne Haug claimed victory in the women’s in 2:08:20.
© Sportsbeat 2013