4 Irish triathletes will travel to Portugal this weekend for the opening European Cup race of the season.
Russell White and Emma Sharkey will race the ETU Quarteira European Cup while Westport pair Con Doherty and Aichlinn O’Reilly are on the start line for the ETU Quarteira Junior European Cup.
The senior race is over the Olympic distance with a 2 lap 1500m swim starting on the beach, followed by a 6 lap 40km bike which includes a short sharp hill and 3 180 degree turns on each lap before a flat 4 lap, 10km run along the seafront.
21 year old Russell White from Banbridge, Co. Down rounded out the 2013 season with a 35th place finish at the U23 World Championships. The Stirling University based athlete has taken the decision to step back from his studies for a year to concentrate on training.
“Training has definitely taken a step up but I have found the extra recovery to be the biggest benefit and maybe the main reason that I have had my first injury free winter.”
“It’s allowed me to have some consistency in my training that I have never had the luxury of having in the past.”
Coming from a swim background Russell has always been strong in the opening discipline however a winter of injury free running has seen some noticeable gains as he claimed a 10km road race win.
“It was just a small local race but crossing the line in 1st always gives you a bit of confidence. It was just nice to feel good racing and happy with my current fitness.”
Russell goes into the race ranked 26th on the start line with some top competitors in the mix. Number 1 ranked man Aurelien Raphael has a 4th place finish at the Stockholm World Series to his name and the rest of the top 20 is also packed with World Series level competitors.
“The aim is always to beat your start number but at the same time I want to start making good progress this season so I would prefer to be top 15, which I think is realistic after a good winter.”
20 year old Belfast native, Emma Sharkey will make her senior international debut this weekend against some tough opposition. The Belfast athlete will wear number 41 from 47 starters and be up against the likes of former European Champion Emmie Charayron ranked 6th and multiple World Cup podium finisher and number 1 ranked woman Mateja Simic of Slovakia.
The Junior Men’s race sees a packed field of 77 take on the 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run.
The Westport duo of Con Doherty and Aichlinn O’Reilly know each other well and will be keen to get their 2014 seasons off to a flying start.
Former World Junior Bronze medalist, Doherty claimed the bronze medal here last year, just 15 seconds off the winner so will be aiming for another top result.
Spain’s Antonio Serrat Seoane was just a handful of seconds behind Doherty last time out so will no doubt prove stiff competition again. There are no shortage of up and coming stars as Spain, Great Britain, Portugal, France, Germany and a host of other triathlon powerhouses have sent large squads.
Aichlinn will make just his second elite level international appearance after his 24th place finish at the ETU Athlone Junior European Cup last year.