Aileen Reid, currently ranked sixth on the World Triathlon Series leader board enters Saturday’s Baku European Games as the top ranked European triathlete.
The former North West Triathlon Club member had a steady start in her first two World Series openers finishing 24th and 15th, but has been in scintillating form of late notching up a 7th, 6th and 4th place finish in the past three World Series races.
In her 4th place finish at the London World Triathlon Series, Reid clocked the second fastest run split of the day, only bettered by ten-times World Series race winner Gwen Jorgenson of the USA.
“I’m really pleased, it’s finally coming together for me.” Reid commented after the race.
“I didn’t think I was going to run that fast. I really feel like I want to be in the top ten in the world and these last three performances are what I’ve really been pushing for.”
With two-time World Champion Helen Jenkins withdrawing from the race citing an ankle injury, Reid’s primary competition is likely to come from London Olympic Gold Medallist, Nicola Spirig along with Olympic Silver Medallist, Lisa Norden.
Spirig has raced sparingly since winning Olympic Gold but made the podium in her last World Triathlon Series outing in Cape Town and is targeting the automatic Rio Qualification slot available to the European Games winner. Norden, a training partner of Reid, goes into Baku ranked 25th on the start line but that belies her podium potential.
In the men’s race Ireland will be represented in the form of Russell While and Aaron O’Brien. Banbridge triathlete, White is the more experienced of the pair having three World Triathlon Series starts to his name along with representing Northern Ireland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“It’s very exciting to be racing the first ever European Games, hopefully it will be an amazing event.” White commented.
“I am ranked 36th out of 58 but I feel that I could be knocking on the door of a top 20 if I execute a solid performance.”
“Unfortunately my previous races didn’t quite go to plan due to mechanicals and maybe a bit too much travel and a drop in training, but fortunately I have had the opportunity to get a good block of training in since then to boost my fitness a bit more.”
Asked about the course White said, “It seems OK, nothing out of the ordinary so it will just be a case of putting down a solid effort. As for the condition it might be a different story! As a 6ft2 ginger guy very warm conditions probably don’t suit me as much as most people but there isn’t much I can do about that!”
Limerick Triathlon Club’s Aaron O’Brien will wear number 51 on the Baku start line. O’Brien is the 2014 Olympic Distance National Champion and finished 20th in the 2013 Junior World Championships so is no stranger to the big race occasion.
“I’m absolutely delighted to make the team, it’s been something I’ve been targeting since late last year so to get selected has been great, and the hard work is paying off.” Commented O’Brien.
On his preparation for the expected 28 degree heat O’Brien said “We’ve been in the lab cranking up the heat doing hard bike sessions on the SRM, hard run offs on the treadmill, just trying to simulate what it’s going to be like in Azerbaijan.”
“We’ve been working on strategies towards the race and how we’re going to approach it.”
Watch the action live on Setanta Ireland with the women’s race starting at 8:30am Saturday, June 13th followed by the men’s race onSunday, June 14th at 8:30am.
Start Lists Here
Swim course – 1500m The swim will take place in the Caspian Sea on a course consisting of two laps of 750m, with athletes swimming clockwise around a triangular-shaped, marked course. The starting point is a 70m beach platform.
The bike course will consist of 6 laps of 6.6km, totalling 40km. Athletes will race around the course in a counter-clockwise direction.
The run course will consist of three-laps of 3.3km, totalling 10km. Athletes will race around the course in an anti-clockwise direction using part of the cycle course.