Virtual cycle race a boost for triathletes

Murray Wenzel
Leading Australian triathlete Ashleigh Gentle will take part in a virtual reality cycling race

A virtual return has come at the right time for Olympic triathlon hope Ashleigh Gentle, who admits she struggled during nearly two months without a race.

The Australian No.1 will compete in an exclusive 40km Ironman VR Pro Challenge cycling race on Sunday morning against New Zealand time trial champion Teresa Adam, compatriot Hannah Wells and Czech-born, Australian-based Radka Kahlefeldt.

The trans-Tasman event will be followed by a male equivalent on Monday, while the public can also compete in a run-ride-run version over the weekend as the sport experiments during the coronavirus-enforced shut down of live racing.

Gentle, who was set to lead the country's charge for individual and team gold at Tokyo's Games before their postponement, said the hit-out was timely.

"Like most people, it's been really up and down," she said.

"I've struggled a bit following the enormity of the situation around the world and in Australia, rather than caring too much about my training.

"The last few weeks have been much better and I have enjoyed getting back into some sort of routine."

"At first I didn't think I should it because I feel very unprepared, but I committed to the race because it will be a fun way to test the legs and join the triathlon community."

Gentle stormed home for third at Mooloolaba's sprint-distance triathlon World Cup in March and has since been in training with boyfriend Josh Amberger, who will compete in the men's event on Monday.

Amberger will race against Ironman 70.3 world champion Tim Reed and New Zealand pair Braden Currie and Mike Phillips.

Cyclists will complete the first 20km section before racing in pursuit format based on those times in the second section.

Both races, set in California's Indian Wells, will be broadcast on Ironman's Facebook page.