Offroad: Atkinson takes on Maui mountains

Triathlete Courtney Atkinson takes fifth at Xterra World Championships in Hawaii
Courtney Atkinson © Brett Hemmings
By Josh Rakic

As if campaigning for a record third Olympic Games wasn’t taxing enough for champion triathlete Courtney Atkinson, the dual Olympian went about contesting the Xterra World Championships in Maui over the weekend in some of his rare spare time, soaring to a top-five finish among the world’s best.

Contested in some of the toughest off-road terrain known to man in Maui, the Xterra World Champs welcomed the world’s best off-road racers and the Asia Pacific champion couldn’t resist.

Just days after a podium in his final ITU event of the season in Korea, Courtney jumped on the plane to Maui and pushed hard to come home fifth from more than 40 of the world’s best. “It’s a rare thing - a heap of pain and a heap of fun at the same time,” an exhausted Courtney says.
“And it’s by far the most brutal course for a multisport event that we do. Just brutal. The heat is killer and then the endless steep climbs on the bike and 5km up a hill running and 5km back down - there’s no other word to describe it but brutal. Haha.”

Like he’s done so well in ITU of late, Courtney took advantage in the swim leg to emerge from the water quickest and lead for the first quarter of the race. “But the ocean swim took a lot out because the swell didn't eventuate, which results in using more gas,” Courtney continues.
“I held on to the lead for the first quarter of the race but just lost too much time against the pure mountain bike specialists in that rugged terrain. Although, my mountain biking has improved significantly compared to my first try at this race in 2013.

“But it was a great fun, a great challenge and a great way to cap the season.” Beating the pavement day-in, day-out can only be beneficial for so long, with Xterra shaking up Courtney’s training schedule and re-invigorating his body in his bid to make Australian Olympic history.
“I do this racing on the side of my Olympic campaign purely as a challenge and to put me out of my comfort level - and Maui certainly ticks those boxes," Courtney continues.

“But now, it’s back to training in preparation for Olympic selection for the rest of this month before a short break on a cruise at the start of December. Then it's the last build to the final Olympic selections.” At least two and as many as three triathletes will be selected to form the triathlete contingent of the Australian Olympic team in April next year, with a strong result at the Gold Coast Triathlon in April imperative to Courtney becoming Australia’s first triathlete to contest three consecutive Games.

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