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MOOLOOLABA NEXT STOP FOR RIO HOPEFULS

Rio Olympic hopeful Ashleigh Gentle will rely on a combination of recovery and a relaxed race preparation as she prepares for this Saturday's ITU Mooloolaba Triathlon World Cup.

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Her Gold Coast team mate and dual Olympian Emma Moffatt will be hoping to put her new bike skills into play in her first hit out of the season.

While Australia's best performer at last year's Rio Test Event, Gillian Backhouse will be out to build her confidence as she too presses her Rio claims.

The three top Aussies are part of a world class women's field of 53 athletes from 28 countries who will converge onto the Sunshine Coast for the sprint race World Cup format over a 750m swim, 20km bike and five kilometre run.

The men's race will feature Australia's well performed dual Olympian Courtney Atkinson who will spearhead a field of 72 athletes from Spain's Abu Dhabi winner and man-of-the-moment Mario Mola to a full complement of Australians – Drew Box, Cameron Good, Matt Baker, Luke Willian and Marcel Walkington.

The 25-year-old Gentle admits she is still recovering from her brave silver medal winning effort in WTS opening round in Abu Dhabi last weekend which has given her an enormous confidence booster in the race for one of three Olympic places on offer.

Mooloolaba will provide ideal timing in the countdown to the last opportunity for an automatic Rio nomination at the WTS race on the Gold Coast on April 9.

The first Australian male and female to finish in the top 10 will claim those two automatic nominations.

Gentle dug deeper than ever in Abu Dhabi to claim second behind Great Britain's Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jodie Stimpson with fellow Brit, Welsh woman Helen Jenkins third.

But for Gentle the pressure will be off-temporarily in Mooloolaba - as the focus builds for places on this year's Olympic team.

"Abu Dhabi was a tough one that's for sure and I just eased my way back into light work when I arrive back on Monday night," said Gentle, who is vying for her first Olympic team.

"I had a light swim Tuesday morning and will spend most of the week recovering in what will be more relaxed approach to last week's race.

"I was really nervous before Abu Dhabi, knowing full well the selectors were watching and it was an important race over the Olympic Distance.

"Mooloolaba will be less pressure and I know I will be a lot calmer leading into the race and that will be a good thing."

Gentle is one of six serious contenders for this year's Olympic team and she knows that good friend, fellow Gold Coaster and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Moffatt will be hot to trot in her first hit out of the season as will Backhouse, 19th in Abu Dhabi.

Moffatt has been working with noted Gold Coast cycling coach, former Commonwealth Games and Tour rider Steve Rooney.

"Steve is so passionate and we have been able to work on a lot of different skill-based things on the bike," said Moffatt.

"He's a great teacher who has taught me things I never knew before in our once a week group rides and I think I've progressed a long way.

"It will be good to have a hit out – my first race since last November – and I've done a lot of training since then."

Atkinson will be looking for another solid hit out in Mooloolaba after a strong showing in Abu Dhabi.

"Getting the chance to again race guys like Mario Mola and some of the best in the world is always a good thing," said Atkinson.

"Always more than happy to race Mario and the rest of the Spanish guys...it is a good bench mark although sprint racing is not right up my alley these days but it will be good to have that quicker hit out and to work on your skills."

Mola was in devastating opening race form in Abu Dhabi, taking over where he left off when he won the WTS Grand Final in Chicago last September and he said today he was very happy to be competing again in Mooloolaba.

"I love the race venue and the atmosphere around the event that is going on during the weekend, so I'm looking forward to being on the start line on Saturday," Mola said.

"I'm staying in Noosa for the next few weeks until the next World Triathlon Series race on the Gold Coast. The weather is nice and hot and we have a great team here, so it should be the perfect preparation.

Event Details:
Saturday 12 March 2016 - Mooloolaba Beach
Women Start: 11.45am (AEST)
Men Start: 1.30pm (AEST)
Women's Start List
Men's Start List

IMAGES: Delly Carr | ITU Media

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