Aaron Royle’s bid to win second Noosa Triathlon

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Aaron Royle winning last year’s Noosa Triathlon title. NEWCASTLE’S Aaron Royle wants to settle any debate about who is Australia’s No.1 competitor by winning the Noosa Triathlon for the second consecutive year on Sunday.

Royle and fellow national squad member Ryan Bailie are expected to start among the race favourites after finishing neck-and-neck as the top Aussies on the international rankings this year.

In the World Triathlon Series, Bailie finished ninth and Royle 10th, while Royle was 10th on the International Triathlon Union points score, one place ahead of Bailie.

Bailie also finished fifth in the Commonwealth Games individual race, in which Royle was eighth.

After successive wins in the USA Triathlon Elite Sprint National Championships in Las Vegas, the Fernleigh15 foot race and last week’s Nepean Triathlon, Royle said he was primed to finish his 2014 campaign on a successful note.

‘‘Me and Ryan have had pretty similar results over the last year,’’ Royle said.

‘‘For us, we’re about racing the world, not just other Australians.

‘‘But, in saying that, if you have a race like a Noosa, which is predominantly Australians, I think if you win that title, you probably deserved to be recognised [as Australia’s No.1].’’

Royle said former Commonwealth Games champion Brad Kahlefeldt, last year’s runner-up Dan Wilson and national squad member Jacob Birtwhistle would be other leading contenders.

Adding to the challenge, the 24-year-old Novocastrian will have to deal with the uncustomary non-drafting rule on the cycle leg, which is not used in most of the world series races he contests.

‘‘You have to be seven metres behind the guy riding in front of you,’’ he said.

‘‘Whereas in ITU, we’re allowed to ride as close and packed as we like.

‘‘You have to keep that distance. And it’s a four-minute penalty if you encroach the rules, which would ruin you. That’s your race done.’’

After collecting $25,000 from his wins at Las Vegas and Nepean, the $12,000 first-place prizemoney would be another welcome pay day for Royle before his off-season break, which will start with a Melbourne Cup trip.

‘‘I’ve worked hard for this race,’’ he said. ‘‘I targeted it when I got back from overseas a couple of months ago. ‘‘I’ve hit some pretty end-of-season form … and I’m pretty pumped for Sunday.’’

AAP reports: Nothing intimidates Joel Selwood on the AFL battlefield, but the Geelong Cats skipper does not mind owning up to some fears at the Noosa Triathlon.

Making a debut appearance as part of a three-man Cats team to race on Sunday, Selwood will dust off the off-season cobwebs by jumping on a road bike to take on the hilly Noosa course.

‘‘I haven’t been on the bike for about 18 months and I’m doing the bike leg,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m getting a bit nervous with it. Forty kilometres in the heat. We’ll have to see how we go.’’

Former national steeple-chaser Mark Blicavs will anchor the Cats team in the 10km run leg, with Jackson Thurlow opening up in the 1500m swim.

The trio are among the likes of Olympic champion swimmer Libby Trickett, former Test cricketer Matthew Hayden and NRL representative prop Ben Hannant as guest stars making a splash at Australia’s biggest multi-sport event this weekend.

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