Atkinson is the man to beat

IT has been a year like no other for Australian triathlon star Courtney Atkinson.

Sixteen races in four continents, including a host of victories and podium finishes, plus an impressive fifth in last month’s world championships series final on the Gold Coast.

By Atkinson’s reckoning, he has probably contested more elite Olympic-distance races in 2009 than in the previous four years combined.

But far from feeling fatigued ahead of tomorrow’s Noosa Triathlon, the 30-year-old Queenslander believes he is in even better nick than last year, when he ended a long run of near-misses with a first victory in the prestigious event on the Sunshine Coast.

“Last year after the Olympics I deliberately kept training for Noosa, whereas this year I’ve taken a lot more relaxed approach,” Atkinson said.

“But I still think I’m in better shape as an athlete.

“Assuming they’ve kept the course the same, I’d like to go out there and better what I did last year.”

The change from a one-off annual world championships to an eight-race series was a major factor in Atkinson beefing up his program in 2009.

“In the end what we do is a job, like a football team or an F1 racing team, our job is to get out there and race,” he said.

“I just wanted to see how it would pan out if I raced and raced – whether it works better for me or not.

“I’ve taken more of a blanket approach and it’s worked out pretty well.”

Atkinson will start as the red-hot favourite to win a second Noosa title tomorrow, with the leading challengers likely to include Simon Thompson, Josh Amberger and Clayton Fettell.

With reigning Olympic gold medallist and five-time Noosa winner Emma Snowsill (hip) and world champion Emma Moffatt (foot) both absent through injury, fellow Australian Annabel Luxford at 27 has assumed favouritism in the women’s race. Sarah Crowley and rising star Emma Jackson are also in the running.

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