TOM Rodgers hopes his Sufferfest win will prove a stepping stone to more success on the professional triathlon circuit.
The Seaford rising star rated his win in yesterday’s Warrnambool event as one of the biggest of his fledgling career.
Rodgers, 21, finished the two-kilometre swim, 80km bike ride and 20km run in three hours, 45 minutes and 15 seconds.
Levi Maxwell (3.49.40) was second and Lachlan Kerin — the 2013 Olyfest winner — was third in 3.56.24.
Former Portland athlete Luke Bell was unable to defend his crown due to injury.
Bell completed the swim and bike sections and had Warrnambool’s Alison Wilson complete his run leg.
Rodgers said the win gave him great confidence as he tried to establish himself among Australia’s elite triathletes.
“It is certainly probably the biggest win (for me),” he said. “I actually got my pro licence about halfway through last year and it’s been a big step up from age group.
“It’s just a massive jump from winning age group to being in the midfield of the pros. They’re pretty quick.
“I came eighth in Geelong three weeks ago against a really good field.
“I am trying to look at improving and I have a lot of people supporting me — my family, my friends, bike sponsors, physios.”
Rodgers said he was committed to the sport and to learning from the best.
“I started about five years ago and last year I started to get some pretty good results and I thought I may as well step up and see how I go,” he said.
“I mean I am still nowhere near guys like Luke Bell but I am only 21 so I am just going to keep trying to improve and see how it goes.”
Rodgers said Wilson gave him a strong test on the run leg.
“I was catching her but I knew she could run a 3.10 marathon so I knew she was a pretty handy runner,” he said.
“I passed her about 13 kilometres in and just kept pushing hard because I didn’t know if she’d come back.”
Rodgers said he was impressed with the Sufferfest course, starting with the swim in the Hopkins River at the Blue Hole.
The ride took in Hopkins Point Road and surrounding areas, while the run was along the footpath from the Blue Hole to the breakwater.
“I heard about the event last year. Greg Farrell told me about it and I thought I’d come down,” he said.
“It was a great event, perfect weather, really well run, great support, great spectators.
“I really liked the course. I liked the flat swim, that suits me, and the hilly bike course really suits me as well.
“The run was really nice out over the rolling hills and it looks out over the beach.”
The bike leg specialist has pencilled the Busselton half ironman in May as his next major challenge.
But for now he will bask in his Sufferfest triumph — for a few days at least.
“I will definitely be back next year. It was a really well -run event,” he said.
“I will probably have dinner with the family tonight, talk about the race and talk about the positives.”