Ashleigh Gentle Talks Off-Season, 2024 Prep, and Competition Ahead of T100 Season

Don’t let her name fool you, Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) is anything but when it comes to duking it out on the race course. Gentle is currently ranked second in the Professional Triathletes Organization (PTO) ratings, sandwiched between top spot-holder Anne Haug (GER) and third place Taylor Knibb (USA).

Gentle has only climbed further in the rankings since her breakout middle-distance race season in 2022, where she took gold at Clash Miami, 70.3 Andorra, PTO Canadian Open and PTO US Open. She finished in third place in the PTO rankings that year before storming back for more in 2023, where Gentle was on the podium at every PTO race she completed: PTO European, US and Asian Open races.

Gentle wrapped up a highly successful 2023 in second place in the PTO rankings and was given one of 20 coveted invitations to the 2024 PTO T100 series. Gentle must compete in five of the eight T100 series races as well as the Grand Final. There is $250,000 in prize money at each race and $2 million for the series on the line.

Gentle will not be taking the start line of the inaugural T100 race - T100 Miami - this weekend, instead choosing to focus on T100 Singapore on April 14 as her season opener. We sat down with Gentle in between her sessions to get the scoop on how things are going as she heads into a very intense season:

ST: How was your offseason? You ended on such a high last year with wins at the PTO Asian Open and Noosa Triathlon, was it nice to finally get some downtime?

Gentle: Winning the Noosa Triathlon was a really nice way to end the season. Then I took about a month off Josh [Amberger] and we went camping, which we do every year. We usually go to Morton Island or Fraser Island and this year we went to Morton Island again.

We've been doing it for about 10 years now. We pack up Josh's car, the tent and camping supplies and we go offline for seven nights and eight days. The phones are off or in airplane mode and don't really get reception where we go camping anyway. For us, it’s the ultimate way to disconnect and appreciate a little slice of paradise that's a 90-minute ferry ride from where we live. I don't quite know how to describe it other than it’s so refreshing and I think after a really intense year each year, no matter how it's gone or the results, it’s a nice way to decompress and disconnect for a bit, and then come back ready to return to training.

ST: What were your thoughts about the T100 series announcement?

Gentle: I was super excited. When the series was confirmed we obviously found out as the pro athletes and then it was just a process of waiting for [the PTO] to announce the series of races. The way the calendar's shaped up looks really exciting.

For me, the T100 event in San Francisco is definitely of interest. I've done Alcatraz twice and I've won there twice. So that's one that's super exciting because I've wanted to go back to Alcatraz again for a third time. Now I get this opportunity to do it over the 100km distance and it's really cool that we can go back to such a cool city like that. And then of course, London, Ibiza, and going back to Singapore; I think these locations are really fun and you know, obviously people are wondering how it's gonna go, what the competition's gonna be like and how it's gonna play out.

I think the T100 series is going to be really exciting racing and they've obviously secured, you know, the 16 best women in the world plus four more [wildcards]. My main emotion was excitement and glad that the PTO could put together such a strong series.

ST: Do you have any goals for the T100 outside of going all in for the series win?

Gentle: The thing right now more than ever is there's no room for weakness. One of my big goals is to try and keep all three disciplines at a really high level. And that's always just such a hard part of our sport because trying to balance all three sports can sometimes be counterintuitive to balance. And I suppose that’s kind of the magic of being able to race consistently is to make sure you don't have those weaknesses.

You've got to be prepared to be a robust, smart, and dynamic racer who can respond to different forms of attacks from different people literally all year - and it’s going to be exhausting. I know that I can't be in top form in February and at my best at the grand finale at the end of November. Physically, for me it's not possible. I have to be smart and accept that yeah there might be some races where I'm not a hundred percent firing on all cylinders, but I can still put together really, really good performances at a more controlled level and pick those battles where I know that I am at one hundred percent and have a chance to win.

ST: Is there anyone who you particularly have a lot of respect for coming into this series?

Gentle: I have a lot of respect for all my competitors. I honestly think that the depth of the women's field is so insane that you could be seeing different podiums at each race. Obviously, you have the really consistent people at the top of the rankings, which, you know, hopefully people consider me in that with the way I've been racing in the PTO races. But you know, when someone like Taylor Knibb turns up, you know she means business and she is so strong when she's “on.” I think she for sure is going to be a huge danger to the field.

I mention Taylor, but there are so many people who could come out and have a win or land on the podium. There are a handful of other women racing who have solid strength across the board, and then a few with strong weapons in single disciplines. For me, I’ve got to make sure I’m thinking about myself - what can I do to use my strengths to the best of my ability and not get caught up in what others are doing.

ST: Looking ahead to being just about a month out from T100 Singapore, your first race of the season, how has training been going?

Gentle: Training has been pretty good. My first race of the season will be T100 Singapore, and even though that’s six weeks away, I know that time will go by quickly. I’m currently coached by David Tilbury-Davis, as well.

I've been training at home here in Brisbane, Australia and we've had a brutal summer - in between bursts of rain we’ve had overwhelming heat and humidity. I can’t complain because I would rather train in the heat than the cold, but it’s still been quite tough at times - feels like I’ve been living in a sauna for four months.

January in particular was tough with the weather and it was one of those situations where a lot of my training was based on feel.I couldn't really go by pace or power because if I was trying to hit certain paces all of January in the heat, I would've completely cooked myself and derailed a lot of my training block, which would've had a negative effect during the season. So, this training block has been a funny one.

It's been a bit of a slog, but there's been a few days which have been a bit more bearable and I kind of can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I can see the work that I've put in over the course of the months. I can see that the work is paying off and I think when it cools down a bit and I've got a bit of freshness I'll see the work that I've been doing and know that it’s starting to add up.

ST: Who are your sponsors for the 2024 season?

Gentle: I'm really lucky the last two years I've been able to establish a great team around me. The two new players this year are WYN Republic and On Running.

With WYN, it's amazing to be sponsored by a company based in Noosa - a short drive from Brisbane - and founded by two athletes, Beth and Luke McKenzie that I know care about the athletes that they sponsor. I know that they're going to really support me during the year as an athlete but also a person.

The same goes for On, I signed with them earlier this year for a couple of years and yeah, that's a super exciting one. I was with ASICS for nearly a decade. It was one of those things where it was time for a change and I can see what On is doing to support athletes globally, which is what I need as an Aussie who's a bit of a nomad when I head up to the northern hemisphere for the racing.

I'm still riding Scott and this is my third year with them. They did that custom paint job on my bike for me during the back half of last year and that was special; it's not often that you get something like that from such a big company like that.

Additionally, SRAM - they've literally seen me through all aspects of my career as an athlete just starting out in the World Series circuit, a couple of Olympics, a couple of Commonwealth Games, and then supporting me with the transition over to middle to long distance racing. It's companies like SRAM and my other partner Oakley that have stuck with me for so long that make me appreciate the partnership all the more because they’ve seen me through all the highs and lows of my career and still decided to stick with me.

I also have great support from The Feed - again as a more nomadic athlete it’s incredibly helpful to know that I can get the nutrition and fuel I need, when and where I need it. Orca will also be supporting me from a swim standpoint this year and I am immensely grateful.

As an athlete, you don't always get the best results, that’s just how it goes. With all of my sponsors, I feel that they are all going to support me no matter what, and it makes me proud to represent them and more motivated than ever to do my best on and off the race course to represent them in the ways they deserve.

ST: Alright, time for some fun questions to end on - rapid fire-style. Ready?

Gentle: Ready.

ST: Dog or cat?

Gentle: Oh gosh, cat? Neither really, I choose Australian wildlife every time!

ST: Sweet or savory?

Gentle: Sweet.

ST: Mountains or ocean?

Gentle: Oh. This is hard. Mountains. No, ocean. Ocean? Yeah, ocean. I’m going with ocean.

ST: Favorite color?

Gentle: Purple.

ST: Walkout song for PTO series?

Gentle: Thunderstruck by AC/DC.

ST: Favorite post-race or post-training snack?

Gentle: I know I said I prefer sweets, but after a race or training session, I crave salt. Something like chips is my go-to snack.

This Australian wildlife-loving, ocean-preferring, number two in the world triathlete will line up for her first race of the season at the T100 Singapore race on April 14.