Chengdu ITU Triathlon World Cup: Rodrigo Gonzalez and Summer cook takes the win

In a quite remarkable performance in how to risk it all and race from the front, Rodrigo Gonzalez (MEX) won gold at the 2016 ITU Chengdu World Cup today, in the process earning a career first podium at World Cup level and improving his chances of a start at the Rio Olympic Games.

The Mexican was sporting the biggest smile in China as he crossed the line 27 seconds ahead of Rostyslav Pevtsov (AZE) with Marten Van Riel (BEL) a further four seconds back in the bronze medal position after the two had outsprinted a large chase pack in the final metres.

Van Riel led the non-wetsuit swim (water temperature 20.8 degrees Celsius) at a pace that clearly was taking a toll as the field strung out behind him and Zheng Xu (CHN), Vladimir Turbayevskiy (RUS), Ji Hwan Kim (KOR) and Luke Willian (AUS) as they exited the water and made the long run to transition.

Initially a small group of eight riders broke away but they were quickly reeled in by the large main group, only for Gonzalez and Kohei Tsubaki (JPN) to counter attack on lap two and edge away. The two worked superbly together to establish a lead of 1:13 out of T2.

It was Gonzalez who showed real intent as he flashed through and out of transition to quickly take control of the race, leaving Tsubaki to do his best to hold on to the flying Mexican, an effort that would quickly be in vain as a large chase group closed on the Japanese athlete, but could make little impression on the flying Mexican.

Gonzalez was positively beaming at the finish as he contemplated his achievement, surpassing his previous best of 4th place in Edmonton 2013.

“This is very important, a very happy moment for me in my life, I have been near the podium in past occasions, in Edmonton I was fourth but I was third for the whole race and only passed in the closing stages by Ivanov so I missed the podium that time.

“I knew it was a matter of time to get this podium and hopefully at the top, I am very happy especially now with the pressure of Olympic qualification, this result recovers third spot for my country and while I think it is a matter of keeping it for the next three races and racing smartly. Even if I don’t make it to the Olympics I am very happy for my country and I hope that this is the first of many more to come.

“I just took the risk today and with Tsubaki we rode so strongly and looked to establish a big lead and then on the run I was very comfortable and enjoyed the finish this time, I am so happy, I want to say thank you to all my supporters, here and back home in Mexico, I am so proud today.”

Pevtsov was delighted at another podium, backing up his fourth in Mooloolaba and bronze in New Plymouth World Cups already this year and repeating his silver medal performance in Chengdu last year.

“I am very happy today, another strong race and not the win, but I am happy again to be on the podium and my form continues to be good, I felt strong today and enjoy Chengdu, my favourite race now.”

Van Riel was equally thrilled at a career first World Cup podium and was full in his praise of Gonzalez and his approach to the race.

“They (Tsubaki and Gonzalez) made it, in our group nobody wanted to work and Rodrigo had a nice lead on the run but he was strong to keep it and congratulations to Rodrigo. For me now I think I am almost qualified for Rio, before this year it was difficult because I had a bad crash in Yokohama last year so I was in a bad place before the season, but now I am doing my best performances in my career, so yes, I think I can get there.”

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Young Matthew Baker (AUS) finished in the unlucky fourth place in a mad cap dash to the line, with a large chase group of seven athletes battling for the minor placings and vital ranking points. Next home were Gonzalo Raul Tellechea (ARG), Luke Willian (AUS), Ron Darmon (ISR) and Thomas Springer (AUT), with just 11 seconds covering second to 8th place.

Conditions had proved perfect for racing, starting with a relatively cool 17 degrees Celsius and rising to 24 degrees by the end of the race distance. Conditions were calm and racing played out in front of the now typically huge crowds in Jintang, with thousands lining the course and the transition / finish line area.

Elite Men

1. Rodrigo Gonzalez MEX MX 01:49:03
2. Rostyslav Pevtsov AZE AZ 01:49:29
3. Marten Van Riel BEL BE 01:49:33
4. Matthew Baker AUS AU 01:49:34
5. Gonzalo Raul Tellechea ARG AR 01:49:35
6. Luke Willian AUS AU 01:49:37
7. Ron Darmon ISR IL 01:49:39
8. Thomas Springer AUT AT 01:49:41
9. Raphael Montoya FRA FR 01:49:49
10. Aurélien Lescure TUR TR 01:49:53


Women’s race

As with the men’s race, it was a first time ITU World Cup winner in the women’s with Summer Cook (USA) taking gold ahead of Claire Michel (BEL) and Lisa Perterer (AUT) at the 2016 ITU Chengdu World Cup.

After a mass exit off the bike leg, Cook was clearly the strongest runner in the field, moving clear of a cramping Michel at the 5km mark to win by 37 seconds, with another 19 seconds back to Perterer – winning the bronze medal courtesy of a sprint finish ahead of Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR), on a perfect day in Jintang county, Chengdu.

A Russian dominated lead group of eight established a 17-second lead out of the water with Anastasia Abrosimova, Valentina Zapatrina and Anastasia Gorbunova to the fore, along with Cook (USA), Gaia Peron(TUR), Cecilia Flores (MEX) and the Chinese pair of Mengying Zhong and Xiaoting Ma going clear of the field.

But unlike the earlier men’s race, no one was able to lead or manage a breakaway, with the field eventually coming together in one large bunch of 36 on the fourth lap of six on the bike, in the process throwing the likes of Michel, Perterer, Yelistratova (UKR) and Agnieszka Jerzyk (POL) a lifeline after trailing out of the water.

The final two laps on the 6.67km bike circuit were largely controlled with the only jostling coming in the final approach to T2 as leading athletes looked to gain vital seconds through transition and onto the run leg.

Cook and Michel proved the strongest as they edged clear on the run, the margin a reasonably small 10 seconds at the end of the first 2.5km lap, but late on lap two Cook turned up the heat to move six seconds clear of Michel, with the chasers led by Perterer and Yelistratova now falling away, albeit in a tight tussle themselves for the bronze medal.

The American controlled the final lap expertly to notch a career first World Cup win and was understandably delighted with the gold medal.

“I am really happy, this just validates all the work I put in over the winter, I am very excited at all the hard work paying off and continuing to work just as hard moving forward. Today was the first time I was able to execute some of those things I have been working on and so happy that I was able to back it up with my best result ever.

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“I raced here last year and there was a pack of 60 girls off the bike and I expected the same here again this year, finding good position going into T2 was the one of the few things I didn’t execute well though! But I positioned myself better towards the front of the bike and am confident moving forward I am taking big steps.”

Cook said the move at the halfway mark on the run was a planned move, one that proved gold medal worthy.

“It was a conscious decision, I am confident in my run training coming in here and I wanted to just go out and give myself the best opportunity to have my best result. Crossing the line was really exciting, it was one of the moments I have been training for.”

Michel won bronze in 2014 and was thrilled at her good form and the positive implications for her Rio Olympics bid.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time, I had a really hard start to the season and with these races in the final stages of the Olympic qualification period, so it couldn’t have come at a better time, I am really happy. I know I am fighting for one of those last spots (for Rio), in 2015 I had injuries throughout the season and missed at least half a dozen races so I am playing catch up and racing against the clock, this is great.”

Michel was fighting just to stay with Cook and when the American made her move, she had no choice not to follow.

“I was having some cramps so those last two laps were just up here in my head, the physical was what it was. I just tried to keep the gap as low as possible, that was all I could do.

“Two Belgians on the podium (with Marten Van Riel winning bronze in the men’s), we are pretty excited!”

Perterer continued her busy season (racing every WTS and WC event in 2016) with a bronze medal, hard earned in the sprint finish with Yelistratova.

“I am really happy, I have had so many races and after the flight to China I felt really sick but we said I would try and start. The swim I felt good but at 20 degrees I was struggling a lot with the temperature but I could push a lot on the bike and with some girls in our group we pushed really hard to catch the first group.

“The run was just surviving for me today, the sprint I finished strong. I was a little angry that I was running in front all the time but this gives me more motivation to sprint, I did not have the energy to push the pace earlier, but I know I can sprint and did it.”

Yelistratova finished in fourth behind Perterer, with Julia Hauser the second Austrian home in the top five to round out a good day for the Austrians and Belgians in particular.

Elite Women

1. Summer Cook USA US 02:00:06
2. Claire Michel BEL BE 02:00:42
3. Lisa Perterer AUT AT 02:01:02
4. Yuliya Yelistratova UKR UA 02:01:06
5. Julia Hauser AUT AT 02:01:20
6. Anastasia Abrosimova RUS RU 02:01:28
7. Miriam Casillas García ESP ES 02:01:41
8. Valentina Zapatrina RUS RU 02:01:44
9. Elena Danilova RUS RU 02:01:48
10. Yi Zhang CHN CN 02:01:53
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