Brownlee, Duffy claim WTS Stockholm crown
by Erin Greene/ITU
After an impressive performance that saw her race on her own in both the bike and run legs, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy was able to finally capture her first-ever World Triathlon Series title at the 2016 Vattenfall World Triathlon Stockholm. Her debut WTS gold also guaranteed her spot as the current leader in the Columbia Threadneedle rankings.
Speaking on earning her first WTS gold Duffy said, “I have been trying and trying to win one of these and today when I was out there on the front of the bike I had no idea how it was going to play out. But I got off and felt strong on the run and just ran as best as I could. But obviously it is a bit scary with Helen and Andrea chasing me.”
“I managed to ride a bit more controlled today, I have learned from Leeds. It is so much more technical here and that is my strength, so I just tried to gain as much time as I could in the technical sections and then ride smooth for any straightaways. It was just how it worked out to ride solo. I came out of the swim with a few girls and I was hoping they would come up behind on my wheel but they didn’t and then I was in no-mans land, so there were times where I was questioning what I was doing out there, but I just stuck to my plan and it worked out today.”
The silver medal went to New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt, who earned her second WTS medal of the season by an uphill sprint finish over Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins, who finished with the bronze.
“The course is really tough, there are a lot of turns. That first lap on the bike was a bit sketchy just getting around some of the corners and the run with the cobbles, it was a difficult day,” said Hewitt. “It was crazy, Duffy had over a minute at one stage, and on the run I don’t think we put much time on her so she was the strongest today.”
The women’s roster was welcomed by choppy waters that rocked the starting pontoon. With a small start list that was stacked with huge talent, the sixth stop of the Series would begin with an anticipation of who could brave the difficult and strategic course ahead.
USA’s Katie Zaferes excelled in the tough water conditions, getting an early lead over the field. However, it was compatriot Sarah True, Japan’s Juri Ide and Duffy who were able to stay close behind Zaferes just a few seconds behind.
After the leading four entered through the first of two transition areas, Duffy wasted no time in taking advantage of her dominance on the bike, and pushed ahead to set her own pace. With True, Zaferes and Ide fading behind, Duffy was left to ride the nine-lap course alone.
While Duffy continued to increase her lead after each lap, reaching a gap of a minute at one point, the trio of True, Zaferes and Ide ended up being caught by a larger pack for a 15-strong chase.
Now as a group that included Hewitt, Vicky Holland (GBR), Jenkins, Nicky Samuels (NZL), Jodie Stimpson (GBR) Mari Rabie (RSA) and young Taylor Knibb (USA), they worked to cut into Duffy’s lead. In the second half of the cycle, while the group lost a few riders, including Stimpson who suffered from some GI distress and was forced to withdraw, a huge fifth lap saw them shave 10 seconds off the gap. That gap was down to just 15 seconds as the women headed into the second transition area, putting Duffy within reach.
However, Duffy showed no sign of weakness in her legs, and was able to surge on in the run to maintain her lead. While Hewitt and Jenkins nibbled away at the time distance on the final two laps, she never held them off long enough to get to the blue carpet first. Slowing only slightly for a few high fives, Duffy grabbed the winner’s tape for the first time in her elite career. The win from Duffy meant that she became the 17th female in the history of the Series to win a WTS title, while her home nation of Bermuda became the 10th country to also get the gold.
The rest of the podium was predicted in the final lap as Hewitt and Jenkins dropped Ide. The two ran stride for stride for the entire final lap, making it questionable who would get the silver. But it was Hewitt who had the last bit of energy in her legs to push ahead, sprinting up final hill to get second place. Jenkins would then earn the bronze for her third podium appearance this season.
“I am really happy to get on the podium today. I made life hard for myself, I had a terrible swim, but I felt good on the bike and on the run I just kind of hung in there, but I am really to come away with a podium,” said Jenkins. “Flora is so strong at the moment. I am actually really happy for her to get the win, I mean obviously I would like to, but she deserves it the way she raced today.”
Executing yet another phenomenal run, Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee recaptured the title at the 2016 Vattenfall World Triathlon Stockholm. First earning the crown in 2013, his winning performance meant that the Stockholm gold would return back to the Brownlee name as it has now been claimed by Alistair or younger brother Jonathan Brownlee four out of the five years.
Younger brother Jonathan Brownlee stayed on his hip until the final metres to claim silver while France’s Pierre Le Corre ran his way to bronze.
Alistair said of his race and fitness now getting closer to Rio, “It was tough, I mean it is a good course, it is technical. It was proper racing, you can make it difficult even when you are in a group. We did that, we tried to break it up a little bit and I think we did that. I felt good today, I definitely felt a step up from Leeds to be honest, well on my way to be to be well fit.”
“I felt good on the run, but then he started putting some digs in, but in first two kilometres I felt okay. I knew that my legs were not sparkly and feeling really zoomy, but I just thought that if I could toughen it out on the last kilometre really hard that would be my best chance.”
“I feel that overall, my overall triathlon performance has been good, I think I just need to run about a minute faster, which I think I can do in the next six weeks if I can move my running on about that much I will be at my best, and that will be my best possible chance at winning another Olympic medal.”
Sticking with Alistair right until the final metres, Jonny finished the day with silver, meaning the Brownlees have now gone 1-2 on the WTS podium six times. They have now also| shared the WTS podium a total of 11 times.
“I am pleased with how I felt, I thought I had a good chance at beating Alistair because I felt good on the run. We got through the first two laps and I thought, ‘well that five kilometres went really quickly’ and then on that last lap I heard him breathing hard, and obviously with us training together I know when he is trying to hurt. So I thought I would give it a go, but then he was just a little bit better than me today. I am a little disappointed because I thought I had a good chance at beating him today, but I will come back and try again,” said Jonny.
While the women had to endure choppy waters just a few hours before, the men were greeted to a calmer two-lap swim. Frenchman Raoul Shaw took the early lead heading up the first lap with a string of talent behind him. But by the end of the 1500 metres, it was Richard Varga (SVK) who bulldozed into the first transition zone as the leader.
Varga’s lead was only momentarily as the wave made their way through the transition zone and a group of 12 men formed together to start out the 9-lap cycle. The pack included both Brownlees, Fernando Alarza (ESP), Henri Schoeman (RSA), Dan Wilson (AUS), Jorgen Gunderson (NOR), Jonas Schomburg (TUR), Andreas Salvisburg (SUI), Aurelien Raphael (FRA) Le Corre, Varga, and Shaw.
Just off the pace was trio Andreas Schilling (DEN), Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and Gordon Benson (GBR), who worked vigorously to catch the leaders, a task that they accomplished midway.
While there were a few breakaway attempts, the peloton remained tight and entered the second transition zone bunched together, but with a sizeable 90-second advantage over the chase.
Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee seized the opportunity to catapult to the front two spots on the four-lap run.
Running side by side, it was clear that both brothers would once again be on the WTS podium together, but it was not a matter of who would get the gold and who would get the silver.
Behind them, Schoeman, Blummenfelt and Schomburg were running as a trio, gunning for the final podium spot. However, a negative split performance meant Le Corre came blasting past the group into the bronze medal position.
With one kilometre to go, it still was uncertain which of the Brownlee brothers would take the gold. However, in a final last-ditch effort, older brother Alistair jutted ahead of Jonny to hit the finish chute first. He captured his second consecutive WTS victory of the season and also his second WTS Stockholm title after first winning it back in 2013.
Jonny then followed suit just 10 seconds later to claim the silver medal and his fourth WTS medal of the season. Le Corre’s impressive run landed him his second WTS podium of his career.
“I could not believe that I could do this today. I was in training camp in high altitude, so I was really tired yesterday, so it is a surprise for me, but I think it is a good shot,” said Le Corre.
Another strong performance of the day went to Alarza, who earned 5th place, which was enough to move into the leader position in the ColumbiaThreadneedle Rankings over Spanish compatriot Mario Mola.
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