ITU Weekend: Murray, Holland Top in WTS Leeds; Sodaro, Gonzales win in Huatulco World Cup

by Doug Gray/ITU Media photos by Janos Schmidt: 

Richard Murray digs deep to earn magnificent gold in Leeds

A gutsy run from Richard Murray secured the South African his first-ever Olympic distance WTS gold in AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds on a steamy Sunday afternoon in the north of England. Murray put down the hammer on the first lap of the 10km run to carve out what proved to be an unassailable lead despite the best efforts of race no.1 Mario Mola. The Spaniard finished second after pulling away on the final lap from Vincent Luis of France who took the bronze.

“During the swim today I actually thought I should retire from triathlon,” said a smiling Murray after the race. “I was way behind the pack in the swim, it was really tough. But during the bike I started feeling better and by the run I felt pretty good”.

“I always look back too soon so this time I just wanted to focus 100% on my race, and I’m delighted with my first win over the Olympic distance.”

To nobody’s surprise, it was once again Richard Varga (SLO) who emerged first from the two-lap, 1500m swim on Waterloo Lake. More surprising was that Jonnathan Brownlee (GBR), Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Aaron Royle (AUS), all struggled to come to terms with the second lap and found themselves almost 15 seconds behind.

After one of his better swims, Mario Mola (ESP) was also well-positioned, but some trouble with his shoe in transition saw the Spaniard fall back further, while France’s Pierre le Corre strode out of T1 and mounted his bike in front as the athletes snaked out of Roundhay Park for the point-to-point section of the cycle.

With a train of 13 men working hard over those first kilometres of the bike course, the faster sections really allowed the athletes to gather up some momentum and hometown hero Jonny Brownlee was among those looking comfortable sharing the load alongside Henri Schoeman and Leo Bergere.

Things slowed down somewhat as the city section came into view and the first of the seven passes through transition in front of the grandstands on Millennium Square as the leaders sought to avoid any congestion trouble on the testing technical section.

Aware of that, the chasing bunch only needed a couple of laps to swallow the leading pack. Henri Schoeman and Leo Bergere made their move and pushed for some breathing space, carving a 16 second lead only to then be swallowed back up by the likes of Richard Murray (RSA), Ben Kanute (USA) and Dorian Coninx (FRA). At the same time, the crowd was left speechless as their idol Jonny Brownlee dropped back and then eventually retired from the race.

By the time the leaders had negotiated T2 it was Richard Murray who had daylight out in front, and it was a lead that he never looked like wanting to relinquish. By the halfway point of the 10km the South African had nearly 20 seconds over Mario Mola who himself found the strength to pull away from Vincent Luis. From there on, that was how the race lead played out, and Richard Murray shrugged off the Mola pressure and took the WTS tape for the first time over the Olympic distance.

“I had a beginner’s mistake today,” said Mario Mola. “I Jumped on my bike and when I hit the pedal it hit the floor so I had to get down and fix it. Luckily I had a very good swim so I was able to get in the second pack. From then, I just kept working and today the effort paid off. Congratulations to Richard, he was really strong today. I really liked the course, it’s tough but I liked it.”

“I haven’t had a very consistent season until now,” said Vincent Luis. “I was on the podium in Abu Dhabi then I had a DNF in Bermuda, but I worked hard before this one and I’m happy with third so now I’m looking forward to the next races. The crowds were amazing here. Last year it was insane with Ali and Jonny racing, but even this year we felt so supported, I just want to thank the crowds for what they do for us.”

The full men’s results can be found here

Vicky Holland brings home the gold after thrilling Leeds display

Sunday afternoon in the sun-kissed city of Leeds saw Vicky Holland of Great Britain deliver one of the performances of her career to earn a tough third WTS gold in front of a delirious crowd of 70,000 fans. The win caps a strong first half of the year for Holland, who finished second in Bermuda and fourth in the Commonwealth Games. Teammate Georgia Taylor-Browne came home second to secure a first ever World Series podium, with USA’s Katie Zaferes finishing third.

“That was the toughest podium so far for me. It was a yo-yo of a race and I don’t really know how but I managed to end up on top,” said Holland after her first WTS win since 2015.

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“I had a fantastic start but ended up in no-man’s land, so I take my hat off to Sophie and Georgia who were so strong on the bikes. It was a war of attrition but I somehow came out on top. It’s been nearly three years since I won a big race and I wasn’t sure that I would ever stand on top of a big podium like this again.”

With no Flora Duffy in the starting line-up in the 2018 AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds the opportunity was there for the likes of race number-one Katie Zaferes to seize the reigns, and it looked like she would do exactly that after an excellent swim saw the American exit just behind GB’s Jessica Learmonth. Right there too were USA’s Taylor Spivey and Summer Cook, as a small lead group began the long point-to-point through the Leeds countryside and back into the city centre.

The trio of Zaferes, Learmonth and Spivey then threatened to develop a more sizeable advantage as they hit the fastest part of the course down into Headingley, with a 51-second window opened between them and the chase pack. The likes of Rachel Klamer and Italy’s Alice Betto were going well at the head of that large group which Summer Cook had by now fallen to the back of.

As the riders headed into the technical twists and turns of the 7-lap city course, it began to look like Zaferes might struggle to keep up with Learmonth in her first taste of the challenging Leeds course, while the Brit, who already finished in the top 10 twice here, knew its eccentricities well and had the crowd right with her.

The effort had clearly taken a toll on the leaders, however, and with two laps to go the pack began to draw ever closer, before T2 eventually saw a swarm of athletes pour through together, led out by GB’s Sophie Coldwell and Georgia Taylor-Brown.

The runners then became more spread out, Coldwell taking the initiative and pushing Katie Zaferes hard, but after the first of four laps it was Vicky Holland who began to close in. Holland then led at the halfway stage and opened up a six-second gap from Taylor-Brown as the American again fell back.

By the end of the fourth and final lap, Holland was able to relax and soak up the crowd’s adoration, celebrating a GB one-two as Taylor-Brown crossed the line before a gutsy third place for Katie Zaferes saw her finish the day as Series leader.

“That was amazing. So tough, but the crowd was amazing and I just wanted to do well for them,” said Georgia Taylor-Brown of her first WTS podium. “We worked really well as a team today and Jodie was amazing. I didn’t think we’d catch the chase group in town but we worked really well and rode smoothly.

“I think that was my toughest podium yet for sure”, said Katie Zaferes afterwards. “There were so many stages that I could have been done. I didn’t feel great on the bike and the technical sections were hard. My legs felt awful getting off the bike, but coming out as Series number one is a pretty good birthday present!”

Full women’s results can be found here


Sodaro (USA) and Gonzalez (MEX) win first time Huatulco World Cup golds

by Chelsea White/ITU Media Photos by Wagner Araujo:

In the 10th edition of the Huatulco ITU World Cup, two new faces brushed the top of the event podium as the United State’s Chelsea Sodaro claimed her first World Cup win of her career in the women’s race. While on the men’s side Mexico’s own Rodrigo Gonzalez wowed his home nation crowd by winning the event for the first time by a dominating run performance.

The seventh-stop of the 2018 season and the sixth sprint-distance race was a fast and furious event as the heat, speed and electric atmosphere made for an exciting day of triathlon that crowds two new champions and saw three new athletes reach the World Cup podium for the very first time.

Women’s Review
The women lined up early in the morning on Sunday to kick off the day of back-to-back sprint-distance races in Huatulco. The starting line began on the sand as the women entered the ocean from the beach with only one 750-metre swim to complete.

Helen Carvelho (POR) exited the water first, but her gap was only a few seconds and the rest of the field followed her into the first transition.

Once onto the bike a larger pack formed tallying over 20 women that included Sodaro, Deborah Lynch (NZE), Beatriz Neres(BRA) and the number one and two on the start list Vendula Frintova (CZE) and Lisa Perterer (AUT). With little change over the four, five-kilometres long laps, the leaders only increased their lead over a small chase pack of four that trailed behind.

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Huatulco is infamous for its sunny skies and hot conditions, so as the large group made its way through the second transition, the podium would go to the woman with the freshest legs and who could outstand the heat.

After 2.5 kilometres into the run Sodaro, Frintova, Lynch grouped together and gave a glimpse of a potential podium. However, in the bell lap Frintova succumbed to the conditions and pulled out of the race. With Sodaro’s running background, the final discipline is her strength so she pushed it in gear in the final kilometre to break away and make it into the finish chute to grab the tape and earn her first-career World Cup win.

Sodaro’s background in ITU triathlon started just last year, so to begin a sport and then win a World Cup only a year later is a remarkable feat.

“The weather was a determining factor. I think the people who raced the smartest today were the ones who got the results, I just tried to conserve for as long as I could,” Sodaro said. “First podium, first win I am just so proud of my gold, for my health and the opportunity to be doing this.”

Lynch finished second, also earning a personal best debut World Cup podium. While a similar story went to Brazil’s Neres whose third place also treated her to a first-time World Cup medal.

Men’s Review
A large start list of 66 men toed the sandy beach of Huatulco for a chance at claiming the seventh ITU World Cup of the 2018 season.

Diving over the shoreline waves to start the swim, the short course wasn’t enough to break up the field for any frontrunner movements. Although Germany’s Linus Stimmel climbed back onto the beach first, he was moments ahead of a large chaotic swim exit of almost the entire men’s roster.

Gonzalez found himself in the middle of the pack exiting the swim but made up for it in a quick transition.

The Huatulco bike course is on the flatter side, with only a slight incline in the first kilometre. In the first two laps of cycling, the field was split between two large packs of over 20 men. However, the gap between the two packs was only about 10 seconds and by the time the third lap was introduced, the two pelotons had formed to create a 53-man strong group that would enter the second transition together.

With that many bikes and bodies entering T2 all at once, the strategy of gaining an advantage was crucial to those who could transition quickly and get out of the chaos.

That advantage came to Gonzalez as he led into T2 and did a quick change to be the first man on the run.

The run of the men’s race saw some leadership opportunities. Gonzalez right off the bat blasted ahead of the field and created enough space that he could charge forward without any threats. He grabbed onto the lead and never let go. With the help of cheering fans, Gonzalez only increased his lead and soared onto the blue carpet to grab his first-ever Huatulco World Cup win. Making it a meaningful victory as well as Gonzalez competed in Huatulco in 2008 but was lapped out of the competition. Now, exactly ten years later he returned to the same venue to seize gold.

“I am really happy, I was thinking in the morning when I woke up that this was my first World Cup back in 2008 and actually I was lapped at that time. So it is really excited to back ten years after and win this race, because it was a race I could not win before and I am excited to win in front of a home crowd,” Gonzalez said.

The battle for the remaining two spots on the podium was on between a group of nine men including Manoel Messias (BRA), Diogo Sclebin (BRA), Juan Jose Andrade Figueroa (ECU), Cesar Saracho (MEX), William Huffman (USA), Felix Duchampt (FRA), Abraham Rodriguez Moreno (MEX), Edson Gomez Ruiz (MEX) and Jesus Gomar (GEO).

It was the Brazilians who came out ahead in the final lap to claim the silver and bronze. Messias came second for a career-best World Cup finish and Sclebin took third who also had a career-best finish and stepped onto the World Cup podium for the very first time.

Another strong milestone finish was from Andrade Figueroa, a member of the ASICS World Triathlon Team, who had a personal-best fourth place.

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