Olympic Champion Kristian Blummenfelt surges into the history books with World Title in Edmonton

Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt underlined his status as the greatest triathlete on the planet right now with a consummate performance in Edmonton on Saturday afternoon to take both the gold and the 2021 world title, the first man to do so in the same year as winning the Olympic Games.

Marten Van Riel (BEL) had piled on the pressure thanks to a great three-way break on the bike along with 2020 champion Vincent Luis and Hungary’s Mark Devay, but Blummenfelt had driven on the large chasing train for much of the 40km ride to ensure he was still well in touch out onto the 10km run.

With his main challenger for the title Alex Yee a good 90 seconds back off the bike, the Norwegian stayed patient for 8km then timed his surge to perfection, just as he had in Tokyo, Van Riel and Leo Bergere (FRA) ensuring a grandstand finish as the three summoned an almighty sprint for the line, Blummenfelt roaring in celebration, the Belgian taking silver by a whisker. That also meant the Series silver for Van Riel, while Yee was able to run his way into 11th in the race and overall bronze.

“It has been a really good year I must say”, said the modest Olympic and World Champion. “Before this season I was calculating I was getting old and I had no titles. Now I’m Olympic Champion and World Champion! When I saw Alex Yee was in the second pack I thought I’d just drive the train on and not let Marten get away. That was the focus, but Marten was so strong on the run as well and I didn’t think I’d take the win. I just tried to pick up the pace and make sure there were never three places between me and Marten to guarantee the title.”

As the race got underway in Edmonton’s Hawrelak Park, Vincent Luis, Mark Devay and Marten Van Riel had carved out a real gap after the first lap of the 1.5km swim and the French star continued to force the pace and ask the question of those behind as they approached shore for the second time and the athletes started to think of the 40km bike ahead.

Van Riel was having a look behind to check the gap to the chasers that included Kristian Blummenfelt who had already put in a good gap over nearest challenger for the title, Alex Yee. It was 15 seconds from Luis to Tayler Reid and Dorian Coninx, 35 seconds to the Norwegian, 45 seconds to Jacob Birwhistle and now 50 seconds off Luis was Yee.

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Training partners Luis and Van Riel were enjoying themselves out front, the Belgian pushing the bike hard while further back Birtwhistle and Yee were joined by Hayden Wilde (NZL) and Kenji Nener trying to close up the 30 second gap to Blummenfelt’s group of 17, themselves 30 seconds from Luis, Van Riel and Devay.

Blummenfelt was a man on a mission alongside Antonio Serrat Seoane and though they weren’t making major inroads to the leaders, they were putting 5-10 seconds into Yee’s group with each passing lap, 45 seconds in all at the 20km mark of the bike.

On lap five, Blummenfelt was still camped on the front of his group and pressing towards the leaders with even more urgency but at the bell that gap was still 24 seconds, Yee and Wilde now a further 70 seconds back.

After one final effort to close in, Van Riel looked up to see Blummenfelt, Reid, Adrien Briffod and Seth Rider among the names pouring into T2, then Japan’s Takumi Hojo, who had also served a time penalty in T1, was suddenly closing down the Belgian at the start of the run. Yee also had a great transition knowing he now had 10km to try and make up 90 seconds on Blummenfelt if he was to win the world title.

Devay and Luis dropped back as Seoane and then Briffod took turns out front and the Olympic champion moved into what became a front group of seven as Rider pulled up to them. Bergere then made it eight as Luis drew back tantalisingly close to the leaders.

Yee gained 12 seconds on lap one and a further 10 on lap two, the group of eight still all going well together driven on by Briffod and 45 seconds ahead at the bell. Shortly after, though, it was time for Blummenfelt’s first surge to test who could go with him. Hojo and Seoane were first off the back, then a second surge dropped Reid and Rider.

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Briffod was then dropped with 500m to go, now only Bergere and Van Riel hanging tough on the shoulder of the Norwegian. As Blummenfelt gritted one last time it was Bergere looking like he could stay with him, but Van Riel then came back strong so as the Olympic Champion became World Champion, it was silver to the Belgian and Bergere earned a second successive nail-biting bronze.

Seth Rider had a terrific fourth, Adrien Briffod in fifth, Dorian Coninx, Tayler Reid, Antonio Serrat Seoane, Takumi Hojo and last year’s champion Vincent Luis rounding out the top ten.

Marten Van Riel (BEL)
“I’m super happy to finally be on the podium and that was super close to first, but I put it all out there, went all in on the bike with Vincent and Mark and couldn’t have done more. Second in the Series is a huge bonus. I thought there would be more of a gap into transition, then I looked and they were only ten seconds back. I left a little in the tank though so I still had a lot in the legs for the second 5km and grow into the run.”

Alex Yee (GBR)
“Today wasn’t my best day, no excuses I just didn’t swim well enough but gave it everything I had and fought to the end and I get to end the year on the podium with these guys which is great. You never know what is going to happen so I didn’t hold back, but it was just great to be back out racing again.”

Leo Bergere (FRA)
“Emma Lombardi and Leonie Periault inspired me today. I was feeling good on the run and in control of the situation, hoping for a sprint finish. Coming so close to the victory is frustrating but I’m happy with the podium, though finishing third has just left me wanting more and I have to step up my game a little bit. The 2021 season might be over but the new one starts soon in Hamburg and I’m still feeling fresh so looking forward to the next races to come.”

For the full results, click here.

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