The World Triathlon Series Grand Final had it all, thrills, spills and controversial decisions. The racing started on Thursday and lasted throughout the weekend treating us to some fast, furious and nail biting racing. HUUB athletes were out in force and brought home four World Championship medals to finish off a very successful season. Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was Georgia Taylor-Brown in her first year as a senior athlete finishing the season ranked third in the World, we can certainly expect a lot more to come from the talented young British athlete.
We are used to seeing the women's field strung out and sometimes with a gap of over one minute from the front pack to the chase, however by the end of the 1500m swim, around 40 athletes were split by a mere 30 seconds. HUUB’s Jessica Learmonth (GBR) lead the way, but the strong winds and choppy waters prevented her from obliterating the field as usual, either that or there were some tactics at play! Despite the tightly packed field, we didn’t see one large pack take on the 38km bike course together, but three smaller packs formed and it was clear to see that all three were determined and working well. Eventually, the two chase packs formed and by the end of the bike had caught the leading group of athletes. This meant that around 30 athletes all entered T2 together, something we have not seen all year.
Going into the final race of the season, it was always going to be a battle between Vicky Holland (GBR) and Katie Zaferes (USA) to decide the world title and with both athletes safely in the main bunch, it was set to be an exhilarating final 10k run. Holland hit the run first and looked intent on breaking the field straight away, however, Zaferes and Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) soon caught up with her, and it was then, in fact, Holland who looked under pressure as she dropped off the pace. For just under two laps it seemed as if the American would reign supreme, but Holland clawed herself back into contention, it was then Zaferes's turn to feel the pressure as she gradually started to fade. Gentle prevailed in the sprint finish with Holland, but second place and more importantly finishing ahead of the Zaferes was enough for Holland to claim the world title. Zaferes finished 30 seconds back.
Georgia Taylor-Brown finished back in 8th place but had done enough to end the year ranked 3rd in the series, a phenomenal achievement for the 24-year-old. Jesscia Learmonth finished in 11th with The World Triathlon Series grand final had it all, thrills, spills and controversial decisions. The racing started on Thursday and lasted throughout the weekend treating us to some fast, furious and nail biting racing. HUUB athletes were out in force and brought home five World Championship medals to finish off a very successful season. Perhaps the highlight of the weekend was Georgia Taylor-Brown in her first year as a senior athlete finishing the season ranked third in the World, we can certainly expect a lot more to come from the talented young British athlete.
Similarly to the women's races, the conditions were challenging in the water, and the swim soon became one of the most violent ones we have seen, with numerous incidents happening around many of the buoys. Controversially Alistair Brownlee (GBR) and Russel White (IRL) were both penalised and eventually disqualified for going the wrong side of the buoy. It was clear both athletes had been at the centre of the troubles around the buoys, and both were visibly disorientated when the incident occurred. The officials eventually upgraded a 15 second time penalty to a DSQ. HUUB's Richard Varga (SVK) led out of the water, closely followed by Vincent Luis (FRA), Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Jonny Brownlee (GBR).
There was initially a small lead pack on the bike, but Luis hit the deck on one of the dead turns causing the small lead pack to fragment, and through the efforts of Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and his compatriot Casper Stornes (NOR) the gap soon closed. Martin Van Riel (BEL) remained out in the lead, and behind him, the group was strung out in pursuit. In similarities to Montreal WTS, Blummenfelt clearly intent on breaking away took the race in his hands and bridged across to Van Riel, the pair worked seamlessly together and established a good lead on the rest of the field. Unfortunately, Van Riel dropped his chain with 1km to and all but lost his lead.
Blummenfelt entered T2 with just over 30 seconds on his main rivals. Mario Mola (ESP), Richard Murray (RSA), Pierre LeCorre (FRA), Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS), Luis, Schoeman and Jonny Brownlee led the charge to catch the Norwegian athlete. The pace looked frantic, and one by one athletes dropped off, and Blummenfelt was reeled in by the halfway mark.
Eventually, it was down to Luis, Mola and Murray and it was Luis who made the first move seemingly breaking the elastic. It proved one victory too much for Mola as Luis delivered a 29.44 10km to claim back to back Grand Final victories. Mola finished in 2nd, enough to claim his third world title in a row, with Murray in 3rd. Blummenfelt finished in 5th, with Schoeman 6th, Jonny Brownlee 8th, Stornes 19th, Bishop 23rd, Varga 36th and van der Stel in 43rd.