The ITU Mixed Relay at Nottingham kicked off a busy weekend of international racing in the UK, and it was a near perfect start for the British team, featuring HUUB’s own Jonny Brownlee and Tom Bishop, alongside Non Stanford and Vicky Holland.
Nottingham was the first of six qualifying races for the relay event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. With this now being included in the Olympic programme, new qualifying criteria for the individual and relay event have been put in place this year. Countries now need to perform across the individual and team events to earn their quota of spots for the Olympics at Tokyo. The race format was 300m, 7.5km, 1.5km for each athlete going female, male, female, male. Team orders were decided two hours before the race start, meaning the race was a very tactical affair!
The French and USA teams took an early lead in the first leg with a chasing pack of four teams including GBR. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) gave the French a bit of breathing space after the run leaving Pierre Le Corre (FRA) to go ahead solo on the second leg, chased by a hungry Tom Bishop (GBR) with the New Zealand and USA teams in his wake. Despite a determined effort by the Derby athlete, Le Corre managed to stay out ahead in the lead which he carried through to leg three. It was during this leg when the USA team made their move, in the 300m swim and first of two laps on the bike Katie Zaferes managed to overhaul the French athlete and forge on alone. The French athlete joined back in with the chase pack where Vicky Holland was going for GBR.
Into the final leg, and team USA has roughly 20 seconds to the chasing group. Jonny Brownlee got a slight gap alongside Ryan Baille (AUS) who had been brought back into the race by Ashleigh Gentle in the previous leg. With the rain starting to come down Brownlee used his supreme bike handling skills and strength to drop the Australian athlete, but was unable to claw back much time on team USA. Onto the run and the gap looked too big for Brownlee to close. Team USA went on to claim the first victory in the relay qualification races, GBR finished second, with France coming out on top amongst the chase group.
It was a great day of racing which featured many age group athletes and youngsters taking part in races throughout the afternoon, topped off with some fast and furious racing by the elites along the Nottingham embankment. The race motorcyclists added to the drama, with some claiming a bit of drafting was going on up at the front of the race, however, that didn’t stop the race from being an enthralling event to watch. Many other HUUB athletes lined up in one of the 18 teams present at the relays, a lot using the short event as a sharpener for Leeds WTS this Sunday.
Leeds WTS provides the next instalment of ITU racing in the UK, and as one of the toughest races on the circuit, it will be an exciting event to watch. Last year we saw Alistair and Jonny Brownlee dominate the men's race and in the women's Flora Duffy (BER) did the same. With Alistair absent this year, the competition is less predictable. Jonny will want the breakaway around the technical course in the city centre, and there will be others hoping for similar, such as Henri Schoeman (RSA), Tom Bishop (GBR) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR). But a lot of athletes are finding answers to the breakaway, and it’s not as certain as it once was.
Yokohama WTS was a while ago now, so it has given many athletes a bit of time to refocus and get in some quality training. We will no doubt see a lot of athletes in peak condition ready to tackle the streets of Leeds. HUUB will be hoping for success with many athletes present at the fourth round of the WTS. Hopefully we will see fireworks!