Rotterdam was the culmination of a long season for many athletes. For the senior elites it was the Grand Final of the World Triathlon Series and was worth one and a half times points towards the end of season world rankings. For the Juniors and U23’s it was the more conventional one off World Championships so a lot was riding on that one race, with many athletes needing a good race to guarantee funding for the following season. This was also the World Championships for the paratriathletes, as well as the thousands of age group athletes that descended upon the streets of Rotterdam.
As you would expect this was the most competitive round of the WTS, with all the big names of the sport taking to the start line. And, as in all of my other race reports, it is almost needless to say that Flora Duffy (BER) was the Womens race favourite, even disregarding the course and weather conditions. The field was soon split in the swim by the efforts of Jessica Learmonth (GBR), only a handful of athletes could keep up with her; Duffy, Routier (ESP) and the American trio of Zaferes, Spivey and Cook. Coming out of the water the group had a gap of around 15 seconds and that soon extended in the first few kilometres of the wet and technical bike course. The swift pace even split up the front group and the rather familiar trio of Learmonth, Duffy and Zaferes forged ahead leaving the remaining three to fall back to the chase pack. Key names in the second pack were Betto (ITA), Klamer (NED), Brown (CAN), Spivey (USA) and Stimpson (GBR), the last of whom was on team orders, and was told not to chase. Key contenders missing were Gentle (AUS) and Hewitt (NZL) who were in the pack behind. Heading out of T2 it was clear Duffy would win her sixth WTS race of 2017, and with Learmonth looking like she was struggling with a calf issue, it was a comfortable second place for Zaferes. Gentle managed to run herself up to sixth place to save her second place in the WTS rankings. And Zaferes’s result on the day secured her third place in the 2017 series.
With the enormous amount of racing opportunities for elite athletes, there is rarely an event where all the big names of ITU turn up to one event. However luckily for us, the Grand Final is an exception. Arguably the only star missing in the Mens field was the infamous Alistair Brownlee. There was perhaps no out and out favourite so it was certainly going to be an interesting affair. As you would expect, HUUB’s Richard Varga (SVK) lead out the swim once again, closely followed by Schoeman (RSA) and Jonny Brownlee (GBR). A small group of around ten athletes formed coming out of T1 and going by recent races it looked inevitable that this was the selection of the day. However the course was perhaps too technical and wet for a group of even that size, and more suited to a smaller group of three to five athletes. A few laps in and the chase pack had bridged the gap, and if you thought this would cause the athletes to sit up and watch each other, you’d be wrong, the pack was rarely two abreast and the pace looked relentless, athletes were strung off the back at every turn on the course. HUUB was well represented in the likes of Brownlee, Varga, Bishop (GBR), Van Der Stel (NED), but unfortunately Schoeman succumbed to a puncture and fell back to the chase pack. Heading out onto the run it could have been anyone's race. Blummenfelt (NOR), Mola (ESP), Luis (FRA), Gomez (ESP) and Brownlee pushed the pace early on and either they were all holding out for a sprint finish, or more likely they were all on their limits. Unusually Brownlee was the first to crack, followed by Gomez, which was not surprising considering he won the World 70.3 championships only six days previously! Luis was the eventual and perhaps surprise winner, easing away from the Blummenfelt in the last 400m. Mola’s third place on the day was enough to secure his back to back World titles. Gomez finished the season second in the series, with Blummenfelt’s string of recent good results pushing him up to third overall. Brownlee and Bishop would finish 6th and 7th respectively in the 2017 rankings.
HUUB was well represented in the other races not to mention the numerous AG successes. Sophie Coldwell continued her impressive season with third in the U23 event. This was a great achievement for her considering she is currently struggling with injury. Brazil's Vittoria Lopes was 10th in the same event. Ben Dijkstra was also third in the Junior Mens race after an epic chase on the bike and a storming run. Gordon Benson was 7th in the U23 Mens race. HUUB had some outstanding results in the paratriathlon events too…George Peasgood achieved a career best fourth place.