The fourth round of the World Triathlon Series finished off an intense week of international racing in the UK, and as expected the course was lined with thousands of spectators. In the past Leeds hasn’t seen a complete line up of the worlds best, perhaps a nod to the brutality of the course, however this year despite a few absences from illness and injury, the fields for both the women's and men’s race were some of the strongest we’ve seen for 2018! We also had Staffordshire 70.3 on Sunday morning, and with unexpected high temperatures, it was a tough day out for all!
The women started off proceedings, and despite the warm weather wetsuits would be allowed. It was a long time ago since HUUB’s Jessica Learmonth (GBR) didn’t lead out of the water, so it was no surprise that she was the first to emerge out of the lake at Roundhay Park.
Halfway through the swim, it looked like she would be joined on the bike by compatriot Vicky Holland (GBR) and three of the USA athletes, Katie Zaferes, Taylor Spivey and Summer Cook. But Jess’s pace was relentless and one by one they dropped off her feet.
Onto the bike and Zaferes and Cook managed to close the gap on Learmonth to form a small lead pack. Vicky Holland was swallowed by the chase pack which also included HUUB athletes Sophie Coldwell (GBR) and Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR). The relentless pace caused by the chase resulted in casualties each lap, and the gap to the leading trio gradually came down. The catch however only happened in the last lap. Although Learmonth was caught, she kept up the pace into T2 and strung out the group through the technical sections of the city loop.
Coldwell was first onto the run and kept the lead through the 5k mark with fellow Brits Holland and Taylor-Brown close behind. In the end, it was Rio’s bronze medalist who prevailed, but the young Commonwealth athlete’s start to the run is perhaps an indication of what is to come. Taylor-Brown finished in 2nd place earning herself her first WTS podium, again a sign that GBR has some great talent coming through. Katie Zaferes took the final spot on the podium after taking a few laps to warm up she eased her way through the field. Learmonth ended up in 8th with Coldwell just outside the top 10 in 12th.
Richard Varga (SVK) lead out a furiously fast 1500m swim, overhead coverage showed that it was also a ferocious one too, in fact, HUUB athlete Grant Sheldon was a victim to this and was unable to continue the race.
Although there were no clear gaps as athletes exited the water, a break of 12 athletes formed as the race headed towards the town centre. As expected it featured local hero Jonny Brownlee and Commonwealth Champion Henri Schoeman, however in similarities to the women's race, the chase was on, and the gap was managed through the efforts of HUUB’s Kristian Blummenfelt and a few select others.
With 10k to go the two packs came together for the race to be decided on two feet. Richard Murray (RSA) was the first through T2, and his lead only got bigger throughout the run. Chasing close behind was current series leader Mario Mola (ESP), Vincent Luis (FRA) and Pierre Le Corre (FRA), but despite a late attempt from Mola to bridge the gap to Murray the South African looked in control and only looked back when he was running down the finish straight. HUUB’s Tom Bishop seemed to put a disappointing start to the year behind him to finish in an impressive 6th place, hopefully a result he can build on leading into Hamburg WTS.
Unfortunately, Jonny Brownlee succumbed to an illness which he picked up earlier in the week at the ITU Nottingham relays. One of his mixed relay team-mates, Non Stanford, was unable to race due to also suffering from the same type of illness. If it weren’t for an insistent medical team, the Yorkshireman would have dragged himself to the finish line in front of a home crowd.
Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire also took place on Sunday, and it was a phenomenal day for HUUB’s Elliot Smales who pretty much lead from start to finish. The young British athlete has really come into his own this year earning his first Ironman 70.3 title - a great improvement on his third-place finish in 2017. We will hopefully see Elliot toping more podiums as he works towards the Ironman 70.3 World Championships later this year.