Clammy conditions greeted the world’s finest short-course triathletes in Roundhay Park, Leeds, today, as the second round of the 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series got underway.
Topping the billing for the sprint-distance race was double Olympic medallist and adopted Leeds hero, Alex Yee (GBR), two-time world champion Vincent Luis (FRA), Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Hayden Wilde (NZL) and one Jonny Brownlee, three-time Olympic medallist.
Out of the 750m swim, it was Team France who took the race by the scruff of its neck, Luis eager to put Yokohama behind him after pulling out 1k into the swim with a high heart rate and feeling out of breath.
With only a 1sec advantage post swim, Luis managed to take teammate Leo Bergere, who finished third in Yokohama, with him, the pair adopting a familiar Brownlee tactic by going it alone over the five-lap 20km course.
By the end of lap one, the gap from the French deux to the gigantic chase pack, which included Yee, Wilde and Brownlee, of 52 athlete was up to 16secs; by the end of lap three that was up to 21secs.
Local hearts were broken on lap three, though, as Wilde brought down Brownlee, Yee and teammate Dylan McCullough, ruining the crowd’s chances of seeing a GB/France battle on the 5k.
Post-race Wilde, the only one to continue with his race, apologised to the British duo: “That’s how racing goes. It’s bitter sweet and I’m really sorry to Jonny and the British boys. I know that’s their home town and I wanted to race them properly.”
Disaster then struck Luis heading into T2, though, as he forget it was time to swap over, crashing into a barrier at the end of the carpeted section, resulting in a 20sec penalty.
With one of his biggest rivals out, Bergere took to the helm, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Wilde, who, with fresher legs, having had the comfort of the chase group for the majority of the 20k, moved into first place on lap two of two.
Then it was just a matter of keeping his cool for the final few minutes into the finish, Wilde taking the tape, and his first WTCS victory, with a grin in 53:18mins.
Bergere followed 10secs later, while a sprint for third between Italy’s Vasco Vilaca and Germany’s Lasse Luhrs saw Luhrs come up trumps to round off the podium. Still managing to hold onto a top 10 finish, Luis came in 10th after serving his 10sec penalty mid-way on the run.
“We don’t know what happened,” said British Triathlon performance director Mike Cavendish post-race. “It was a pretty savage race, we knew the French guys were going to do that [go hard out of T1].
“Out of the swim, Alex was in a really good place with Jonny. And up until the crash they were in a really really god place, but you know, these things happen in triathlon, right. If they’re going to crash anywhere being at home is a good place for it to happen.”
“I’m absolutely stoked to get my first victory, in an extremely classy field. But yeah to be involved in the crash, and I guess to be one of the antagonists, it was my mistake. You don’t want anyone to crash, let alone Jonny and Alex, I feel absolutely gutted that they crashed. I put it on myself that it was my fault. But yeah that’s racing, sometimes that happens.
“I knew that Leo had massive pedigree as a runner, but I knew that this bike course is extremely hard. And just two guys working together they’d be pretty fatigued. And we had a pretty decent group, we held them at a 15-20second gap, so if I knew if I had the run legs I could probably chase him down. I was just happy to catch him just before the end of the climb to really accelerate on the flat.”
” I feel better than in Yokohama, I had some heart issues and had to go in surgery last Wednesday so I wasn’t sure about racing but I got the green light. Whatever happened, the mistake I made, I’m just really happy to toe the line and finish. I feel good, the body’s working at full gas.
“Ten days ago that was almost me done with triathlon, and now I’m back at full fitness. I think a podium is just around the corner. I now really want to podium again on the overall standings, I think I can do it. I might also send a text to Normann Stadler to see if he wants me in the Team Europe for Collins Cup.”
Liz has been with 220 since 2007. In that time she’s reported live from almost every major tri across the globe, including the Ironman Worlds, 70.3 Worlds, ITU Worlds, Challenge Roth, the 2014 Commonwealths, the London Olympics and the Rio Paralympics, to name but a few. Unsurprisingly, she’s our go-to pro-athlete expert on the team. When not covering races, you’ll find her whipping words into finely-crafted shape for both the mag and website.
source: 220 Triathlon