HUUB's Georgia Taylor-Brown secured her first World Triathlon Series title with a victory in Leeds. The 25-year-old World Championship bronze medallist was joined on the podium by her British team-mate and fellow HUUB athlete Jess Learmonth who finished in 3rd place. Between them, was Katie Zaferes who until Leeds has been unbeatable all season.
It was a HUUB 1-2-3 out of the water at Roundhay Park with the ever-consistent Jessica Learmonth leading the way. Brazil's Vittoria Lopez was close behind, followed by Sophie Coldwell (GBR) on her return to the WTS circuit. Through the transition, it looked likely that the three would be joined by the American duo of Katie Zaferes and Taylor Spivey as well as HUUB's Georgia Taylor-Brown and France's Cassandre Beaugrand.
Although the leading group of seven was at first strung out as they hit the 12km route to the city centre circuit, they eventually came together and set about a ferocious pace. As the group hit the technical and hilly city centre circuit the pace seemed too much for Beaugrand, and she fell back to the chasing group, that lap by lap was losing time to the front of the race.
The continued work of Learmonth, Coldwell, Zaferes and Taylor-Brown extended their lead to 1.40 by T2. Spivey and Lopez were the two that looked to suffer most on the challenging course and going into the run they were the first to drop off the pace.
Motivated by the thousands of spectators lining the streets of Leeds, Taylor-Brown pushed on the pace and from then on the race was hers. Zaferes was in touching distance, but the young Brit had everything under control and really looked to enjoy the last lap of her home race.
Learmonth finished in 3rd holding off a resurgent Taylor Spivey. Lopez and Coldwell eventually finished in 8th and 9th as some of the chase pack bridged up including Olympic medallist Vicky Holland and Non-Stanford.
Henri Schoeman (RSA) looked supreme as he headed the way in the 1500m swim and leading into T2 he had strung the field out by over 90 seconds. It was inevitable there would be breaks in the field after the undulating start to the bike.
5k into the bike a strong group of 25 athletes formed, with Mario Mola (ESP), Richard Murray (RSA), and HUUB's Alex Yee (GBR) around 50 seconds back. HUUB's Tom Bishop (GBR) led the group onto the city centre circuit as he and fellow HUUB athlete Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) tried to get clear. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be for the pair as they were soon reeled back in, this was generally the pattern of things over the 40km as several athletes tried their best to break up the field including HUUB's Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.
The group arrived into T2 with a minute gap on the chasers, and in the first lap, Jonas Schomburg (GER) established a sizeable lead with a group of between 10 and 15 athletes chasing behind, a spectacle rarely seen in the WTS, possibly a result of such a challenging bike course.
It was to everyone's surprise that Alistair Brownlee (GBR) was the first to drop off the pace, the double Olympic Champion looked laboured, perhaps struggling to back up last weekends European Championship victory. It was not to be for Jonny Brownlee (GBR) either as he also dropped back. Schomburg was eventually reeled in with Bishop covering the early moves of Javier Gomez (ESP) and Matthew McElroy (USA).
Schoeman was the first to make a decisive move, which splintered the group in half. Several athletes couldn't go with him including Bishop, who's efforts to lighten up the race began to take its toll. And current world leader Vincent Luis couldn't match the pace of Schoeman either, and it looked like the winning move, but Gomez, McElroy and Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) managed to claw him back.
On the last lap, Birthwhistle used his running credentials to break clear and claim his first WTS victory. McElroy won the sprint against Gomez to claim his first WTS podium. Schoeman finished in 4th with Bishop in 13th.
Both Brownlee's looked to be suffering as they crossed the line, certainly uncharacteristic of their previous visits to Leeds, but both looked intent on finishing the race in front of a cheering home crowd.
The World Triathlon Series heads to Nottingham next weekend for the second year running where the mixed relay event will take place. Last year saw a closely fought battle between the USA, Great Britain and France with Team USA eventually taking the victory.
This year Australia seem the team to beat; the Commonwealth Champions go in ranked number 1 with USA 2 and recently crowned European Champions France with start number 3.
Great Britain has been mixing up their team members and this year sees an entirely different line up from last year with an all HUUB line up. With Tokyo 2020 looming it's going to be even more important for nations to guarantee selection for the relay event and also for the athletes to practice over the super sprint relay format. We can certainly expect an exciting race!