Hamburg World Triathlon Series epitomises everything that triathlon is about. It is a go to favourite for many of the elites on the circuit, featuring crowds often in excess of 250,000 and some fast and frantic racing. Not only is it a great race for the elites but the weekend attracts thousands of age group athletes. Hamburg WTS also encompasses the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships and in light of this format now featuring in the Olympic Games it is becoming even more important to national federations.
The women kicked things off on Saturday afternoon and all eyes where on Flora Duffy having been dominant in recent races. Although Flora was yet to claim a sprint was victory, the technical bike course and possibility of rain would certainly play into her hands. A repeat of her two up with HUUB athlete Sophie Coldwell was certainly on the cards. With under 150m to the first buoy the swim is always an interesting affair, perhaps ITU’s new commitment to policing the swim around buoys would be important. Brazil and HUUB’s Vittoria Lopes lead out the water and close to 30 athletes followed in the next 20 seconds. It looked like it would be a run race between speedy runners like Gentle (AUS) and Beaugrand (FRA), however the pressure put on by Duffy soon changed things. Duffy’s power and supreme bike handling skills forced a break which Coldwell was the wrong side of. Beaugrand and a couple of other athletes fell victim to the technical course and crashed out, this split the chase pack which had swelled by that point and Duffy forged on solo, having broken the other two athletes in the break. No one managed to claw back enough time on Duffy, who went on to dominate by the biggest margin ever recorded in a WTS sprint race. Gentle and the young German athlete Laura Linderman rounded out the podium, with HUUB’s Sophie Coldwell, in a very close 11th position.
The men followed shortly after. The start list was stacked, unfortunately Jonny Brownlee had to pull out last minute due to illness - potentially putting an end to his bid to become 2017 World Champion. As with the womens race the swim was full on, producing some surprise results, over 40 athletes made the front pack including HUUB athletes Benson, Bishop and Schoeman. It looked like show down between the big guns of ITU triathlon (minus the Brownlees) many of the guys were just sitting in and watching each other not wanting to waste energy riding hard. Unfortunately current world number one Fernando Alarza crashed out, making the top 5 more open. With such a narrow entry to transition and a large pack it would prove to be a battle of the transitions. Unfortunately for Bishop, having done a considerable amount of work on the front positioning himself well, he was swamped by the back markers ultimately ruling out a podium. Richard Murray also having a poor transition worked very hard to catch the leaders, however this cost him severely as his legs seem to go with 1km to go. Mola eased away from the front pack and looked unbeatable. If it hadn’t have been for a few high fives, he would have clocked a sub 14 minute 5km! A fast finishing Birthwhistle was second with Sissons in third. Bishop moved his way through the field into 12th, with Schoeman just behind in 16th and Benson 34th.
The relays finished off the weekends racing. The only thing I can say without writing reams and reams of text is just go and watch it! The win was so hard to predict with various nations in the hot seat throughout the race. With such short distances (300m / 6.6k / 1.6k) it was such aggressive and high octane racing. It certainly is a great event to have included in the Olympics. Australia eventually took the tape with the United States in second and The Netherlands in third.
Thanks to David Bishop for this report.