From no racing in months to a packed few days of racing all over Europe! This weekend was something we are more accustomed to in September... The first and only round of the WTS took place in Hamburg, and with no other WTS events this year, it also meant that the winners would be crowned 2020 World Champions. Also taking place at the weekend were several 70.3 events featuring many HUUB athletes. Back in the UK, the PTO supported race Helvellyn took place, of those racing was Alistair Brownlee (GBR) who was doubling up with Hamburg WTS. A lack of racing for everyone in 2020 and with a number of travel restrictions in place there were some expected and unexpected results.
Hamburg WTS Elite Men
This year the course was moved to a park outside out of the city due to Coronavirus restrictions. It was HUUB's Alistair Brownlee that emerged first from Lake Stadtpark. Closely on his heels was a group of 10 athletes including Jonny Brownlee (GBR), Vincent Luis (FRA), Leo Bergere (FRA), Dorian Connix (FRA) and U23 athlete Vaco Vilaça (POR). The group, orchestrated by the Brownlee brothers and French athletes soon established a sizeable gap on the chasers, and they maintained between 15 and 20 seconds over the likes of Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), Alex Yee (GBR), Richard Murray (RSA) and 30 others. Onto the run and it was clear Jonny Brownlee was struggling as he soon fell away. He later revealed he had felt weak from the off, perhaps an underlying issue there. The trio of Luis, Bergere and Vilaça pulled away from a chasing Ali Brownlee and Connix. Yee was building his way through the field, trying to run himself into a podium. It was left to the final 400m where Luis made his move to pull clear of Vilaça and teammate Bergere to defend his World title from 2019. Jelle Geens (BEL) ran through to 4th with Yee in 5th although recording the fastest run of the day. Ali Brownlee held on for 9th, Blummenfelt 13th, and Jonny Brownlee surviving to 29th.
Hamburg WTS Elite Women
As we are used to it was HUUB's Jessica Learmonth (GBR) who led the way in the water. She was closely followed by Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), Taylor Spivey (USA), Summer Rappaport (USA) and Therese Feuersinger (AUT). Not far back was 2019 World Champion Katie Zaferes (USA), Lotte Miller (NOR), Flora Duffy (BER) and Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR). Initially, Learmonth, Feuersinger and Beaugrand had a small gap, but a mistake by Beaugrand sent her back to the chase pack. Eventually, with the efforts of Duffy and Zaferes, the two leaders were caught and a group of around 20 athletes formed. The HUUB pairing of Learmonth and Taylor-Brown commanded the group and led into T2. Learmonth was the first to emerge onto the run with Duffy on her heels and Taylor-Brown having to run up to them after a slower transition, however, after just 1km she soon picked up the pace and passed both. Taylor-Brown looked impressive throughout, and her quick pace looked effortless and smooth. Duffy looked to make a late resurgence in the last kilometre, but Taylor-Brown had everything in control and looked to claim victory easily. Home favourite Laura Lindemann (GER) ran up to 3rd place with Spivey and Zaferes in 4th and 5th unable to stay with the pace. Learmonth not looking her usual self finished in 7th but immediately congratulated the new World Champion.
Hamburg Mixed Relay
In near-identical fashion to the race the day before, Taylor-Brown dominated the first leg and handed over to Barclay Izzard (GBR) with a 15-second gap, an impressive feat for a 1500m run. The young Brit was unable to maintain the advantage as he was joined by Team France in the guise of Saturdays Bronze medal winner Bergere, as well as USA's Kevin McDowell, Belgium's Jelle Geens, and Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway. Blummenfelt soon put an attack in on the bike and onto the run had established a 15-second lead which he maintained to hand over to Stine Dale. With Learmonth, Zaferes and Beaugrand chasing her down, it was inevitable that the gap would diminish over the 300m swim and onto the bike the Norwegian athlete was dropped leaving the three out ahead with Team Belgium chasing. Learmonth and Zaferes took it in turns on the bike but couldn't shake Beaugrand. All three stuck together for the rest of the leg and handed over to their team members within seconds. Connix of Team France managed to gain a slight gap through the swim and transition over Pearson and Yee of Team USA and GBR. This gap increased with the three athletes all now racing solo. Pearson did his best to run into the 15 second lead of Connix, but the French athlete was able to hold on and claim the third straight Mixed Relay World title for France. Yee brought home the Bronze medal for Team GB, with Team Norway in 4th and Team Belgium in 5th.
With an unconventional race format and the women setting off 28 minutes and 3 seconds ahead, as well as 5-second intervals between each athlete it was a case of everyone racing as hard as they could and to the line, over the 1500m swim, 61km bike and 14.5km run. Lucy Hall (GBR) lead the women on the swim and bike with Nikki Bartlett (GBR) and India Lee (GBR) following. Alistair Brownlee who had competed at Hamburg WTS less than 24hrs previously lead the men out the water and onto the bike. George Goodwin (GBR) managed to bike up to the two time Olympic Champion. At the start of the run, there was a 10-minute gap to Hall at the front and 7 minutes to a podium place. However, the Yorkshire man grew up on the trails and held the course record for this event, set way back in 2007. Brownlee who looked incredibly impressive all weekend reeled in the women and managed to run 2 minutes into Goodwin. However, over the line it was Jack Willis (GBR) in second, taking into account the staggered race start, Goodwin earned 2nd with the slenderest of margins with Willis 3rd and Elliot Smales in 4th. Bartlett was fastest of the women with Ruth Astle (GBR) coming through to 2nd, India Lee in 3rd and early leader Hall in 4th.
Les Sables d'Olonne-Vendée 70.3
HUUB's Anthony Costes (FRA) finished a close second to European 70.3 Champion Rudy Von Berg (USA), a great performance considering the American was one of the World's best in 2019. Pieter Heemeryck of Belgium finished in 3rd with David McNamee in 6th. A performance to build upon, and one he'll be happy with considering he spent two months running circles on his balcony and two months out the water! In the women's race, it was an agonising race for HUUB's Fenella Langridge who lead the whole way in the swim and bike and for 15km of the run until she was eventually reeled in by Justine Mathieux (FRA) and Alexandra Tondeur (BEL) to finish 3rd. Again a performance the British athlete will look to build on in coming races (all being well and good).