It is getting to that point in the year where we anticipate the next instalment of sport every weekend, from football finals, F1 and Grand Tours to the World Triathlon Championship Series and long course racing.
Last weekend there were the final exploits of the Giro d’Italia. Also over in Italy was the third instalment of the WTCS in Cagliari. HUUB’s Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) and Alex Yee (GBR) claimed emphatic wins in a weekend full of success.
This race brought added interest from the inclusion of Gwen Jorgensen (USA), arguably one of the greatest ever and most dominant in sports history. Albeit her retirement in 2016 after Rio Olympics seems a long time ago, the interest was there to see how she would fair against a new generation of athletes.
The non-wetsuit sea swim quickly split up the field, with Taylor-Brown in the leading group. The Aussie-style exit after lap one clearly showed the gaps to the chasers. Into T2, Beth Potter (GBR), winner last time out in Yokohama, had slipped off the back of the front group, which left a lead group of 6 going onto the 10-lap bike course. Jorgensen was forced out of contention after the fast swim, which left it a battle between the front and chase group.
The technical bike course favoured a hard-working front group, and arriving at T2, the gap had grown to over 80 seconds. It looked favourable for Taylor-Brown to claim back-to-back victories in Cagliari, but Summer Rappaport (USA) and Emma Lombardi (FRA) weren’t going to lie down easily. It took Taylor-Brown until the third lap to finally break the young French athlete. However, once the gap was established, it grew as Taylor-Brown looked increasingly comfortable. Lombardi crossed the line in 2nd with Taylor Spivey (USA) in 3rd. Chasers Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), Jeanne Lehair (LUX) and Potter ran through the early leaders to take 4th, 5th and 6th, respectively. The day was owned by Taylor-Brown, who returned to winning ways as we approach an important Summer for Olympic qualification.
Going into the men’s race, everyone was eying up a battle between HUUB’s Alex Yee (GBR) and Hayden Wilde (NZL), considered two of the most talented athletes on the circuit and certainly the two most in form. The race for Yee didn’t get off to a great start as he stumbled on the beach run-in, leaving him a good 5 meters behind everyone as the 55 men entered the water.
The pace was certainly on in the water as the lead swapped a number of times. Among those pushing the pace were HUUB’s Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Mark Devay (HUN), who eventually led out the 1500m non-wetsuit swim in just over 17 minutes. Fortunately, Yee looked to have one of his best swims to date and swum himself back to within 15 seconds from the front. Onto the bike, and the first two laps were fraught. Eventually, after a few laps of the technical bike, a group of around 20 found themselves with a 30-second gap to the chasers.
At this point, it could have gone either way. HUUB’s Jelle Geens (BEL) worked alongside Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) to try to close the gap, but it looked like the firepower upfront was even too much for them. Going into T2, the gap had grown to over a minute, meaning the win would almost certainly come from the leading group. In his usual fashion, HUUB’s Jonas Schomburg (GER) hit the run hard and formed an instant gap. He was followed by Yee, Wilde and 2022 World Champion Leo Bergere (FRA). By halfway through the run, it was soon a two-horse battle with Yee and Wilde running side by side. Yee made the decisive attack with a few hundred meters left to claim a 5-second victory, with Bergere rounding out the podium.
Connor Bentley (GBR) made it two from two in an emphatic sprint finish at Olsztyn European Cup. The 2023 U23 World Champion is proving to be one to watch this year. Over at Yasmine Hammamet African Cup, Tim Hellwig (GER) also made it two victories in as many weeks after winning M’Diq African Cup earlier in the month.