Mario Mola underlined why he’s the firm favourite to win a third consecutive world title with victory in Hamburg.
The north German city has proven a happy hunting ground for the 28-year-old Spaniard, who relied on his formidable leg speed on the 5km run to come from behind and triumph for the third straight year.
Britain’s Jonny Brownlee raced aggressively to forge a three-man breakaway on the bike, but was eventually out-sprinted by France’s Vincent Luis and South African Richard Murray and had to settle for fourth.
“The atmosphere is unbelievable,” Mola said of the city where he’s enjoyed such success. “I enjoy the course and the venue.
“I am very happy with how things have gone, but know from past experience it’s not decided until the end. I just have to keep doing the work and hopefully will be at my best in [Gold Coast in] September.”
Hamburg is the longest-standing venue on the ITU World Triathlon Series calendar, having hosted events since 2002. It reverted to sprint distance in 2012 and consistently draws crowds of thousands.
Mola went into the race with a commanding lead over Luis in the series thanks to a win in Yokohama, runners-up spots in Abu Dhabi and Leeds, and a fourth place in Bermuda.
Tom Bishop was the highest-ranked Brit in 14th, with Brownlee having competed just once in an injury and illness-ravaged season.
Belgium’s Marten van Riel and Slovakian Richard Varga led out the 56-strong field over the 750m swim, which included a short, dark tunnel section before they reached the ramp to T1.
New Zealand’s Ryan Sissons also marked his 50th WTS race by joining Australian Ryan Bailie in picking up a 10sec penalty for a false start.
After the race looked like it might come together on the flat, city centre course, Kristian Blummenfelt, Luis and Brownlee managed to make a breakaway stick and grew the lead to 15secs halfway into the 20km and retained the advantage into T2.
Brownlee (2013) and Luis (2014) had both won previously in Hamburg, and Norwegian Blummenfelt had recorded four runners-up spots in his past seven WTS races, so it looked as if all three were strong podium contenders.
But on the first lap of two on the run, Blummenfelt pulled up with what looked like a stomach issue, and Murray and Mola all but eroded the lead of Luis and Brownlee.
The four came together with just 2km to go, before it was Mola who seized the initiative to ease clear clocking a 13.59 5km split, with Luis just having the speed to pip Murray for second. Bishop finished 17th with Sheldon being lapped out on the bike.
The team mixed relay takes place tomorrow and the next stop on the World Triathlon Series is Edmonton on July 27-29, with Montreal and the Grand Finals at Gold Coast to finish the season.
Hamburg WTS: Race result.
Mario Mola, 53.24
Vincent Luis, +5sec
Richard Murray, +8
Jonny Brownlee, +12
Jacob Birtwhistle, +18
Mario Mola, 4641pts
Vincent Luis, 3133
Richard Murry, 2507
Jacob Birtwhistle, 2389
Pierre Le Corre, 2226