In a complete contrast to yesterday's women's race under cloudless skies, what looked like an entire year's worth of rain arrived on the Sunday morning for the start of the men's race in Montreal. Not that the weather would have much bearing on the outcome of the seventh race in the 2018 World Triathlon Series, such was the two-time reigning champ Mario Mola’s lead at the start of the penultimate race in Canada's second largest city. Wherever he finished he would still be in the lead for the Grand Final on Gold Coast in three weeks’ time, thanks in part to the absence of Vincent Luis (FRA), second in the rankings pre-race.
Yesterday ☀️ vs today 🌧 in Montreal. Gonna be a soggy one for the men’s race, which kicks off at 1:36pm (6:36 BST). Stay tuned for coverage #wtsmontreal #worldtriathlon #mensrace #elite #wet
Of those left to spoil the 28-year-old Spaniard’s run of 2018 podium finishes – three wins and two silvers, plus a CV-wrinkling fourth – were the rest of the current top-five – Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle, South Africa’s Richard Murray and Spain’s Fernando Alarza.
Although unable to challenge for the title, the 2018 Commonwealth champion Henri Schoeman was also toeing the start line, and had plenty to prove after injury derailed the rest of his championship season following that Gold Coast win. Speaking at the pre-race conference, he made bold claims that he was feeling good and was gunning for gold.
The 2018 Abu Dhabi WTS winner started his campaign perfectly, exiting the St Lawrence river with almost too much of a cushion, the only man able to go with him Seth Rider (USA). But with not enough horse power to make it as a couple, they soon sank back into the vast procession of athletes – the entire field in fact.
Fearing a processional 40K, things soon picked up when Denmark’s Andreas Schilling made a break for it. Riding solo for a couple of laps, his legs breathed a sigh of relief when he was joined by the Norwegian bike warrior duo, Caspar Stornes and Blummenfelt, plus Israeli athlete Shachar Sagiv on lap five of nine. Next to make the leap between the two groups was Canadian Charles Paquet, to the delight of the crowd, and together the quintet managed to extend the gap to 20secs by the start of lap seven.
Losing Sagiv to the relentless Norwegian pace did little to slow the lead group, stretching the gap to 45secs at the start of the penultimate lap, 58secs by the start of the last and 1:04 by T2.
But behind Blummenfelt the terrifying trio of Mola, Murray and Birtwhistle had exited T2 together, each with a deadly stride over 10km. By the end of lap one, Schilling remained in second, Stornes in third 16secs back and the Mola/Murray/Birtwhistile trio 41secs adrift. With Paquet gone at the end of lap one, next up was Stornes and Schilling, who Mola picked off with relative ease over the course of lap two, halving the gap to Blummenfelt to just 20secs.
Another lap and the gap was down to 9secs, the 24-year-old Norwegian racing for what looked like his life. But that WTS win remained elusive, as experience trumped youth, Mola overtaking Blummenfelt with just 1km to go to claim his fourth win of the year, and what is almost certainly going to be his third world title on the Gold Coast.
Murray, meanwhile, was doing the same, just at a slower pace than motoring Mola, racing into third place until the final blue carpet stretch when a faster Birtwhistle shot past for the final podium slot.
Schoeman raced through for sixth, for a much-needed top-10 finish for the final year rankings.
For post-race video interviews with Mola and Blummenfelt, head to Instagram TV channel. Simply search for 220triathlon.
And for a full list of results, head to triathlon.org