Vicky Holland crowned 2018 ITU World Champion

Brit puts on a spectacular race to claim her first world title

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💥WORLD CHAMPION💥 2018 World Triathlon Series Champion is @vixholland 🏆 #WTSGoldCoast 📷 // @queensland #thisisqueensland @destinationgoldcoast #wearegoldcoast

A post shared by World Triathlon (@worldtriathlon) on Sep 15, 2018 at 12:36am PDT

GB’s Vicky Holland has won the 2018 World Triathlon Series in Gold Coast, Australia, to become the third British female ITU world champion. In may what prove to be the race of her life, the Rio bronze medallist put in a perfect swim, a solid bike and an incredible comeback run to take her first world title. Here’s how it played out…

Heading into the final race of the eight-event series, America’s Katie Zaferes was the woman to beat and the only woman with a realistic chance of doing that was 32-year-old Holland, who was nipping at her heels thanks to three race wins in Leeds, Edmonton and Montreal. Whoever finished ahead of the other after two hours of racing would be crowned the 2018 world champion. And so the stage was set for GB vs USA.

Following a well-worn yet supremely successful script, GB’s Jess Learmonth (fourth in the standings pre-Gold Coast) led the way in the choppy two-lap 1.5km swim, towing Holland into T2 to start the 8-lap 40km bike course in the best place possible from which to launch her title charge. Zaferes, unsurprisingly, had the same idea, running out in third to blast out of transition ahead of the lead pack of five, alongside US teammate Kirsten Kasper and GB’s Sophie Coldwell.  

Within the first 5km, the red, white and blue quintet swelled by three, including GB’s Jodie Stimspon, sixth in the standings at the start of the race. The only other Brit left adrift was Georgia Taylor-Brown (third in the standings), who unusually had missed the lead pack out of T1. But as the laps ticked down, it was just a waiting game as to when the two packs would merge – with 10km to go, it was a lead group of 29.

And so the title chase came down to a 10k foot race. Making her intentions clear, Holland catapulted out of T2, but Zaferes was having none of that, reeling her in over the first few hundred metres to run shoulder-to-shoulder. In the first 1km, Zaferes put on an aggressive display, pulling ahead of the Brit as strong runner Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) sprang up into third. But Gentle, in front of a home crowd, had other ideas, taking the lead after 2km to the delight of the local crowd and applying the pressure to the title contenders.

With 7km to go it was Zaferes’ turn to take it up a notch, with only Gentle able to stay on the American’s feet as Holland succumbed to the relentless pace, unable to provide an answer. Losing ground with each step, Holland could only look and ahead and keep moving forward, as her title chance ran off down the road. Or so she would have had us believe…

In a masterful display, Holland found another gear to run back up to the leading pair with 3.5km to go, appearing on Zaferes’ shoulder to the surprise of the American, who simply couldn’t match the new pace upfront. And so the scene was flipped, as Holland and Gentle disappeared into the distance, the Brit looking stronger than ever to deliver a phenomenal final few ks.

Incredibly the leading pair still had a sprint in their leg, the Aussie with an extra spark to take the tape as Holland ran down the blue carpet behind for her first world title.

“I knew I couldn’t go with them at that pace,” said a delighted Holland at the finishline. “And if I tried that would be me blowing up on lap three or lap four. I know in a race like this it is a bit of a war of attrition, so I just tried to back it off and pace my own run. Then by lap three I was back on again and I knew that they might suffer, and fortunately they did!

On her 2018 season: “Things have just fallen into place [this year] and I’ve just really enjoyed my racing. And every race I come to I seem to get a result at. And when you turn up to a race feeling confident and happy there’s not too much that can go wrong.”

On Zaferes: “It’s so hard to beat someone who doesn’t really have a weakness. And I feel for her coming so close and being leader most of the year. But I really wanted it and I’m just so delighted that I won in the end.”

Zaferes ran through in third to finish runner-up for the 2018 season.

“I’m proud of myself for trying and going for the win,” said Zaferes post-race. “I know Vicky’s a fighter until the end, so I’m not surprised at all. I took another step in the right direction [this year] and there’s always next year!”

Taylor-Brown ran in for eighth to finish third overall in the final standings, after what’s been an incredible breakthrough year for the young Brit.

“I think I’ve asked about five times if I’ve come third!” she beamed at the finish. “I can’t believe it. I just wanted to shout to Vix when I saw her off the back ‘get back on, get back on’. I’m just so happy that she’s won.”

Learmonth finished fifth overall in the standings and Stimpson seventh, to make it four British women in the top 10 at the end of 2018. 

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Our man on the ground @tribucko spoke to our new World Champion @vixholland for an exclusive post-race interview. 🥇🍾

A post shared by 220 Triathlon (@220triathlon) on Sep 15, 2018 at 1:37am PDT


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