Commonwealth champions Australia underlined their mixed relay credentials with victory on the opening World Series weekend, as Britain’s quartet toiled home in seventh.
Despite having two debutants in their line-up, Jake Birtwhistle, fast becoming a relay specialist, brought the Aussies to the tape in Abu Dhabi, having caught USA’s Eli Hemming on the final bike leg and eased clear on the 1,500m run.
New Zealand finished in third, with Alex Yee, runner-up in the individual contest yesterday, running Britain up to seventh, 68sec adrift of the winners.
Over a 300m swim, 7.6km bike and 1.5km run course, Britain, who were led off by Vicky Holland struggled to make an impact throughout.
The race was split early as USA’s Taylor Spivey biked clear on the first leg to build an 18sec lead into T2, with Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle pegging back most of the deficit on the run.
Germany and Italy then joined the USA’s Ben Kanute and Australia’s Luke Willian to form a front pack of four, with Tom Bishop battling to keep Britain in the top 10.
Kanute and Willian broke free on the run to give Katie Zafares and Emma Jeffcoat some breathing space on the changeover, with Zafares superior footspeed giving the Americans a 17sec lead on to the final leg.
That was soon whittled away though as Birtwhistle caught Hemming, and the former track ace was dominant over the final 1.5km to take the tape.
“We’ve never used this team before, but once again we’ve come out and won the race,” Birtwhistle said. “It’s great for us all and great for triathlon in Australia.”
A strong second half of the race by Leonie Periault and Leo Bergere had put reigning world champions France clear in third, but with Bergere having to stand down for a penalty, New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde ran through for the bronze. Non Stanford and Yee rounded out the British effort, but it never looked enough to challenge the podium.
The first of four mixed relays in the 2019 World Series, Abu Dhabi will be followed by Nottingham (June), Edmonton (July) and Grand Final in Lausanne (August).
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