It was a big day of racing in Yokohama on Saturday 15 May at the first of the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) races, with a competitve field of pro athletes all vying for coveted Olympic slots in the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games this July.
NAIL-BITING MEN’S RACE
It was a stacked men’s field with only eight seconds separating the top 40 racers at stages during the bike, but it was Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt who took the gold with a praise-worthy 10-second margin on the competition. Both Blummenfelt and Jelle Geens (BEL) led much of the race, with Blummenfelt pulling away in the final stages to secure his victorious lead. Coming in third was Morgan Pearson (USA), securing his first WTCS podium.
The 1.5km swim was led by reigning world champion, Vincent Luis (FRA), who was racing secure in the knowledge that he’d already secured his Olympic slot. The first pack of chasers in the swim included the likes of Marten van Riel (BEL), Henri Shoeman (RSA) and GB’s Jonny Brownlee, with eventual winner, Blummenfelt within a few seconds of the group.
The multi-lap bike course saw Luis spin out into the lead off his strong swim leg, with the next 20 athletes hot on his heels. Only a matter of six seconds separated the pack, including the likes of Alex Yee (GB), Geens and Gustav Iden (NOR), the latter of which helped leading the way into T2 for the final transition.
One lap into the run, and it was Geens, Yee, Jonas Schomburg (GER) and Blummenfelt out in the first pack and with 5km left, Iden and Luis were just 15 seconds short of the three front runners, with Brownlee trying to catch up being 30-seconds behind. The final kilometre to the finishline saw Blummenfelt stride away from the pack, with Geens hot in second and Pearson securing third and his Olympic slot for USA, GB’s Alex Yee holding onto a well-earned fourth position just short of the podium. Coming in fith was Henri Shoeman (GER), Luis in sixth, followed by van Riel, Leo Bergere (FRA), Iden and Shomburg all in the top 10 finishers.
Gold medallist, Blummenfelt, said: “It felt good to be racing again, there were some nerves on the start line up against those guys, but it was a great result here in Yokohama. Starting an Olympic year with a good performance is great, but this is the soft test for what will be tougher conditions coming up in the summer. I didn’t know where I was off the bike or if the other guys were struggling, but I felt like I had control throughout the run and it was really nice to take my second series win.”
FAST AND FURIOUS WOMEN’S RACE
A competitive field with lots of American pros vying for Olympic slots lined up on the women’s pro start line on Saturday 15 May at WTCS Yokohama, 10:16am local time. It was USA’s Taylor Knibbs who secured her spot at the games with an impressive race to secure the gold, with teammate Summer Rappaport (USA), who had already secured her Olympic place, coming in a minute behind in second, and the Netherlands’ Maya Kingma securing third after a strong bike.
Setting out on the initial swim leg saw race favourite Katie Zaferes (USA) make a push to stay out in front, but she was soon caught by chasers including Helena Carvalho (POR) and Rappaport, the latter then holding the lead.
Eventual third-place winner, Kingma lead the pack out on the bike thanks to a swift transition, with chasers including GB’s Sophie Coldwell, Japan’s Yuko Takahashi and Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) hot on her wheels, with Non Standford (GB) making up a chasing pack. The duo of Kingma and Knibb proved their worth by pulling out in front and making impressive time on the chasers, which held them in good stead on the ensuing run.
The final 10km run leg saw a host of strong runners attempt to make their mark, including a still hopeful Zaferes, GB’s Non Stanford, Kirsten Kasper (USA) and Valeria Barthelemy (BEL). Moving into third was Rappaport, while half-way into the run, Knibb staked her claim on first and started to make time on Kingma, who was eventually passed by Rappaport. Making up the top 10 women home was Taylor Spivey in fourth, Julia Hauser (AUT) in fifth, Coldwell sixth, just in front of teammate Stanford in seventh, followed by Casillas Garcia (ESP), Claire Michel (BEL) and Beaugrand.
Delighted winner, young American pro Taylor Knibb, said: “I wasn’t really thinking about Tokyo I just wanted to get to that finish line. Maya [Kingma] was so good on the technical sections of the bike, so I just wanted to pay attention to that and push on the sections where the group was slower. I was just like ‘I gotta run’, knew I just needed second and there wasn’t a lot of time for thinking!”.
PARATRI RACES GALORE
Paratriathletes competing in a range of categoried lines up on the startline on Saturday 15 May, as the countdown to qualify for the Paralympic Games commenced. USA eventually claimed a massive four golds, other winners include France, Netherlands, Spain, Australia and Great Britain.
The women’s PTWC race saw Kendall Gretsch H2 (USA) take the win, followed by Jessica Ferreira H1 (BRA) with silver and coming in third was Spain’s Eva Moral. The men’s race saw a big win for the Netherlands, as Jetze Plat H2 came in first, with teammate Geert Schipper H2 taking silver in front of Ahmed Andaloussi H1 (FRA).
Various other races took place throughout the day, categories included: visually impaired, PTVI, PTS2, PTS3, PTS4 and PTS5. Great Britain’s George Peasgood had a fantastic PTS5 race and flew through the swim, pulling away from chaser Filipe Marques (POR) on the bike and outrunning Germany’s Martin Schulz to take the victory.
Read the full race report and results from World Triathlon
All images credited to World Triathlon