Riding high after victories in Abu Dhabi and the Commonwealth Games, the one to beat in Bermuda had to be South African Henri Schoeman – but would he be able to keep the rest at bay and claim two WTS wins in a row?
The 50 elite men that made up the rest might not have included the Brownlees, but there was plenty of quality all the same with 2017 world champ Mario Mola, Schoeman’s team-mate Richard Murray, Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt and the in-form Frenchman Vincent Luis fresh from a third place in Abu Dhabi, in the mix. But in the end it would prove to be a race no one could have predicted.
At 22C it would be a non-wetsuit swim in the North Atlantic, followed by a challenging hilly bike leg that would see 10 ascents of Corkscrew Hill. The four-lap 10km harbourside run then took place in Hamilton, the island’s capital.
At the start Schoeman laid down his intent early in the swim, taking the lead after about 500m, and never relinquishing it. And in the beginning of the bike leg it all looked good for the South African. Part of the leading group of 12, it looked like the pack could work well and maintain a lead over the rest, but this lead was short-lived with the infamous Corkscrew Hill taking its toll on the riders. By the middle of the second lap the group had swelled to around 18 and more, with no one looking to make a breakaway.
Then on the hill at the start of the third lap 21-year-old Norwegian Casper Stornes saw his chance to break away and by the end of the lap he had managed to establish a lead of 30secs over the chasers, a lead he extended to 37secs by the end of lap 4.
Strong cyclist Andreas Schilling from Denmark then made his break on the fifth lap and for the next three laps the two would lead the race, albeit with a big gap between them, but then
on the eighth lap Norwegians Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden thought they would try and join their compatriot on the podium and made their move, and overtook the Dane on the way into T2, 01:18 behind Stornes.
The Norwegians would start the run leg in the top three places, but could they hold their positions?
At the halfway point they were still looking strong and despite Mola’s best efforts, which saw him finish fourth, they would ensure a clean sweep for Norway with Blummenfelt taking second, 21secs behind Stornes, and Iden taking third.
What a historic day for Norway and triathlon.
“When I saw the group let me go I thought this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I took it”, says Stornes.