The second WTCS event of the 2022 season makes its way to Leeds in a new and shorter version of the much-loved World Triathlon Series classic.
After nothing less than disaster struck in the men’s race with GB’s Alex Yee and Jonny Brownlee‘s hopes dashed in the swift and unforgiving bike course, the women’s race promised plenty more fast-paced racing.
Favourite out the bat was current Olympic and World Champion, Flora Duffy (BER), double Olympic medallist Georgia Taylor-Brown (GB), and Team GB’s Olympic reserve and last year’s Leeds’ third-place finisher Sophie Coldwell.
What happened in the swim at the women’s 2022 Leeds WTCS race?
With top UK swimstar Jess Learmonth out of action with a hip injury, it was down to French swim superstar Cassandre Beaugrand to lead the way. Meanwhile Duffy drew out a second parallel swim pack alongside, but once they passed the first buoy, the groups merged with Duffy sliding into sixth place.
Coldwell followed Beaugrand out in second, while the current Series leader Taylor-Brown was in 11th position 9 seconds behind.
What happened on the bike at the women’s 2022 Leeds WTCS race?
The first of four laps on the 20km bike course saw a lead group that contained Duffy, Coldwell and Taylor Spivey.
Duffy, who contracted Covid for the second time this year after racing Yokohama, was the first to lose touch with the leading duo, dropping back on the second lap of five.
By the end of lap three, the two frontrunners boasted a huge lead of 40 secs, with a gigantic chaser pack headed by Taylor-Brown having swallowed up Duffy.
Last year’s winner Maya Kingma (NED) was sitting safe in the 22-strong chase pack, alongside Potter and Sian Rainsley, plus Beaugrand, Lindemann, and Rachel Klamer (NED).
What happened on the run at the women’s 2022 Leeds WTCS race?
A swift T2 saw Coldwell power up the hill, dropping Spivey at the start of the 5km run. Twenty seconds later and the chase pack were through, with Taylor-Brown gliding into fourth and Duffy in 13th.
A blunder from Beaugrand, however, almost spelled disaster for the French athlete, who, in third place, mounted her bike just before the line and, like her compatriot Vincent Luis in the men’s race just before, collected a 10-second penalty.
Knowing she had until the final corner to take it, Beaugrand powered ahead, catching the leaders at the end of the first lap and trying to put enough air between her and them to still take the penalty and win.
Taylor-Brown, meanwhile, was also making light work of the 5k, overtaking Coldwell for second as Spivey fell back into fourth.
Timing it to perfection, Beaugrand took her penalty as Taylor-Brown and Coldwell came into view in the background, But within sight of the finish line she had enough in the tank and bank to plough out of the box to take her first WTCS victory in a time of 59:03. Taylor-Brown ran in for silver; Coldwell for bronze.
Cassandra Beaugrand on her winning race focus at Leeds WTCS
“It was very hard after the Yokohama [WTCS] race because I fell. Even though I had a good race, it was really hard to come back and to have gone all the way to Japan for nothing.
“I managed to pick myself back up and I was very focussed on Leeds, I really wanted to have a good race. I had my boyfriend and his family here to watch me, he’s English, and I was very happy to race in front of them.
“I never concentrated on winning as I was racing, I was just thinking about what I was doing. Once I saw that I was in front, I tried to keep my lead but I knew that I had a penalty to take at the end of the race. Next, I’ll be racing Montreal.”
Was Georgia Taylor-Brown happy with her second place at Leeds WTCS?
“I’m feeling good, tired, but I’m buzzing for tomorrow now, I’m ready for the relay. My lungs hurt; it was a good race. It started bad, but I managed to bring it back. I tried not to get down at the start when it was all going wrong.
“I struggled to get my wetsuit off for some reason, I think I was just really cold. Then I couldn’t get my feet in my bike shoes, because I was just really cold. I tried not to panic and tried to get back into the race and just work hard.
“I ran out of transition quite hard, I think I was in second, and I thought ‘just go with [Cassandra] Georgia’. I thought if I could try and get a bit of a gap the first lap then at least on the second, I’d have developed the gap.
“I definitely did die the second lap, but I went with her on the first lap and I was proud of myself for doing that. I felt quite good for the first lap and then it really hit me.
“It was quite a fun course, quite a fast, but it was also really windy today so that made a big difference. I think it was an interesting course and I’m glad today that it was just the short distance otherwise Soph would have pulled out more time from us on the bike.
“I’m still holding onto that number one [World Triathlon] spot, which is a bit daunting and a bit scary. I’m doing better than expected to this year, focus was Commie Games, anything else was a bonus. This is a bonus right now.”
Quotes from Sophie Coldwell from the 2022 Leeds WTCS event
“I didn’t know why I was so nervous coming into this race, but I’m so glad to be back racing. To get back on the podium, especially here, I’m absolutely over the moon. You can’t ask for anything more.
Once we got on the bike and there was a gap, I thought well I might as well commit to it now. I gave it everything I’ve got really. I probably paid for it a bit on the run, but it was one of those things.
“If I had got caught in the big pack, I wouldn’t have got a medal, so I thought better commit now and hope I can stay away. I’m really chuffed.
“This is more than I expected today, so that’s put me in good stead for hopefully coming back with something at Commies.”
How does Flora Duffy feel about her seventh place at Leeds WTCS?
“It was really hard out there. I had a rough few weeks between Yokohama and here, I got covid, so that didn’t give me much time to prepare. And it’s a brutal race to jump into off not ideal preparation. It was okay, not my best.
“At the same time it’s a long year, it’s only my second race. Hopefully I can be a little more strategic and get some solid training weeks in so I don’t show up to these races so underdone and then have to race these girls who are all flying and so strong.
“Now I’ve got to reassess what I want to do with my year. Do I focus on qualifying for 70.3 or do I do the [World Triathlon] series. It just would be nice to feel like I’m up at the front fighting not on the backfoot.”
Scotland’s Beth Potter pleased with fourth place
“It’s a big improvement from Yokohama, I wasn’t very well going into it and two weeks after wards. I’m glad just to be here and back to where I was before. I had a stomach bug. I’ve had that doubt in my head since Yokohama, but I feel like this is a performance that I’m pretty proud of.
“The swim was pretty rough, I was trying to stay calm. I positioned really well on the bike, that was one thing I was a bit tentative about before.
“I just wanted to work hard in the bike, to be there at the front of the bike group and to not just hide at the back, I feel like I did that today.
“Me, Georgia, and Cassandra closed that gap massively. It was pretty close at the end, I wasn’t far from the finish. I just needed 10 more meters downhill to catch Spivey, maybe I mistimed my effort, but I gave it everything.
“This is my highest position in the world series and it’s a strong field, so I’m happy with that.”
Top image: Ryan Sosna-Bowd/Getty Images