On a beautiful day down in the capital, Canada’s Paula Findlay scored her maiden win in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship London, presented by Tata Steel.
The 21-year-old produced a terrific final 5km run to take gold from last year’s winner Nicole Spirig (SUI), with Britain’s Helen Jenkins winning a battling bronze.
It was Jenkins, the 2008 World Champion, who threw down the gauntlet in the run at London’s iconic Hyde Park. But the young Canadian stayed with her in a pack that also included New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt.
The Canadian took the lead in the final 2km and proved the stronger, winning her first Dextrose Energy Triathlon ITU World Championships Series race in 1:51.48.
There was further joy for the British team with Vicky Holland finishing sixth, off the back of fifth at Hamburg the week before, and a resurgent Jodie Swallow seventh.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to be on the podium today at all,” said the delighted Canadian. “I thought I might get in the top-15 or the top-20, I just wanted to try to be competitive.
“I felt really comfortable after two laps of the run. I was a bit nervous being up there with them, but I felt in good shape on the last lap, so I tried to surge a bit, I thought they would go past me, but they didn’t.
“Every race keeps getting better and better for me. I don’t feel any pressure at all, I just feel more confident.”
Spirig crossed the finish line three seconds behind Findlay and wasn’t quite able to repeat last year’s victory. But she said she was pleased with the result after illness forced her to miss the Hamburg event last weekend.
“It was really hard work today. I was sick for about one and a half weeks. Training has been going well for a few days since, but I wasn’t sure it would be enough.
“I tried to hang on for the first lap of the run and I was glad when it got a bit slower. I was really pleased to finish second in the end.
Jenkins was also pleased with her podium finish. “I’m really happy to be out there on the podium in front of the home crowd. The home support was amazing and I couldn’t believe how many people were shouting for me. I’m disappointed not to win, but to be on the podium was brilliant.
“Considering the field, this is probably the best field assembled for a couple of years, to get on the podium is fantastic.
“I’ve met my goal today and I really tried to commit to it. I didn’t have the best swim but I pushed hard on the bike and on the run… It didn’t get me the win but it got me on the podium.
“I’ve got a few weeks now until the next race in the series, Kitzbuhel, and then the final in Budapest, so hopefully I can keep getting on the podium.”
Earlier Findlay had come out of the water in 23rd, 20 seconds behind race leader Laura Bennett (USA), who had dominated the swim.
They both featured in a 24-strong pack that broke away from the rest of the field following the swim to bike transition.
Between the 10k and 20k marks of the ride they had virtually doubled their lead over the pack from 32 to 59 seconds. But by that stage the race had ended for another Canadian – Kyla Coates crashed on the second cycling lap and was taken to hospital.
Spirig led the field into the run, with Britain’s Hollie Avil leading the chasing pack.
But it was a gutsy Jenkins that laid down the challenge with a searing pace that soon cut the leading group from 24 to 10. By the end of the first of three laps, and with 3.3km of the run out of the way, her pace had further cut the leading group to seven, which still included three Brits.
The medallists were clearly going to come from this group, which featured Jenkins, Spirig, Findlay, Kate Roberts (RSA), Hewitt, Swallow and Holland.
Cheered on by a home crowd, Jenkins’ pace reduced the front pack to just four, with Roberts, Swallow and Holland cut adrift.
But it was the young Canadian who made the decisive break – cutting clear to race home to the best win of her career to date.
Afterwards the British pair of Holland and Swallow said they were pleased with their sixth and seventh finishes respectively at the London 2012 Olympic Games triathlon venue.
Holland said: “I’m very happy – I was nice and relaxed and managed to pull out another good result.”
“It’s a great atmosphere, every time the level of support is the same. Whether they know who you are or not, they see GBR on your vest and then they cheer and get right behind you.”
“It has been a really great week for me, a couple of fantastic results – fifth in Hamburg and then sixth here today. Obviously I’m looking forward to Kitzbuhel but for me the main thing is the Grand Final in Budapest.”
Swallow said: “The run went off fast from the start and I never really got in control of it. After a lap I had to let the first girls go and find my rhythm. I’m pleased I held on and got seventh.”
“I love this race, everybody was screaming my name. I’m not sure if they were screaming for me or the other Jodie (Stimpson) but I don’t mind.”
“I think I will get to Budapest now, which was my aim. I wanted to finish in the top ten here. I’ve been so down in the last couple of years, I just underestimate myself. I’m glad I had a positive attitude and today I did have.”
“I just want consistency and being up there and being fit all year. I haven’t been like that for the last eight years. I’ve been injured all the time but I’ll keep on going.”
Emma Moffatt, Australia’s Beijing 2008 Olympic bronze medallist, finished ninth today but goes to the next round in Kitzbuhel in Austria at the head of the overall ITU World Championships Series leaderboard.
“I didn’t have my best day today, but I’m still at the top overall and I’m going to try to maintain that over the next two races,” she said. “The girls were pushing a really fast race today and I fell off it a bit.”
Tomorrow the men take centre stage. The men’s elite race gets underway at 16.00 today. Pop down to Hyde Park or watch it live on BBC2.
1. Paula Findlay CAN 1:51:48
2. Nicola Spirig SUI 1:51:51
3. Helen Jenkins GBR 1:51:53
4. Andrea Hewitt NZL 1:51:55
5. Laura Bennett USA 1:52:34
6. Vicky Holland GBR 1:52:39
7. Jodie Swallow GBR 1:52:45
8. Kate Roberts RSA 1:53:04
9. Emma Moffatt AUS 1:53:12
10. Akane Tsuchihashi JPN 1:53:24
Image: Delly Carr/ITU