France showed their strength in depth to take the Team Mixed Relay world title in Hamburg – even without the help of their newly-crowned two-time world champion Vincent Luis.
The quartet of Leonie Periault, Leo Bergere and Cassandre Beaugrand were led home by Dorian Coninx to win the title for the third consecutive year.
Britain finished third after Alex Yee was dropped on the bike by Coninx and USA’s Morgan Pearson, and was unable to make up the deficit over the 1.7km run.
“Last year I had a crazy sprint finish with Alex Yee,” Coninx said, referring to the photo-finish in the relay at the Tokyo Olympic test event. “I wanted to avoid that as best as I could. I’m happy with my race and it was nice to see everybody going as fast as we can.”
It was clear from the bike stage of the second women’s leg that the medals would be fought out by the usual trio of France, USA and Great Britain.
The three nations have won five of the past six team mixed relay world titles, with only Australia – absent here due to Covid travel restrictions – breaking the stranglehold in 2017.
Despite starting the final bike leg together, Coninx put a decisive 16sec into Pearson and 31sec into Yee over the 6.5km and the game was up.
Austria’s Therese Feuersinger set the early pace in the first swim and the opening bike leg saw Germany, Spain, Russia and Portugal all out of contention by the time T2 was reached for the first time.
Newly-crowed world champion Georgia Taylor-Brown took charge to open a 13sec advantage for GB at the handover, but Barclay Izzard was unable to hold the gap in the water and 10 nations arrived together in T1.
Next was the turn of Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt to show his firepower, carving out a 15sec lead that he held during the run leg.
But as so often in the mixed relay though, solo breaks are hard to sustain, and Stine Dale was soon blown past by Katie Zafares, Jess Learmonth and Beaugrand.
As they handed over to Coninx, Yee and Pearson for the final leg, the only question remaining was how the medals would be shared.