Great Britain’s Alex Yee lost out by the slimmest of margins to France’s Dorian Coninx in a thrilling finish to the Tokyo mixed relay test event.
The British quartet of Jess Learmonth, Gordon Benson, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Yee, had led from the start and the contest looked to be heading their way on the anchor leg, when Yee strode out of transition for the final 2km run.
But France’s Dorian Coninx, a World Triathlon Series winner in Bermuda in April, refused to be shaken off and had enough energy left for a sprint finish on the blue carpet, where the two had to be separated by a photo-finish.
It was also Britain’s 50th mixed relay competition, but they just missed out on a 13th victory. “It was a great fight,” Yee said. “I gave everything I had and today it wasn’t enough.” USA finished third, ahead of Italy, with Australia in fifth.
The low water quality that meant the swim was cancelled for the Paratriathlon test event had improved sufficiently for the relay to take place over its planned format of a 300m swim, 7.4km bike and 2km run.
Learmonth retained her form from the individual race on Thursday to dominate the opening leg. After her usual strong swim, only Summer Rappaport could stay with the Brit out of T2 and on to the bike leg.
But the Leeds’ triathlete opened a gap on the American before they reached T2 and extended it to 22sec through the run before tagging Benson, with France’s Cassandre Beaugrand and Germany’s Laura Lindemann catching Rappaport by the handover.
Benson, a Rio 2016 Olympian who hadn’t started in the individual race here, had the tough ask of racing solo from the front and initially saw the advantage eroded before extending it to 15sec, with France’s Pierre Le Corre, USA’s Seth Rider and Italy’s Gianluca Pozzati prominent among the chasers.
On to the third leg and Taylor-Brown held off USA’s Tamara Gorman and France’s Leonie Periault during the bike stage, but was caught on the run, which sent Yee away with Coninx, just ahead of USA’s Ben Kanute, with Italy almost 30sec back and Australia the best of the race, just under a minute in arrears.
Kanute, a powerful cyclist, knew his only chance of victory lay in trying to gain a race-winning gap on the bike, but when that didn’t materialise, it was down to Yee versus Coninx on the run.
The Brit set the pace throughout the 2km run, but Coninx hung on before delivering a decisive finish.
It showed the strength in depth of France, who have won the past two mixed relay world titles and secured victory in Tokyo without their No 1 ranked performer Vincent Luis.
It was also spectacular way to conclude the test event races after a tricky week for organisers trying to make correct decisions over water quality and the potential of heat stress in the new venue of Odaiba Marine Bay.