Georgia Taylor-Brown showed why she is the top short course triathlete in the world at present as she fought back in Montreal to secure second place and an Olympic mixed team relay spot for Great Britain.
It was a task that looked beyond even the 2020 world champion, who started the final leg well adrift of a podium position, and knowing that she’d have to serve a penalty for a transition infringement by team-mate Sam Dickinson.
Undeterred, she dragged time back in the swim, hunted down USA’s Summer Rappaport and New Zealand’s Nicole Van der Kaay on the bike, and opened up enough of a gap to see out the 10sec stand-down and still make it to the line in second just ahead of Rappaport.
France stamped their authority on the race as Cassandre Beaugrand anchored them to a comfortable victory. But as hosts for Paris 2024 they are already guaranteed a start in the Olympic triathlon mixed team relay, so the one automatic qualifying spot on offer rolled down to Team GB.
“I was using some very strong curse words for little Samuel over here!” Taylor-Brown joked at the finish. “But I’m glad we got there in the end. I was kind of settling for fourth place because I thought Van der Kaay and Summer were going to outrun me as I worked really hard on the swim and the first lap of the bike.”
While the drama centred on Taylor-Brown’s finish, the French win was set up Vincent Luis breakaway performance on the third leg that gave them an unassailable lead over the chasers.
It also made it a mixed relay double for the French, as they followed up their success in the Under-23-Junior mixed relay earlier in the day, where Great Britain’s quartet finished second.
The Montreal showdown came after two days of individual competition and 16 teams started with the carrot of one automatic qualification spot for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The course was adapted so it was slightly shorter than the individual super sprint eliminator of the previous two days, with a 300m swim, 6.6km bike leg, and 1.9km run.
After victory in the individual race, Alex Yee tried to get GB off to a strong start and after the teams stayed together on the first swim and bike, there was no surprise to see Yee and New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde open a 6sec gap on the run.
However, it was quickly reeled in by Brazilian Vittoria Lopes at the start of leg two and out of the water it was four clear including Lopes, Britain’s Coldwell, New Zealand’s Ainsley Thorpe and reigning world Under-23 champion Emma Lombardi of France.
Despite Coldwell’s best efforts they were unable to increase the gap and by the time they reached the run had been caught by a chase pack including USA’s Taylor Spivey and Norway’s Lottie Miller with 12 teams still in contention.
Lombardi and Denmark’s Alberte Kjær Pedersen – who came fourth in the individual event – were fastest on the run, with France’s Luis then taking charge at the front of the swim and making the race-defining break.
By the end of the bike leg, Luis opened a lead to 19sec over the USA’s Kevin McDowell and New Zealand’s Tayler Reid, with the chasers including Dickinson another 17secs adrift. Dickinson had also picked up a 10sec time penalty for his equipment not being in the box, and as he tagged Taylor-Brown for the final leg, GB looked out of contention.
As Beaugrand took off at the front, Taylor-Brown set about reducing the deficit to Rappaport and Van der Kaay. Buoyed by her success the previous day, Taylor-Brown closed the gap to within 10sec by the time she’d completed the swim and made the long run to transition and had caught Rappaport and Van der Kaay by the end of the first bike lap.
Taking off on the run, Taylor-Brown knew she needed enough of a cushion to take the penalty on the finish straight, and with a frantic dash for the line. made it with just seconds to spare.