Macca and Steffan win ITU LD World Champs

Chris McCormack and Caroline Steffan win the ITU Long Distance World Championships in Spain, with GB's Jodie Swallow coming third

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Australia’s Chris McCormack added the ITU Long Distance World Championship to his already stellar CV with a stellar run leg in Vitoria-Gasteiz on Sunday, bettering Spain’s Eneko Llanos and Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel over the 4km swim, 120km bike and 30km run.

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The 1997 ITU World Champion and two-time Kona winner said it was one of the most special wins of his career, largely thanks to the huge crowd gathered in Spain’s basque country.

“It was incredible…there was so many people on run course today and it really made the run fast,” McCormack said. “It’s a fantastic victory for me, I’ve won lots of races in my life but this one is very special.”

Macca, continuing his return to long-distance racing after missing out on an Olympic place, was among the favourites in the race. But he exited the water in the middle of the pack and two minutes down on Llanos and Bockel among others. While he made up time in the bike leg, he still exited T2 in sixth place and with plenty of ground to make up over the leaders.

But McCormack started to reel in those ahead of him. While Llanos had rocketed to the lead in the first lap of the run he couldn’t hold off a charging Macca. The Australian hit the front at the start of the third lap of four, and surged ahead to claim his first ITU Long Distance world title.

He said the past 18-months of Olympic distance training and racing had helped give him the speed he needed in the run. He was the only man to go under 1 hour and 45 minutes, with a split of 1 hour 44 minutes and 55 seconds in the final leg.

“I’ve never done this race before, and you know I just tried to make the Olympics so I knew I had a lot of speed, but this is a great distance for me,” he said. “Eneko is a very very close friend of mine and I knew if I could stick close to him then I could set this race up, so I’m very very proud to win here.”

Llanos was the people’s favourite in his home town of Vitoria-Gasteiz, but said he couldn’t be disappointed with a silver medal.

”There’s no doubt I’m really sorry I couldn’t give a victory to all these people, but in any case I’ve finished after Chris McCormack, who has run a wonderful race… today he’s been the best, so there are no excuses,” he said.

In the women’s event, a killer bike leg helped Caroline Steffen to her second ITU Long Distance World Triathlon Championship, as she turned a lead at T2 into a world title winning margin ahead of Denmark’s Camilla Pedersen and Great Britain’s Jodie Swallow in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Swallow said her bronze medal marked an important point in her comeback from severe plantar fasciitis, particularly as the 30km leg was the longest she has completed in a race.

“It was very hard, everything hurts at the moment especially when you are not totally ready for it, so I’m happy with a podium today,” Swallow said. “I did well, I did the best I could for me today. Caroline had an amazing race and it was a tough course, but a brilliant course, the support out there was brilliant.”

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Photo: Janos Schmidt/ITU