Sophie Coldwell wins her first World Triathlon race in Yokohama
The win puts the British pro at the top of the women's rankings; while NZ's Hayden Wilde takes the men's title to start his 2023 championship campaign
Great Britain’s Sophie Coldwell chalked up her first-ever World Triathlon Championship Series title this morning in Yokohama, Japan.
Second on the line in was newcomer, Mexico’s Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal, while reigning 70.3 world champion Taylor Knibb (USA) added bronze to her impressive WTCS short-course medal haul.
Under torrential rain, Coldwell combined a great swim, a powerful bike and left T2 in the lead, before running solo for the full 10km to claim the first major victory of her career, one that also puts her on top of the World Triathlon Championship Series Rankings.
What happened in the swim?
Sixty women lined up under grey, wet skies at the second round of eight stops on this year’s tour (including the Paris Test Event), that will ultimately decide the 2023 world champions in Pontevedra at the end of September.
Chinese athlete Yifan Yang, surprised the field by leading out of the 1.5km swim. Behind her came Maya Kingma (NED), Summer Rappaport (USA), Coldwell (GBR), Taylor Spivey (USA), Kate Waugh (GBR), Vidal, Kirsten Kasper (USA) and Knibb.
Last year’s series’ runner-up Georgia Taylor-Brown had had a surprisingly average swim and entered transition almost 30secs behind. As the athletes were getting ready for the nine-lap 40km bike leg, the rain started to fall harder.
What happened on the bike?
In just one lap, the leaders dropped Fang, with the remaining seven opening a gap of almost 40secs after lap one; Taylor-Brown, Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS), Emma Lombardi (FRA) and Sophie Linn (AUS) trying desperately to get the big chase group to work together and hunt down the leaders.
Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Taylor-Brown tried a few times to get the group organised but with no much luck, and by the time they hit T2 they were almost 1:40mins behind the top seven.
What happened on the run?
The first two out of T2 were Spivey and Coldwell, shoulder to shoulder, followed by Knibb, Kingma and Rappaport, with Vidal and Kasper further behind.
But before the first 500m, Coldwell had charged, gave a quick glimpse behind, and cruised solo for the remaining 9.5km to the finish line with an impressive 33:53min split.
Quotes from the women’s podium finishers
“I’ll try not to cry, it’s like a dream,” she said at the line. “I can’t really believe it. We had a really good block of training in Australia before Abu Dhabi and raced Abu Dhabi off the back of that. Now I just came here and tried to put the same processes in place.
“I am literally lost for words and this doesn’t happen very much. This year for us is all about Olympic selection and it’s tough being from GB, we have such a strong roster of girls. Hopefully this is another step forward to try and make that team.”
Coldwell adds this gold to her silver from the first round, in Abu Dhabi, behind winner Beth Potter (not racing in Yokohama today).
Vidal’s second place was the first time top 10 for Mexico since Claudia Rivas finished ninth in WTS Edmonton 2015.
Knibb managed to stay ahead of Spivey and claimed a third place on her comeback to WTCS racing following injury.
“I think everything was a bit of a shock to the system,” said Knibb. “Everyone was jostling for positions. If you told me a few months ago that I would be here at this race, let along on the podium, this is a really big surprise.
“My surgeon told me it’s good to have a goal to get me through recovery and the fact that I am here, I’ll take that. I am really grateful to my team for getting me back. I was on crutches a few weeks ago so thank you to everyone.”
Spivey finished fourth; 2022 U23 world champion Waugh was fifth (her best finish to date); Kingma sixth; Taylor-Brown, who had the best run split of the day, seventh; Kasper eighth; Lombardi ninth and Rappaport 10th.
What happened in the men’s race?
In the men’s race, Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Hayden Wilde kicked off his 2023 title chase with a win, a victory that will mean a lot to the 2022 Super League Series winner who lost the WTCS title in a memorable Grand Final in Abu Dhabi, in November last year.
Australia’s Matt Hauser claimed his second WTCS podium, while Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca took third place, enough to make him the new Series leader.
What happened in the swim?
Despite slightly better weather conditions than in the women’s race, it was still a wetsuit swim for the two-lap 1.5km in Yokohama Bay.
Hungary’s Mark Devay was the first out, with Dylan McCullough (NZL), Jonas Schomburg (GER), Hauser, Kenji Nener (JPN), Leo Bergere (FRA) and Dorian Coninx (FRA) in quick pursuit.
Not far behind was Marten Van Riel (BEL) and Wilde (NZL).
Reigning 70.3 world and Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), in his first WTCS race of 2023, was almost 30secs down on the leaders, but he was still fairing better than his teammate Gustav Iden, who came out second to last.
What happened on the bike?
A huge train of athletes took the helm of the 40km bike leg, with Wilde, Bergere and Coninx swiftly taking their positions up front, trying to stay away of trouble.
Blummenfelt led a group of six in the chase pack, including Jelle Geens (BEL), and pushed really hard in the first three laps to catch the main group, leaving Iden way back, trying hopelessly to catch up.
By the fourth lap, Blummenfelt and Geens had caught up with the 45-plus-strong group. After a few drop-offs en route, the pack arrived at T2 with over 25 men.
What happened on the run?
Bergere and Wilde had a flawless transition, and were quickly in the lead. Behind them came Vilaca, who was suffering with cramps that almost forced him to stop, Adrien Brifford (SUI), Henri Schoeman (RSA), Coninx, Hauser, Nener, Geens and Blummenfelt.
But before any of them could even react, Wilde put the hammer down and left Bergere and co. with no response.
Bergere, also suffering with some cramps, was caught half way by Coninx and Vilaca, with Hauser then trying to catch them.
As the kms passed by, Hayden looked relaxed, heading into the blue carpet knowing that the victory was his, all smiles clapping hands of the spectators before grabbing the tape.
Quotes from the men’s podium finishers
“I was really going for this one,” said Wilde. “In [the first round] Abu Dhabi, I had a mechanical and I didn’t get to show what I had so today I wanted to come out here and give it some.
“I couldn’t believe the swim I had. I got into a really nice position and got on the front with Leo (Bergere) and co. so it was good. I really wanted to go quick and I was on pace quite nicely.
“I wanted to push a little bit more but I know in two weeks I’ve got Cagliari against Alex (Yee) so just wanted to ease it a bit because I didn’t want to be too cooked for that.”
Hauser robbed silver from Vilaca, Bergere and Coninx in a blue-carpet sprint finish.
“It’s what self belief gets you mate,” said Hauser. “Honestly, I didn’t expect too much for this race coming two weeks out of Abu Dhabi. It’s a great credit to my team in Queensland and the Gold Coast.
“It would have stung if I got another fourth place here so had to get on that dice.”
Vilaca managed to stay ahead of the two Frenchmen and crossed the line in third place, enough to grant him the Series leadership.
“Well the season is going pretty well,” said Vilaca. “Going into the race with number one was super exciting and having the number one cap for me was pretty big.
“I lost the cap in the swim and I was looking forward to hanging that up on my wall when I got home. So I thought I still need to be Series leader so I can get a number one cap for the next race!
“Besides that, the race went pretty well. I got a big cramp on my left quad by the end of the T2 and I really lost the group and having 10km ahead of me, I kept believing. It was mentally kind of a boost, I thought it could only get better from here. Passing people it mentally helps.”
Coninx’s fourth and Bergere’s fifth guaranteeing their presence at the Paris Test Event in August. Behind them, Brifford was sixth 6th; Geens seventh; Blummenfelt eighth; Csongor Lehmann (HUN) ninth and Schoeman 10th.
Top image credit: Tommy Zaferes/World Triathlon