By Erin Greene on 15/11/12 at 2:10 pm
One of the defining characteristics of this year’s World Triathlon Series and World Cup races were the number of sprint distances that appeared on the calendar. With half the distance, the five sprints provided some of the most exciting, down to the line action we saw this season.
The first sprint to appear on the schedule was the Tiszaujvaros World Cup. As one of the longest-standing events on the ITU calendar, race organisers opted to mix up their standard course. They halved the normal distance, but doubled the action when athletes were sent off in waves in a two-day qualification format. The fastest athletes in each heat on the first day advanced to a second day of racing.
Maaike Caelers (NED) and Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) got the crowd on their feet with a riveting battle down the finish chute. Both torpedoed towards the line, but it was Gentle who found the extra energy to shoot forward in the end for a win by just three seconds.
“I think it’s a really good idea,” Gentle said of the format. “I think everyone was a little tired out there. But I had lots of fun. I didn’t really know what to expect.”
In the men’s race, the French led from start to finish, sweeping the podium. Aurelien Raphael led his teammates out of the water, but it was Pierre Le Corre who closed with his first ITU World Cup victory. Anthony Pujades ran in between them for silver, and Raphael took home bronze.
While the Edmonton World Cup is also normally an Olympic distance, the local organising committee proposed a shortened version of the original course due to the proximity of the event to the Olympics. London-bound Kyle Jones (CAN) took advantage of the cropped course to sharpen his sprinting skills. He sailed past the competition on the first run lap to capture his first World Cup title. Alexander Hinton followed suit, giving Canada a one-two finish. A day earlier, Lauren Campbell and Sarah-Anne Brault also put together a gold-silver podium for Canada.
“I didn’t have ideal preparation and I came here hoping for a top ten, some prize money but when I saw myself in the lead I went for it,” said Campbell. “I love it here, it was my first World Cup in 2002 so it’s fun to return ten years later and win.”
As the last race before London, the Dextro Energy Triathlon Hamburg also featured a sprint. Despite trailing nearly 30 seconds on the swim, Erin Densham (AUS) hammered on the first bike lap to catch the leaders. She rocketed past Emma Moffatt (AUS) and Kate Roberts (RSA) in the final kilometer to earn her second WTS win of the year.
Richard Murray (RSA) expertly executed a plan to kill the start of the run in Hamburg. Murray and Javier Gomez (ESP) ran shoulder to shoulder the full five kilometers, but Murray was too much for Gomez in the final meters, and Murray made out with his first WTS win.
“I think it’s probably the most spectacular one of the whole series, just because of the crowd and the ambience, and because Hamburg city is so amazing,” said Murray. “It was amazing running with Javi, it was definitely an amazing experience.”
Following London, Stockholm debuted as a WTS race with a frenetic sprint over cobblestone roads. Lisa Norden (SWE) amazed home crowds with her line to line win, leading out of the swim, off the bike and ultimately on the run. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) produced his fourth ITU World Triathlon Series win when he flew ahead of the field on the run to win.
Cancun closed the curtain on the 2012 World Cup circuit in furious fashion. Katie Hewison (GBR) dominated the run in the coastal city, pounding out an incredible pace too furious to reel in. She put up her first ITU World Cup win by 25 seconds.
The men’s race saw a battle between Mexico’s own Sergio Sarmiento and Crisanto Grajales down to the finish line. Though Grajales displayed superb sprint skills at the Guatape World Cup, it was Sarmiento who catapulted to the win, making him the first Mexican to ever win the race.
“I was retired for five years because I had a crash on the bike, but I wanted to come back and I’m feeling good,” Sarmiento said. “In every event we do, it’s a better result and better result. It’s perfect for me. I am very happy. I don’t want to believe this because I hope it will lead to a lot more triumphs.”