That was a really tough race, I can’t believe it. The final 3 km seemed like 10 km for me, but the crowd was amazing, my parents were here and I just dug in really deep for them. –An emotional Vincent Luis.
Beautiful setting for the season climax
By Roger Childs
The picturesque Swiss city of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva was the venue for the last International Triathlon Union (ITU) event of the year. The city is mix of modern and traditional architecture, and the lakeside areas have roads and paths attractively lined with trees and parks.
In last weekend’s races comprising a 2 km swim, 40 km cycle and 10 km run, athletes were vying for victory in this final ITU contest for 2019, but more importantly for the title of world champion. Frenchman Vincent Luis and American Katie Zaferes only had to finish in the top 10 to claim the trophies for being the world’s best.
Unexpected winner in the men’s race
Triathlons are won on the run which completes the trio of disciplines. However, a poor swim and failing to make the front cycle pack can mean you are out of contention on the run. The favourite to win the men’s event in Lausanne was world champion for the last three years, Spain’s Mario Mola. He and many other contenders, including the legendary, Javier Gomez, Vincent Luis and Yorkshireman Jonathan Brownlee were all in the leading bike group. Unfortunately Brownlee had his chain come off going into transition, so he lost time carrying rather than wheeling his bike down the blue mat. Consequently he started well back on the run. Meanwhile the others were in the front group that set out on the 10 km and they were joined by three Norwegians headed by Kristian Blummenfelt.
After 2 km Blummenfelt made a break, but in the second lap he was reined in by Mola, Luis and his compatriots Gustav Iden and Casper Stornes. The likely winner now seemed to be the Spaniard – consistently the fastest runner in recent years – or Luis.
However, Blummenfelt, who is built more like a rugby forward than a runner, had other ideas. He made another break in the third lap and this time he got away. The tall, lean Mola tried hard to pull him in, but the Norwegian was too strong on the two climbs and ran strongly on the flat sections. He won by 16 seconds and secured his first ever victory in an ITU event. Mola was second and fellow Spaniard, Fernando Alarza, rounded out the podium places.
Luis just had to finish in the top six to claim the world title and his fifth placing did the job. So there were two new champions — Blummenfelt in the event and Luis for the overall 2019 ITU trophy.
In the women’s event, Britain’s Jessica Learmonth was first out of the water and had an early lead on the bike. However, she was soon joined by compatriot Georgia Taylor-Brown, Zaferes, 2016 and 2017 world champion Flora Duffy, and Brazilian Vittoria Lopez. This group were well ahead of the chasers out of transition onto the run and clearly the podium finishers would come from these five.
By lap 3 the two Brits and Zaferes had shaken off Lopes and Duffy to be certain of top three placings. Zaferes didn’t need to win in order to be crowned champion for 2019, but she wasn’t holding back. The three leaders stayed together until late in the final lap but it was then that Taylor-Brown found the pace too hot and dropped back. Learmonth and the American picked up the pace, but ultimately Zaferes edged ahead and took both the race and the world title for the first time.
She was delighted: “I worked really hard to get in the mental frame, I knew physically I was in the right frame, so I didn’t let it get to me too much. I’m just out there enjoying it and enjoying the process, and to do it on this course is amazing.”