In a nailbiting finish through the streets of Leeds, Birtwhistle ran down 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Henri Schoeman, to make his break in the final lap of the run. Despite a strong chase from eventual runner-up Matthew McElroy (USA) and 3rd placed Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) over the last two kilometres, Birtwhistle’s break proved too much to close, leaving the Tasmanian to sprint home and secure that elusive WTS title.
Earlier in the race, Birtwhistle produced one of his strongest swims to date to see him take to the bike course in the lead pack alongside Britain’s Brownlee brothers, as well as Russell White (IRL) and Dorian Coninx (FRA). Fending off multiple attacks off the front of the lead pack, Birtwhistle managed to stay in the mix to head out onto the run inside the top eight, setting himself up to stake his claim at the title.
Speaking to ITU Media, Birtwhistle said that it was really pleasing to give a performance he could be proud of and showcase his skills on the world stage.
“It’s been a long time coming, going after that top step of the podium,” Birtwhistle said.
“This was kind of dubbed as the strongest ITU field assembled maybe ever, and to come out and get the win is pretty special.”
“There’s a big 18-months coming up obviously, and this is a real big confidence booster for me.”
Meanwhile Aaron Royle has shown promising signs of what’s to come, as he held steady throughout the race to storm home to 11th in 01:46:01. While the tight bunches and heated competition saw Luke Willian, Ryan Fisher and Ryan Bailie jostling for positions in the chase packs, with the trio running home in 31st, 33rd, and 38th, respectively.
Kelly-Ann Perkins featured for the Australian women in Leeds, with a strong start for her first World Triathlon Series appearance this season.
Coming out of the swim five seconds behind leaders Vittoria Lopes (BRA) and Jessica Learmonth (GBR), Perkins put together a promising performance on a technical course, to run home in 18th in 02:00:08.
A strong finish for fellow Australian Natalie Van Coevorden saw her cross the line just ahead of Perkins in 14th in a time of 01:59:44.
Emma Jackson snuck inside the top 20 for her first 2019 WTS race, finishing 20th in 02:00:49, with Gillian Backhouse rounding out the Aussies in 28th in 02:05:27.
Despite a strong start for Emma Jeffcoat, a tough bike leg got the better of her race, with the Sydneysider recording a DNF on the final lap of the bike leg.
Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) signalled the changing face of British triathlon, as she put together a tactical race to take an upset win over current World Triathlon Series Leader, Katie Zaferes (USA).
Sitting with the lead group right from the start, Taylor-Brown showcased a controlled performance to claim her very first World Triathlon Series title in a dominating finish.
Holding onto the best-of-the-best in Learmonth, Zaferes, and Taylor Spivey (USA) throughout the race, Taylor-Brown proved that the World Champion favourite Zaferes can be beaten, running her down in the first three kilometres of the run to power home to the win in front of a roaring home crowd.
The World Triathlon Series now heads to Nottingham, United Kingdom next weekend for the second stop of the World Triathlon Team Relay Series.
14th Natalie Van Coevorden
18th Kelly-Ann Perkins
20th Emma Jackson
28th Gillian Backhouse
DNF Emma Jeffcoat
1st Jake Birtwhistle
11th Aaron Royle
31st Luke Willian
33rd Ryan Fisher
38th Ryan Bailie