WA’s Rio Olympian Ryan Bailie produced one of the toughest runs of his career for a hard fought top 10 finish in this morning’s World Triathlon Series race debut in Bermuda.
The 27-year-old had spent a month training in Waitara, in the Taranaki Region of New Zealand for the bulk of his preparation and the “hard yards” payed off for his ninth place.
After missing selection in the Commonwealth Games, Bailie and Olympic team mate Aaron Royle (25th) mixed it up with a group of the toughest ITU triathletes in the world for 10 of the steepest hill climbs up Bermudan capital Hamilton’s Corkscrew Hill.
Bailie and Royle were well placed in the main pack for the entire 40km bike leg, despite the winning breakaway from Norway’s Kasper Stornes and what eventually became an historic Norwegian podium with Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden – the first men’s trifecta in WTS history.
The wiry Bailie clocked 32 mins 06 secs for the seventh fastest 10km split of the race with fourth placed two-time and defending WTS champion and 2018 Series leader Mario Mola (Spain), the quickest in 31.19.
He held off Mexican veteran Crisanto Grajales in series of sprint finishes to determine what became a different looking top 10 – in Bailie’s fourth Olympic-distance triathlon since Rio – the previous two saw him sixth in the 2016 World Championship Grand Final and 18th in last year’s Grand Final.
“That’s a pleasing performance for Ryan in his 2018 WTS season debut,” said Jamie Turner, coach at Triathlon Australia’s International Performance Centre, in Wollongong.
“We spent the off-season working with the AIS to ensure we were able to manage his calf issues and looking at the way he ran it’s certainly paying off.
“The month he spent in Waitara (NZ), similar to his Rio preparation, was also a contributing factor.
“It sets him up nicely for the next round in Yokohama and the rest of the season.”
Bailie will link up with Turner and fellow squad members from the Wollongong group post Yokohama when they travel on to Vitoria-Gasteiz in the Basque country of Spain to set up their European summer base.
Bailie was a close-up 18th (19 secs behind) swim leader, Commonwealth Games champion, Henri Schoeman (RSA) out of the water with Royle 10th (10 secs behind).
And it gave the Aussie boys a chance of being up-front through the tortuous Corkscrew Hill climbs.
But they didn’t expect what happened with Stornes making the most of an early break away with the field allowing the young Norwegian to maintain an 85 secs breakaway into T2 – a lead he maintained to the finish.
It was an overall historical day on the island as the debut 2018 WTS Bermuda race saw the Norwegian flags flying high.
In only his third WTS elite race of his career Stornes wrote his own chapter – he had not only ever won a race before, he had never been on the podium or even in the top ten before.
His bold decision proved successful as he pushed the pace with every stride, banking on the narrow and tight U-turn parts of the course to slow the large chase pack that held captive threats such as Mola, Schoeman and Blummenfelt.
Thousands of cheering fans lined the streets of Hamilton to welcome the men kick off WTS Bermuda.
Denmark’s Andreas Schilling was the only man to try to catch Stornes, but he ultimately could not close in. However, he never returned to the chase pack and remained in second-place for the rest of the bike – fading on the run, to finish 17th.
As the second transition approached, Stornes had built up a lead of over two minutes from the large chase pack of more than 30 men. But after riding solo for more than 30-kilometres, it would be a test to see if his legs could stay fresh enough to stay away.
Right before the transition zone, Blummenfelt and Iden made a last-minute push to gain some space upon entering the run. They caught up to Schilling and within moments passed him.
However, Stornes had a lead of about 80 seconds. His risk on the bike paid off and his lead was never threatended. With the Norway flag in hand, he ran his way into the finish chute to claim his first-ever WTS gold and the first WTS gold for Norway.
Blummenfelt and Iden then completed the historic clean-sweep as Blummenfelt came in for the silver, while Iden took bronze.
Mola had the fastest run time of the day, despite finishing just off the podium in fourth place. However, combined with his second-place finish from WTS Abu Dhabi, Mola became the new 2018 Series leader.
The top-placed Australian on the WTS points going into the next round in Yokohama on May 12, is Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Jake Birtwhistle (11th) followed by Royle (17th) and Bailie (18th).Full results