In a tight battle for gold, Australia’s rising triathlon star and 2016 Olympic hopeful Ashleigh Gentle from the Gold Coast has claimed her second career World Cup title with a win at the unique Tiszaujvaros ITU Triathlon World Cup in Hungary.
Maaike Caelers (NED), who collected silver, pushed Gentle to the end, giving the crowd an exciting finish.
Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA) rounded out the top three, but not without a fight from Gentle’s Australian team mate Charlotte McShane.
The excitement in Tiszaujvaros began Saturday with the women’s semi-finals. The top 25 women across two waves advanced to finals on Sunday. The athletes completed the same three-lap 750m swim, but encountered a new six-lap 20km bike and three-lap 5km race the second day of competition.
“I think its a really good idea,” Gentle said. “I think everyone was a little tired out there. But I had lots of fun. I didn’t really know what to expect.”
Gentle started her road to gold on Saturday when she finished at the top of her heat with fellow Aussie McShane. Like the first day of action, Gentle exited the water late in the group during the finals. Caelers fared only slightly better, leaving the lake in 15th place.
A lengthy 35 seconds back from leader Inna Tsyganok (RUS), Gentle pounded out two speedy bike laps, to form one big lead group by the third lap. The women rode in a hefty pack of 21 athletes for the next four laps, with Gentle, Mazzetti and Caelers gradually pushing their way to the front.
“I knew had to get on the bike and hammer,” Gentle said. “For the first lap and a bit, I was just time trialing. I knew I had to catch up to that group or I wasn’t really going to have a chance in the race.”
Similarly to yesterday’s semi-final, Rebecca Robisch (GER) hopped off her bike to storm out on the run course first.
Teammate Anja Knapp (GER) followed suit, with Mazzetti, Gentle, and McShane on her heels. It didn’t take long for the agile runner Gentle to take over.
However, Gentle’s quest for the lead was answered by Caelers, who also had a monster first run lap. Together, the women ran shoulder-to-shoulder, followed by the pair of Mazzetti and McShane.
Gentle found the energy to dash ahead of Caelers in the final meters of the last lap, leaving no time to slow for a celebratory finish. Gentle shot forward to and stopped the clock at 58 minutes, 40 seconds, while Caelers crossed three seconds later. It was the first World Cup podium of Caelers’ career.
“It was a really hard fought battle to be honest,” Gentle said, who also recorded the fastest run splits of the day. “I was trying to shake her, but she was relentless and stuck by my side. I’m lucky I had that little bit extra at the end.”
With gold and silver secure, Gentle watched as teammate McShane battled for third. In the last push, Mazzetti edged out McShane, sailing ahead for the bronze in 59 minutes, 19 seconds.
McShane finished fourth, followed by a pair of Germans, Knapp and Robisch.
This World Cup was the first in ITU history to feature a semi-finals and finals format with sprint distance races on back to back days.
Next up on the ITU circuit is the fifth round of the ITU World Triathlon Series in Hamburg. Catch the action live on triathlonlive.tv
Aussie pair in top ten finish in Hungary
Australia’s Ryan Fisher and Dan Wilson have finished fourth and 10th respectively in impressive performances in the finals of the Tiszaujvaros ITU Triathlon World Cup in Hungary.
But the day belonged to the French, as they controlled the course from start to finish which saw Aurelien Raphael open the day with the fastest swim and teammate Pierre Le Corre finish it with his first ITU World Cup victory.
Le Corre crossed over the finish line first, followed shortly thereafter by Raphael and Anthony Pujades for a French sweep of the podium.
“We are very glad to win today,” Le Corre said. “The French team on the podium, it’s fantastic.”
Swift swimmer Raphael, who posted the top swim time in semifinals on Saturday, again set the pace on the swim, leading his teammates out of the water first. Pujades and Le Corre were not far behind, sitting in second and fifth, respectively.
The trio hopped on their bikes and, alongside Russians Igor Polyanskiy and Andrey Bryukhankov, immediately created a breakaway lead group of ten men. By the second lap, the pack had earned themselves a 41-second advantage. Throughout the next three laps, the leaders managed to hammer out a minute lead by the bell lap.
“I felt fantastic today,” Le Corre said. “We worked very well on the bike. We wanted to break away on the bike and we did. We pushed hard on the swim, the French team did. So it was a good race.”
Dan Wilson (AUS), who posted the fastest bike time of the day in semi-final action, headed onto the run course first, followed by Stefan Zachaeus (GER) and the three Frenchman. Le Corre, Raphael and Pujades then worked to furiously drop Wilson and Zachaeus on the first run lap.
By the first lap they had succeeded. Le Corre stormed to the top spot and never looked back. He continued edging ahead, while Raphael lengthened his stride, maintaining pace from behind.
Pujades received the most opposition, positioned narrowly in front of Ryan Fisher (AUS) midway through the run. But on the last lap, Pujades took off to round out a French top three.
Le Corre coasted into first with a time of a time of 51 minutes, 54 seconds. Raphael slowed behind him to drape the French flag around him before clocking in at 52 minutes, 5 seconds. Pujades was next, scoring bronze and his first career ITU World Cup podium, five seconds behind Raphael.
“This is the first time maybe France has gone 1-2-3,” Pujades said of the French sweep. “They are my friends. We train together, so I am so happy. It’s great.”
Fisher and Polyanskiy completed the field’s top five. Teen phenom Lukas Verzbicas (USA) languished in the chase group on the bike but scorched the day’s fastest run split to move up to sixth place.
Another Frenchman, Gregory Rouault, was also impressive, clocking the day’s second fastest run to finish seventh. Verzbicas and Rouault were the only men to run under the 15-minute mark on a tough day when all athletes had to back up yesterday’s semifinals.
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