Australia struck gold at the World Triathlon Championship Series round in Montreal today with the Gold Coast’s Tokyo Olympian Matt Hauser claiming his maiden WTCS victory.
The 25-year-old turned a stirring silver in the last round in Yokohama into a deserved gold medal – the first Australian male since Jake Birtwhistle in 2019 to win a round of World Triathlon’s prestigious WTCS.
Despite leading out of the water after the 750-meter swim to start the sprint distance format, Hauser had plenty of work to do after the field jockeyed for positions through the 20-kilometre bike on a slippery road surface and produced the fastest five-kilometre run leg of the day to claim the victory.
Hauser produced a run time of 14:23, sprinting down the blue carpet to take the win in 53:47 from Manoel Messias (Brazil) 53:58 with Jelle Geens (Belgium) taking bronze in 54:02 and Tokyo Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt (Norway) in fifth.
There were 55-men, including five Australians, who lined up at the Old Port of Montreal – a full start list packed with talent.
Only Kenji Nener (JPN) who grew up racing in Australia as a junior, Jamie Riddle (RSA) and Nicole Strada (ITA) could manage Hauser’s swim pace with the Aussie stretching the field so much that by the end of the 750m swim, the last athletes – notably, Blummenfelt and his Norwegian teammate Gustav Iden were almost 40 seconds behind them.
The 400m uphill run to the first transition was key for some of the athletes that were not so fast in the water to catch up with Hauser, and by the time they all mounted their bikes, a massive group of athletes was together, making it challenging for all as the rain made the bike course a slippery one.
It was Marten van Riel (BEL) Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) with Nener and Hauser who took turns to push the group, also knowing that strong bikers like Geens, Blummenfelt and Iden were in the chase group.
A chase group that was quickly led by Blummenfelt, determined to make it to the front, which he eventually did in the fourth lap (out of six), making the front group an even larger one, with almost everyone just trying to stay out of trouble.
The massive train of athletes made it to the second transition in a pack, and it was Spain’s Robert Sanchez Mantecon the quickest to get his shoes on and leave the blue carpet, followed by Hungary’s Bence Bicsak.
Behind them, a group of eight athletes that included great running talent, such as Hauser, Geens, Messias, Tim Hellwig (GER), Nener and Jonas Schomburg (GER) and the group kept together for most part of the five-kilometre run.
It was with less than one-kilometre to go when Hauser decided to go for it, where he found his extra gear. Only Messias was able to go with the Australian while behind them, Geens, Blummenfelt and Hellwig were left to fight out the bronze medal.
As the finish arch approached it was Hauser who headed to the blue carpet all smiles, ready to claim the tape for the first time in his career in the WTCS – a victory that now sees him in fifth place overall on the Series Rankings.
After the race, Hauser spoke about building his momentum.
“After Yokohama, where I finished in second place, I knew I had a better lead-up in my preparations,” said Hauser.
“I felt good out there today and got the job done. It’s instinct, you’ve just got to act in the moment.
“I knew the other guys were just settling into a rhythm and you can’t let that happen. I knew the sooner I went, the better.
“I was lucky enough to break them up, but it was a big group of guys on the run, and it certainly wasn’t wrapped up until the end.”
Birtwhistle was the next best Australian home in 11th – his best WTCS result in two seasons.
London Olympian Emma Jackson (23rd) and Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay bronze medallist Sophie Linn (24th) were the best placed Australians in a hotly contested women’s race.
Former World Champions Australia will now line up in tomorrow’s Mixed Relay event.
The Australian Elites will then set themselves for the Paris Olympic Test Event from August 17-20 as they seek automatic nomination to the Australian Olympic Committee for the 2024 Paris Games and the World Triathlon Grand Final in Pontevedra (Spain) from September 22-24.