Lauren Parker and Anu Francis shone at the World Triathlon Para Cup in Paris as the City of Light hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Test Events this weekend.
Parker reached for a change in mindset to conquer the slippery cobblestones of the Champs Elysees for a 13th consecutive victory, while Anu Francis continued her ascent in the women’s PTS2 class, conquering some big reputations to break through for a big win.
It was a Test Event for the ages in every sense after a 3:30am call on the morning of the race when water testing of the River Seine forced officials to turn the races into a Duathlon – dropping the swim.
With the format switched due to discrepancies with the water testing ,the athletes lined up on a revised run-bike-run format.
A 1.2km link to one lap of the 1.3km run course, transitioning on Ponte Alexandre III for the five-lap 18.5km bike and then back onto the run for three laps, taking in the Champs Elysees and Saint German Boulevard.
The Australians went into the day without any expectations and came out with two gold and a silver medal, with Sam Harding, and guide Harry Wiles, snatching a deserved second-place in the PTVI class.
Parker admitting that the Duathlon wasn’t ideal, being a specialist swimmer, saying she had to change her mindset to maintain her remarkable unbeaten record of the past two years.
“It’s important to adapt to these situations, and it was such a challenging course, lots to think about but I am super happy to take the win today,” said Parker.
“Dealing with the cobblestones and the rain and then the slipperiness of the cobblestones gives me a lot of confidence leading into to 2024.”
A sixth win in the PTWC category over US rival and defending Paralympic champion Kendall Gretsch, who snatched an agonising win over Parker at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
“Lauren’s biking is going well as we saw last week at the World Cycling Championships and the margin stayed pretty stable throughout in the bike and the second run leg,” said Para-triathlon Performance Manager, Kyle Burns.
“It didn’t move a lot which is promising, and she went about the race the way Lauren goes about it.”
A win worth celebrating in a spectacular Parisian backdrop and a course in-and-around some of the world’s wondrous landmarks, adding another spectacular chapter to triathlon’s storied history.
Athletes, coaches and handlers alike pinching themselves – hard to believe they were on the Champs Elysees, surrounded by the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Sacre Coeur and the Arc de Triomphe.
And while Parker has maintained that swimming is still her strength, others, including Gretsch, may now beg to differ – Parker coming into the City Of Lights as a World Para Cycling gold and silver medallist in Scotland last weekas she chases places in two sports when she returns to the cobblestones next year, her steely sights set on dual successes.
Combining her improved technique on the hand-cycle to that single-minded mindset that resulted in a dominant display over a testing 18.5k bike course.
Burns leaves Paris with a long list of learnings as he prepares his troops for the unexpected when they return for the real thing in 2024.
“The thing that was unique was that we didn’t come here with too much expectation but to take away as many learnings as we could,” said Burns.
“It was a course that we absolutely had to learn from, a course we thought was fairly flat, but we found it’s got some undulation in it, plus the corners and the cobbles that all play a part.
“But in saying that we had some great results, particularly for Anu and another great result for Lauren off the back of her gold and silver at the Cycling World Champs.
“And for Sam to get silver it was good for him as well, with Harry Wiles, who only came into his role as Sam’s guide this week. He did well to get Sam around.”
World Triathlon Para Cup Paris Results
1st – Lauren Parker (PTWC)
1st – Anu Francis (PTS2)
2nd – Sam Harding (PTVI) Guide: Harry Wiles
4th – Sally Pilbeam (PTS4)
4th – Justin Godfrey (PTS3)
5th – David Bryant (PTS5)
6th – Jeremy Peacock (PTS4)
9th – Jack Howell (PTS5)