The scene was perfect for Vanessa Fernandes. She was in Madrid, her favourite world cup stop and a race she has dominated since 2003 and it just so happened to be the 200th in ITU world cup history; a perfect stage to becoming the all-time world cup leader. The reigning world champion did not disappoint, today winning her sixth consecutive Madrid title and 20th of her career, setting the new ITU career standard. And shes only 22 years old.
This race is very special to me. I began to win world cups here in 2003. Since I have never gone a season without a world cup win and it is always here in Madrid, said Fernandes. For another record, it is very good for Portugal because Portugal started working very late in triathlon.
A trio of British athletes, Helen Tucker, Jodie Swallow and Kerry Lang were the first out of the 1.5-kilometer swim, all eager to have a career day in this the British Olympic qualifier. But they were closely followed by a host of contenders including teammate and current junior world champion Hollie Avil and Fernandes. After a scrambly transition, a pack of six led by Fernandes attacked the courses early hill and emerged as the race leaders. Along with Fernandes was Avil, Tucker, Lang, Swiss Daniela Ryf, and Luxembourgs Elizabeth May. They created a 28-second lead after lap one. By the second lap the lead pack was whittled down to four after Lang wasnt able to keep up with the punishing pace on a course with a tough hill and May suffered a flat tire.
Nevertheless, the four women in front worked well together and continued to put time on the chase group, which was down by 1:18 after lap three. The chase included a number of big names including Andrea Hewitt, Erin Densham, Ricarda Lisk, and Julie Ertel. Joelle Franzmann and Christiane Pilz were also in the chase pack but were likely more concerned with each other as the final German Olympic spot was going to go to whoever finished first.
The four leaders continued to ride hard as they worked for a 1:42 lead by the midway mark. As they took the bell lap, they owned a sizeable 2:35 lead.
On the bike I tried to break and four of us went and it worked very well. It was a good test for Beijing, said Fernandes.
Fernandes darted out of T2 first and immediately surged to a 16-second lead after the first kilometer, leaving Avil, Tucker and Ryf to battle for the final two podium spots. As the chase group headed out onto the 10-kilometer run, Franzmann began to pull away from teammate Pilz. After the first lap Franzmann led by 19 seconds and looked to be in position to claim the final German Olympic spot.
But absolutely nobody was going to catch Fernandes on this her record-breaking day. She coasted to the finish line, savouring the moment as she conquered Madrid for the sixth straight year. Tucker pulled away in the third lap to take the silver, almost assuring herself an Olympic berth.
Honestly I cant believe it. I didnt know what to expect today. I had an injury last year and some okay results this year. I had five weeks of really good training coming into this, said Tucker. “In December, they told me I wouldnt make it to Beijing, I wasnt going to come back from my injury. Being told that made me want it even more. Ive been dreaming about the Olympics for ages.
The rookie Avil was able to stretch her world cup podium streak to three after Ryf reeled her in the final stages of the run to take the bronze and her first world cup medal.
Its amazing. I never thought I would make a podium in a world cup, said Ryf. This group had a really good rhythm on the bike and the run was hard but in the end I saw Hollie and went. Its amazing,
Avil hung on for fourth, putting her in excellent position to make the British Olympic team. Swede Lisa Norden finished fifth, continuing her remarkable breakthrough season.
In the battle for the final German Olympic spot, incredibly Pilz came back and caught up with Franzmann. With one lap to go the two were running side by side until Pilz began to pull away. She crossed the line in seventh place to steal the final Beijing slot for Germany. A dejected Franzmann finished 11th.
2008 Madrid BG Triathlon World Cup, Spain
1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
Elite Women Official Results
Gold Vanessa Fernandes (POR) 2:04:46
Silver Helen Tucker (GBR) 2:05:49
Bronze Daniela Ryf (SUI) 2:06:10
4th Hollie Avil (GBR) 2:06:19
5th Lisa Norden (SWE) 2:07:35
6th Elizabeth May (LUX) 2:08:00
7th Christiane Pilz (GER) 2:08:05
8th Carole Peon (FRA) 2:08:19
9th Eva Dollinger (AUT) 2:08:19
10th Emma Davis (IRL) 2:08:45
Click here for official full field results
This was the final world cup of 2008 with Olympic qualifying points on the line. Next the worlds best will convene in Vancouver, Canada for the 2008 BG Triathlon World Championships, the final opportunity for athletes to collect Olympic qualifying points.
Spain’s Javier Gomez won men’s title, joining a select group of men to reach ten world cup titles. Click here to read more in the men’s review
The chase pack try in vain to reel in the leaders on the tough Madrid bike course
Vanessa Fernandes becomes the most decorated athlete in ITU’s world cup history