Frenchman Laurent Vidal claimed his first ITU World Cup win with an electrifying sprint in Mooloolaba, just pipping reigning champion Brad Kahlefeldt and another Frenchman, David Hauss, on the line in the first major event of the 2012 season.
In the final of four 2.5km laps in Mooloolaba, it came to a lead group of five, Australia’s Brendan Sexton was the first to lose touch with the leaders leaving Mario Mola, Vidal, Hauss and Kahlefeldt. It all came down to the final finishing chute, and Vidal said his strategy to save some energy for the final 400m had paid off.
“I’ve been racing Mooloolaba a couple of times so I know you have to be a little bit conservative on the course so I gave it all on the last 400 meters because I knew Brad was a pretty strong finisher,” vidal said. “I went all in for four-hundred metres.”
Vidal then dedicated his debut win to his adopted home of Christchurch and the people of New Zealand.
“I work half of the year with the Kiwis, I live in Christchurch for half the year with Andrea (Hewitt), my girlfriend, we’ve had some devastation with the earthquake so I’m happy today to give them (the people of Christchurch) a little bit of this victory because I’m 49 per-cent Kiwi, I’m not ashamed to say that, it’s large part of my life,” he said. “It’s the Kiwi attitude, keep on smiling, it’s great, everything is fine and hopefully Andrea has a good one tomorrow.”
Kahlefeldt’s second place meant he missed out on securing three Mooloolaba wins in a row by just one second, but he did claim his sixth Australian national championship and was happy with the hit-out.
“You’ve got to be happy, I was second and won my sixth Australian title today,” he said. “I tried to gather in Laurent in the last sprint, I thought we went a bit early. I got close to him, I thought if I keep pushing him I may be able to get around him but he’s just to strong. The last couple of hundred he was fantastic. I’m very happy with second, I gave it all I could, I probably lacked a little bit of speed. My build up has been mainly strength and endurance, I’m very happy with where I’m at and hopefully I can get better and better throughout the season.”
It was Hauss’ second consecutive podium in Mooloolaba, he also claimed bronze last year, and he attracted plenty of attention in a standard issue suit after his racing suit was lost on route to Australia.
” I got a pretty sweet race today, I was second after the swim and broke away on the first lap on the bike, I was waiting for the run,” Hauss said. “I felt really confident on my run today, I really pushed on the last kilometre but the sprint finish was a bit fast for me but I’m really happy to get third on the podium, like last year, and Laurent winning his first World Cup here. We’ve been training together for the last month so it’s good.”
The men’s race had plenty of drama from the start, Australia’s James Seear lead the one-lap 1.5km ocean swim and was first out of T1, but most of the main contenders were in a large group of 25 that formed on the first lap. Within two laps a chase pack being led by Brendan Sexton bridged to the main pack, and then a second chase pack being led by Chris McCormack also caught the leaders, and that number ballooned to over 40. While there was a few attempts at a breakaway, none stuck until the final lap when Ryosuke Yamamoto, Bryce McMaster, James Seear and Jack Hickey jumped and had a small lead of 20 seconds leaving T2.
While the eventual top four started about 30 seconds back, they quickly reeled those in front in and from the halfway point it looked like the winners would come from a group of eight that also included German’s Sebastian Rank and Steffen Justus, and Great Britain’s William Clarke.
But in the end it came down to an all out sprint for the line, Vidal made his move with 400m to go. With an impressive kick, he not only stayed ahead of Kahlefeldt and Hauss, but pulled away in the final 100m metres to secure the win and keep up France’s impressive World Cup streak. Other French athletes to claim career first World Cup wins in the last six months include Jessica Harrison, Carole Peon and Etienne Diemunsch.
In the Olympic qualification battle, Mola’s fourth-placed finish was a positive for Spain’s attempt as they try to secure three places on the start-line for the men’s race, Germany’s three-top 10 results will help their campaign, while Kyle Jones top-10 finish should ensure Canada will move into the eighth spot on the simulation list – ahead of Russia – and for now, will have three places on the men’s startling in London. Another top-5 finish for Sexton also bodes well for his individual Australian selection, as possibly the second man on Triathlon Australia’s team behind the pre-selected Kahlefeldt.
In other notable results Australian veteran Chris McCormack was in doubt to start because of flu, ended-up bridging a one-minute gap from the swim on the bike, but then pulled out on the run. Courtney Atkinson, who came out in the top five of the swim, finished 33rd. A number of other athletes took a tumble on the rain-slicked course, and did not finish.
Hear what ITU stars, including Emma Moffatt, Andrea Hewitt, Laurent Vidal, Brad Kahlefeldt and Courtney Atkinson, had to say to the media at the pre-race press conference in Mooloolaba today.
The 2012 ITU World Cup season officially gets underway in Mooloolaba this weekend. Who are the big names that will tackle the tough Mooloolaba course? Click here to find out who all the contenders are this weekend in Australia.