It was a day of firsts as 18-year old Kirsten Sweetland of Canada and local favourite Hendrik DeVilliers of South Africa both captured their first-ever world cup victories at the 2007 Richards Bay BG Triathlon World Cup in South Africa. Both Sweetland and DeVilliers would have the fastest runs of the day to claim the gold medal, the lions share of the US$100,000 prize purse and valuable Olympic Qualifying points, stamping their mark as ones to watch on the road to Beijing 2008.
Calm, clear conditions welcomed 112 of the worlds top triathletes to the starting pontoon as the athletes hit the water for the 1,500 metre swim, 40 kilometre bike and 10 kilometre run in the fourth round of the 2007 BG Triathlon World Cup series in the community of Richards Bay on the Eastern coast of South Africa.
Current Junior world champion, Sweetland, posted a time of 2 hours 3 minutes and 32 seconds to best her closest rival, 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, Magali Di marco Messmer of Switzerland, by 15 seconds. Di marco Messmer grabbed the silver medal, holding off a charging Christiane Pilz of Germany at the line. Pilz rounded out the podium in third only two seconds behind.
I feel great. I really wasnt expecting this, exclaimed the 18-year old Sweetland. There is a lot of adrenaline out on the front and I think thats what helped me today. This is great for Canada. We want those three [Olympic] spots and hopefully this will help.
Immediately, within the first 300 metres of the opening swim two distinct packs would form for the remainder of the 1,500 metre swim. The lead group of Sweetland, Di marco Messmer, Pilz, Joelle Franzmann of Germany, Elizabeth May of Luxembourg, Kate Roberts of South Africa and Nicola Spirig of Switzerland would be joined by 11 others by the 1 kilometre mark of the bike to form a large group off the front.
The chase group, containing many top contenders including Andrea Whitcombe of Great Britain and Nadia Cortassa of Italy, would be unable to organize themselves and continued to lose time to the lead group. Over the 40 kilometre bike course, little would change as the lead group continued to put time into their chasers and would eventually enter the second transition almost two minutes up.
Sweetland would immediately move to the lead of the runners and never look back, running 36:12 to stamp her arrival on the world cup scene. With the win, Sweetland is the youngest Canadian woman to win a world cup race and moves up to third in the BG Triathlon World Cup rankings.
My run strategy from my coach is actually to be conservative in the heat, explained Sweetland. I didnt listen to him. I got a bit of an accidental gap early on in the run and kinda went with it.
Di marco Messmer crossed the finish line moments later in second position, after out-sprinting Pilz at the line, joyous of her first world cup podium in seven years. Pilz is also glad to be back after battling with injury for the past two seasons.
I trained hard over the winter, said Pilz after back-to-back bronze medals. The group has the world marathon champion in the group and I think this is helping a lot. Im excited to be back and not having to deal with injuries. I hope there is more to come. I hope I can do my first world cup win this year.
In the mens event, it was African champion DeVilliers who ran away from a strong field to win his countrys first-ever world cup gold in a time of one hour 52 minutes and 53 seconds. DeVilliers came from behind off the bike to catch the lead group of athletes with support from thousands of elated South Africa fans who lined the course. Over the final 500 metres DeVilliers pulled away from veteran Volodymyr Polikarpenko, who would finish second, of Ukraine to cross the line a mere five seconds ahead. Rounding out the top three, for the first world cup podium of his career, was young Alexander Brukhankov of Russia, a further two seconds back of the Ukrainian.
It was just an ecstatic victory. I wasnt expecting to win, said the 25-year old DeVilliers. I thought when I got to 3rd place, chasing my first podium, I though I wasnt going to get beaten again in a sprint finish and I gave it everything I could.
As the 72 men hit the water for the start of the 1,500 metre swim a large group of athletes reached the first buoy together and then began to thin out after the first turn. World cup newcomer Clayton Fettell of Australia led a long line of men out of the Indian Ocean and into transition including all of the top contenders; DeVilliers, Polikarpenko, Brukhankov, Oliver Freeman of Great Britain, Reto Hug of Switzerland, Cedric Fleureton of France, Steffen Justus of Germany and Brendan Sexton of Australia.
This large group of 60 athletes would stay together for the first half of the 40-kilometre bike until a small pack of seven athletes, including, 2006 Junior world championship silver medalist, Brukhankov, Dan Alterman of Israel, and Andreas Raelart of Germany would break away and ride to over a minute lead heading into second transition. It was not enough, however, as DeVilliers, Polikarpenko, Freeman, Fleureton and Hug would run down the leaders in the closing stages of the 10-kilometre run course.
To the cheers of the South African supporters, DeVilliers pulled away from the group in the final stages to claim the first world cup win of his career.
I tried to look around the last corner but only the corner of my eye cause if you turn around it shows weakness, said DeVilliers, who also holds an Accounting degree from the University of South Africa. I saw Polikarpenko about 10m behind. I just gave it everything I had and the legs were fading quick. I didnt know I had it until I grabbed the banner.
Young Freeman showed another strong result in fourth with Fleureton rounding out the top five.
2007 Richards Bay BG Triathlon World Cup Elite Women results:
SWEETLAND, Kirsten (CAN) 2:03:32
Di marco Messmer, Magali (SUI) 2:03:47
PILZ, Christiane (GER) 2:03:49
MAY, Elizabeth (LUX) 2:04:02
SPIRIG, Nicola (SUI) 2:04:25
WANG, Hongni (CHN) 2:04:36
IDE, Juri (JPN) 2:05:12
FRANZMANN, Joelle (GER) 2:05:31
ROBERTS, Kate (RSA) 2:05:43
ZEIGER, Joanna (USA) 2:06:06
2007 Richards Bay BG Triathlon World Cup Elite Men results:
DE VILLIERS, Hendrik (RSA) 1:52:53
POLIKARPENKO, Volodymyr (UKR) 1:52:58
BRUKHANKOV, Alexander (RUS) 1:53:01
FREEMAN, Oliver (GBR) 1:53:10
FLEURETON, Cedric (FRA) 1:53:28
ALTERMAN, Dan (ISR) 1:53:32
HUG, Reto (SUI) 1:53:34
PIERRECLAUD, Samuel (FRA) 1:53:37
JUSTUS, Steffen (GER) 1:53:43
BERK, Sander (NED) 1:53:44
|Results: Elite Men|
|1.||Hendrik De Villiers||RSA||01:52:53|