Ai Ueda has finished 2016 on a high winning at home in front of a parochial crowd that lifted her to the inaugural Miyazaki ITU World Cup title today.
Following a strong year of results, claiming bronze in front of a home crowd at WTS Yokohama, and silver last weekend at the Tongyeong ITU World Cup she again saved her best performance to last with a come from behind win. Summer Cook (USA) took the silver and compatriot Renee Tomlin (USA) bronze.
Ueda was not in the front swim group and had to work hard in the chase pack to close the gap to the leading group of 11, but it took until lap five on the 40-kilometre bike leg when they came together.
“Today is the third group in the swim but Japanese team mate working to catch the top group and I like the running,” she said.
The 33-year-old from Kyoto sensed Cook was fading in the second 5km and she took advantage upping the tempo to confidently runaway with the win in the end.
“I’m so happy to win, today is a good racing and fast time.”
The day started with 23-degree temperature, 70 percent humidity and 14km/h winds, which made for a choppy swim. It was Cook who best handled the conditions and even grabbed a small wave to bodysurf in ahead of Yuko Takahashi (JPN), Jazz Hedgeland (AUS) and a stream of athletes after the 1.5-kilometre swim.
Together with Cook, Zsanett Bragmayer (HUN), Jessica Broderick (USA), Yuko Takahashi (JPN), Sara Vilic (AUT), Minami Kubono (JPN) a group of 11 were first out onto the bike and pushed out a 25 second lead on the first lap.
Despite the efforts of the front group they were not able to keep the chase group, headed up by Ueda away, and the two groups came together on lap five to form a pack of 25.
The third group that had fourth placegetter from Tongyeong Felicity Sheedy-Ryan were well off the pace some 2.30mins behind.
Ueda sprinted out of transition and got the early break, with Cook and Tomlin the first to respond closing the gap to just 50m. The pace and heat soon splintered the rest of the field with the next group of Yuko Takahashi, Vilic, Sena Takahashi, Hedgeland, Sato and Lynch 21 seconds behind.
On lap two Ueda again put the pressure on and stepped up the pace stretching out a small lead from Cook, desperately trying to stay in contact and not let the band snap, Tomlin had also fallen back but still in third.
But Ueda found a second speed and was not going to be denied a win at home, hurting but unrelenting she ran to the finish uncontested writing her name into the history books as the first winner of the Miyazki World Cup.
It has been a summer to remember for Cook, who just fell short of back to back wins but rounds out a year that has marked her arrival. She ends the season with two World Cup wins and a WTS title in Edmonton, silver at Miyazaki World Cup caps off a brilliant season for the American.
I’m really pleased, I feel like I’ve set myself up well for next season,” said Cook.
“I got out pretty well on the first lap (swim) and set myself up for the rest of the race.
“I tried to hang with her as long as I could but had no response to her move on the third lap. I’m pleased with second but would have like to be in the mix with her a little longer,” she said.
Tomlin has also been consistent this season and finishes her 2016 with another bronze to match the one from Tongyeong last weekend.
Behind the podium it was strong performances from three women all backing up from Tongyeong Vilic, Elana Danilova (RUS) and Hedgeland.