A field of 34 elite women lined up along Halfmoon Bay to tackle the 2019 Weihai ITU World Cup, over a standard distance race format. The course started with two laps in the waters of the bay, followed by a six-lap ride that includes an energy-zapping 2km climb, rounding off with four loops of a fast and flat 2.5km run along the coast.
The elite women’s race commenced at 11.15am local time and conditions were remarkable with a water temperature reading of 23.9 degrees Celcius and the air temperature sitting at 25.9 degrees Celcius.
As the athletes took to the stage, Lotte Wilms from the Netherlands made an early impact to lead the elite women through both laps of the 1.5-kilometre swim course. The water conditions suited athletes like the Australians, who are confident in the surf and were up front, looking to catch a quick ride into shore.
Wilms was the first woman into transition to produce a quick changeover and enter the bike course. A strong group of women were right on her wheel and ready to play chase.
It wasn’t long before the athletes in the lead group, renowned for their bike power, took control of the race.
In quest for the ideal breakaway companions, Italy’s Verena Steinhauser showed off her powerhouse bike leg and pushed the pace up the first climb of the day. Spain’s Miriam Casillas Garcia and Switzerland’s Julie Derron were right there with her. The trio broke away from the field and left the field to determine positioning in the chase group. Australia’s Natalie Van Coevorden and Emma Jackson took turns to drive the chase group, riding 50-seconds back at this stage.
The leading women showed no signs of pulling back as they extended their gap by nearly two-minutes on the other women.
With 1-lap to go the leading trio, Steinhauser, Casillas Garcia and Derron, had made a remarkable impact on the field and as they approached the final stage of the bike course they had bridged an astonishing gap between the running talent, embedded in the chase group.
With the likes of Vendula Frintova from Czech Republic, known for her standout run splits, at a considerably safe distance from sight, the leading women were no longer racing scared for placement in the field, but in a firing battle for the podium spots.
By the second lap of the run Derron was a force to be reckoned with as she pulled away from Casillas Garcia and Steinhauser, settling in her own stride. The Spaniard and Italian were running side by side at this stage.
At the five-kilometre mark on the run course, Derron was charging in the gold medal position, Garcia and Steinhauser were battling for silver and bronze and Van Coevorden, Russia’s Alexandra Razareno and Japan’s Hiraku Fukuoka were next in line and pushing the pace out on the testing run course.
Derron showed no signs of weakness as she dominated the race to cross the finish line and win the gold medal in the 2019 Weihai ITU World Cup, marking the first World Cup victory of her career. Derron produced a perfect race combination, showcasing power across all three disciplines.
“I am really really happy, I can’t believe it just yet. It’s great those days when it works out like it should and today was a day like that and I am overly happy.”
It came together pretty much after the swim so I knew I had to really nail that transition and the first hill. Verena (Steinhauser) pushed that first hill really hard and I know how strong she bikes so I had to keep going with her. After that first hill, we had a little gap and rode well together. I knew there were strong runners behind us so we needed a big gap onto the run.”
I felt really good all day today. I was going into the race knowing I wanted to have a good performance. I got onto the run and knew I just had to keep my rhythm, and keep pushing until the finish and that’s what I did today.”
“To come away with my first World Cup win is just really good,” Derron said.
Spain’s Casillas Garcia delivered a powerful race display to earn the silver medal, stepping up a notch from her bronze medal performance in 2018.
“The race was really really hard. Looking for Verena (Steinhauser) and Julie Derron was a good breakaway. We worked hard but really good on the bike for the position on the podium, not for every position and that was nice.
“There wasn’t any tactics at the start. The race puts you in your position. The race for three people was hard but worth it.
After the 5km mark, I started to feel a bit better and this race, you have to pace yourself a bit. In the first lap, I pushed a bit on the first hill and after that it was just about keeping going to the finish line,” said Casillas Garcia.
Steinhauser, a powerhouse on the bike, claimed the bronze medal for Italy.
“I tried to push hard on the first hill on the bike and I saw that we could just breakaway. We worked well together on the 6-laps. It was hard but it was quite different running for the podium instead of running for positions between the podium but I really liked the race, it was very good. It was my first time here in China, I really enjoyed it,” Steinhauser said.