Best of 2018: Top Showdown
With the new year now in full swing and anticipation for the 2019 Triathlon season building, it is time to take another look back at the 2018 season and honour the impressive accomplishments, stats, moments and performances that made the year such a classic.
We always like to showcase the noteworthy, the remarkable, the powerful, the inspirational and the just down-right outstanding individuals that made us all fall in love with swimming, biking and running even more than we already did, and the next category is…. top showdown.
Men’s Top Showdown:
Richard Murray (RSA) vs.The Field in WTS Leeds
Richard Murray’s win in WTS Leeds was also honoured with the ‘Best of 2018’ Biggest Climber due to his impressive 45-position climb from the end of the swim until he crossed the finish line. However, there is more to this victory that should be noted. He executed an amazing bike performance after a disappointing swim and clawed his way back to ultimately become the race leader upon entering the second transition zone to begin the run leg. His force didn’t stop there. With a full 10-kilometre run course to go, Murray would have to earn his gold medal by keeping his lead over the field behind him that included the likes of powerhouse Spaniard Mario Mola. But Murray never let up and he found the pace that allowed him to keep at least an 8-second lead over Mola on every lap of the run until he welcomed the blue carpet with a standout run split of 30:57. Grabbing the finisher’s tape, Murray seized a career-milestone moment by earning his first WTS Olympic-distance victory and the first WTS win for the South African since 2015. Murray has said that his win in Leeds was the biggest WTS accomplishment of his career since his first WTS victory in Hamburg in 2012.
Vicky Holland and Katie Zaferes had two of the strongest seasons among the women’s field in 2018. Individually, Holland had a career-best season by collecting silver medals in Bermuda and the Gold Coast and then claiming victory in Leeds, Edmonton and Montreal. While Zaferes had just as strong of a year. She stepped onto six WTS podiums in 2018, placing third in Bermuda, Leeds, Hamburg and Gold Coast as well as earning silver in Yokohama and Montreal. The strong performances throughout the year led to them both being the top-two contenders for the World Championship title. In fact, upon entering the Gold Coast Grand Final, the two were only separated by 34 points in the overall rankings, so the Crown ultimately went to the woman who would finish ahead of the other on race day. During that final competition, the two women were neck-in-neck through the swim and bike. Once onto the run, it was Zaferes who caught the early lead out of T2. When it looked like Holland was fading in the background, she surged ahead one last time to catch Zaferes and change leadership. Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle would become the victor of the race, but Holland’s second place to Zaferes third would put her on the map to collecting her first World Championship title.
While no crowns were on the line, another top showdown between the Brit and the American was in WTS Bermuda. Holland and Zaferes fought hard through the swim and bike, then found each other racing stride for stride on the 10-kilometre run course. In the final metres of the course, the two sprinted on and the overall result went down to a photo finish, where Holland overtook Zaferes by a nose to grab the silver medal.