London Olympic gold medalist Nicola Spirig (SUI) made her return to the international scene with a bang on Sunday at the Cozumel World Cup, winning her first race back on the ITU circuit since the Olympics and her first World Cup since Kitzbuehel in 2008. Sarah Groff (USA) and Lisa Perterer (AUT) were able to battle through the heat and humidity to round out the podium on the sprint course.
“It was very hard, but it was amazing. The crowd was amazing, not just for the Mexicans but for me and the other athletes. It was a great experience,” said Spirig, who went seemingly unaffected by the scorching temperatures. “I trained here a little bit before, so I think I was a little bit used to it (the heat).”
Groff, Katie Hursey (USA) and Pamela Oliveira (BRA) led the group out of the swim, with Spirig exiting the water 29 seconds back. Two groups formed in front early on the bike, with Spirig driving the pace in the chase group to catch the lead pack by the end of lap two. Rebecca Robisch (GER), Natalie Milne (GBR) and Perterer joined Spirig in bridging up, while the remainder of the group fell two minutes back.
“I’m very thankful to Spirig, who pushed very hard on the bike so we could reach the first group,” Perterer said. “The fans, being on the podium at a World Cup. It’s an amazing way to end the season.”
A group of 16 women entered T2 together, but splintered apart from there. By the end of the first lap, Spirig, Groff, Perterer and hometown favorite Claudia Rivas (MEX) were pushing the pace, with Joanna Brown (CAN) not far behind.
The last lap of the run was when Spirig sprung into action, breaking off from Groff, Perterer and Rivas with less than 2.5km to go. She crossed the line in 57:53, ahead of Groff, who finished in 57:58.
“The run, oh my, that hurt. After a big one in London it’s hard to keep up that momentum. If I could finish second to some great little speedsters, I’m happy,” said Groff. “It’s obviously a beautiful place to finish up the season. I came in hoping we’d push the pace on the swim and get a little break on the bike, but you know races never work out that way. It’s super fun.”