Dodet rises to Arzachena challenge to win first World Cup gold of 2022
Saturday saw a hot and hard morning of sprint-distance racing on the island of Sardinia, where Sandra Dodet of France had enough in the tank to pull clear on the final 2.5km and take the first World Cup gold of 2022 in Arzachena.
She was one of five athletes looking strong over the early stages of the run after a tough three-lap bike had taken the legs out of much of the field, but as the contenders slowly dropped away, it became a sprint between Julie Derron (SUI) and Luisa Baptista (BRA) for the silver. Ultimately, it was the Swiss who was able to repeat her second place of 12 months ago.
“It was a very hard race,” admitted Dodet. “I think we did two loops on the bike chasing Mathilde Gautier and after that we regrouped. She is very strong on the bike, but we did a good job, so we should be proud. I actually didn’t feel very good on the run but I tried to stay strong.”
The mercury was creeping towards 30C as the women lined up for the beach start, Verena Steinhauser wearing the number one for the non-wetsuit, 750m swim. It was another Italian, Bianca Seregni, setting the pace through the water at the turn, though, with Zsanett Bragmayer (HUN), Sophie Alden (GBR) and Emma Jeffcoat (AUS) all right on her feet.
It was the German who was fastest through transition and onto the bike, Derron and Baptista some 30 seconds back as they began the first of three climbs.
Alden and Koch were right with Gauthier before the French began to pull clear and rapidly put significant daylight between her and the field by the time she reached the summit. The gap was over 20 seconds at that stage, the likes of Alberte Kjaer Pedersen (DEN) almost a minute off the front.
Steinhauser and Miriam Casillas Garcia were driving the charge to close in on lap two but there was little in the way of significant change oto the leader, while the third pack was looking to bridge up.
Once contact with Gautier was finally made on the final climb, 23 athletes eventually came together, the likes of Lisa Perterer (AUT), Claire Michel (BEL) and Tamara Gorman (USA) suddenly well-positioned as the group compacted and headed to T2.
It was Casillas and Steinhauser shoulder-to-shoulder out of transition and the Spaniard found her legs first, easing through the gears to open up a useful lead. She was looking comfortable even with the likes of Derron, Dodet and Baptista giving chase, Steinhauser slowly losing touch as the first lap drew to an end.
Jeanne Lehair (TRI) was suddenly looking like a strong contender as she eased into fourth place, but from the opening paces of that second and final lap, it was Dodet suddenly able to ask the question and nobody seeming able to reply.
As she pulled clear and Lehair’s challenge tailed off, it was a straight shootout between the Swiss and Brazilian for the silver and bronze. Baptista was hanging tough, but after being out-gunned here 12 months ago for gold, Derron was not to be denied this time around, timing her final push to edge an almighty charge for the line.
Ten seconds back was Jeanne Lehair, tantlisingly close to a first World Cup podium, followed by Casillas, Steinhauser and Koch. Gautier held on for a hard-earned 8th, Claire Michel (BEL) and Julia Hauser (AUT) rounding out the top 10.
“Before the race I was really unsure of where my fitness was so I am really pleased to come away with second. In the run I thought many times that I was getting dropped but I just tried to stay really strong mentally and fight until the finish because I learned last year that it’s not over until it’s really over so this way it turned out good for me.”
“I am very happy with the result. It was a very hard race not only because of the heat, also the climbs, I am really happy with the bronze medal today. The Brazilian girls told me it would be hard but we came really prepared for this. The downhills were pretty fast and the girls always opened a little gap so I had to come back… it was hard but I am really happy to execute a good race today.”
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