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Australia’s Erin Densham proved her incredible World Cup win in Mooloolaba wasn’t just a one-off performance in Sydney, when she blitzed the field in the run again to claim her first ITU World Triathlon Series win and further stake her claim for Olympic selection.
In another brilliant run just three weeks after her turn in Mooloolaba, the 26-year-old powered ahead in the final kilometre to take the win from reigning ITU World Champion Helen Jenkins, while Andrea Hewitt collected her sixth straight ITU podium, taking bronze.
Coming off her impressive World Cup win, Densham exited the swim in the top ten, rode with the leaders in a huge front pack before exiting T2 in the lead and quickly went ahead in a group of seven that included Jenkins, Hewitt, Mariko Adachi, Emma Moffatt, Ainhoa Murua and Laura Bennett. Densham set the pace from the start, and in the final three kilometres it came down to the Australian and the women who finished #1 and #2 in the overall ITU World Championship standings last year. Hewitt was the first to drop, before Densham went clear of Jenkins with one kilometre to go. It was another exclamation point on a comeback from surgery to correct a congenital heart problem three years ago, and Densham said she hoped it would put any doubts to rest that she was back.
“Mooloolaba was the first step and proved what I could do,” she said. “There was more pressure today in knowing what I could do that and coming to do it again, I am sure there was probably a few people who thought it was a one-off, so I am just glad I have done it again and hopefully I can put some of those doubters to rest.”
Jenkins was thrilled with a podium in her first race of 2012, and that it also helped to make up for her season opener in Sydney last year, where a bike crash relegated her to 33rd spot.
“When all the bike packs came together I was a bit edgy and I was like, I just get memories of falling off again, and I just really had to hold my nerve and hold my position in the pack and make sure I wasn’t in a bad position,” she said. “Normally it takes me a few races to warm up, so to come out and get a podium performance is brilliant, I’m really happy. And you know Erin did so well, I’m really happy for her.”
Hewitt said she just simply couldn’t match Densham’s current form, after also finishing third behind her in Mooloolaba.
“I am really pleased, there were a lot of girls who went out hard,” she said. “I think we had a group of eight after one lap, so, I felt really good. Erin was in such good form on the run, she ran so fast in Mooloolaba and I was lucky and happy to keep with her right until the last two kilometres.”
The first ITU World Triathlon Series event of the year started with a wetsuit swim early on Saturday morning, and Adachi was first out of the water with a 20-second lead. From there a group of 28 riders caught here and several chase packs combined to form two large groups, one leading pack of 29 and a chase pack of about 24. While there were a few smaller groups further down the field, it was clear the medals were coming from the front two.
While athletes like Densham, Lisa Norden, Svenja Bazlen and Liz Blatchford worked hard on the front, the chase was being led by Nicola Spirig and halfway through the 40km bike leg she had helped to pull that group up to the leaders, including Gwen Jorgensen and Emma Snowsill. From there a huge pack of over 50 athletes hit T2 together, and it all came down to the run.
Densham posted the fastest split of the day, 34 minutes and 28 seconds, to win by four seconds from Jenkins, in a total time of 2 hours 01 minute and 29 seconds. The first four women all posted sub-35 minute times, as Jorgensen ran through the field to collect fourth.
Australia finished with four athletes in the top 15, as Ashleigh Gentle ran her way into the top ten, while Ainhoa Murua and Anne Haug posted career best finishes, and Kathy Tremblay her best series results since 2009. Adachi ended up ninth, a strong performance after capturing the Asian Championships last weekend, staking her claim for a spot on the Japanese Olympic team.