It was a day of firsts in the elite men’s race, as Spaniard Fernando Alarza earned his first-ever career World Triathlon Series win at the Discovery World Triathlon Cape Town on Sunday.
Showing no sign of weakness over the entire five-kilometre run, Alarza’s victory meant the WTS circuit remains dominated by the Spaniards as Cape Town becomes the third consecutive race to be won by Spain this year.
Excited to finally reach the top of the podium, Alarza said, “A sprint distance is good for me. I think I had the best race of my life. I am so happy because now I think I qualify for Rio finally. I am now going to train hard for Rio. Today was amazing, I was very motivated. Today I was just very good and feeling good. It was a very strong run.”
Improving one position from his bronze in Gold Coast, Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee captured the silver medal, while the bronze went to France’s Dorain Coninx, who also stepped on the WTS podium for the first time.
Brownlee said of his finish today, “I didn’t finish in a stretcher today, so that was a start! The last few weeks I have felt terrible since the Gold Coast, it just takes a lot out of you doing that. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to start today because I felt that bad. But as we came out of the swim and the bike, we tried to keep the really fast runners behind. Dorian and I really led on the bike, he was as strong as an ox on the bike, we played very tactical on the bike. And while second is not a victory, but from where I was two weeks ago, it is a big improvement.”
The men toed the line with wetsuits, ready to battle the chilly water conditions with only a 750-metre lap to swim. Shortly into the first leg, the men started to string out, with Aurelien Rapheal (FRA) and Richard Varga (SVK) leading out in front. And while the two were able to exit the waters first, a mass of men followed and caused congestion going into the first transition zone.
However, getting a slight advantage away from the large swim pack, the bike started out with 11 men grouping together that was led out by Brownlee and Alarza. The pack also included the likes of Tony Dodds (NZL), Coninx, Varga, Rapheal and Andreas Salvisburg (SUI).
Leading the chase was Mario Mola (ESP), who worked tirelessly to control the over 30-man group in an attempt to catch the front pack. Trailing by 27 seconds, for the entire 20-kilometres, they were unable to close the gap and rounded into the second transition with time to make up.
Right as feet hit the pavement it was clear that three men were gunning for the podium. Brownlee, Alarza and Coninx hammered straight away and went ahead early on the run. It was not until the final lap did they start to string out, but their lead was large enough that the podium looked secured even with a few kilometres left.
It was Alarza that decided to go for it as the bell rang and he was able to break away from Brownlee and Coninx. Entering the venue stadium alone, he entered the finishing chute with the biggest of smiles as he claimed his first career WTS gold.
Brownlee followed a short five seconds behind and took home the silver. Meanwhile, Coninx enjoyed seizing the bronze, who claimed that finally making the podium was one of the best days of his life.
“First podium, it is impossible to describe, I am just so happy. It is the best day of my life I think. The first race was very hard, but my winter was really great, I had good training. I have believed in my quality, so I am just really happy to be able to do well in the race. I hope this was the first step to make it onto the Rio team. I have to also do well in Yokohama, but I hope this was enough.”
While finishing just short of the podium in fourth, Mola put forth the fast run split of the day at 14:24 after being down by over 20 seconds coming off the bike. His performance today guaranteed that he stay the leader in the Columbia Threadneedle rankings.