Great Britain’s Matt Sharp secures his first ITU title after a calculated race at the 2015 Tongyeong ITU Triathlon World Cup.
Sharp was in the race all day with almost the entire field exiting the swim as one long train and forming a lead group on the bike of 60 men. It all came down to the run and called for patience, which all three medallists called on.
“It’s my first World Cup win so I’m pretty happy about that.”
“The bike was pretty easy but the hill on the run, I just gauged my effort and finished the last lap real strong.
“I think on the first lap, not through choice I just couldn’t go with pace up and down the hill. On the flat I was feeling good so I just worked the cadence and slowly caught up,” said Sharp.
Atkinson bustled his way to the front of the run and looked strong but didn’t count on the flying Spaniard Castro Fajardo in the final stages. A motivated Sharp was not going to let this one get away after a disrupted past few seasons.
“It’s been a long time since I had an ITU race, I’ve been struggling for a few years so this means a real lot to me,” said Sharp.
I’m very happy with my position.”
“I am a sprinter and on the last lap in the last 100m I sprint and Sharp attacked and I had no sprint left,” said Fajardo.
A capacity men’s field of 76 broke the glassy conditions of the Tongyeong Harbour in a two-lap non-wetsuit swim. After a frenetic start to the 1.5 kilometre swim the first to emerge was Ben Kanute (USA) then the looming figures of the Polyanskiy brothers Igor and Dimity (RUS) and Australia’s Courtney Atkinson. The swim did little to break up the field and subsequently a long line of athletes emerged in quick succession.
Kanute was the first to lead out onto the bike but there would be no quick breaks as the front group formed with 60 men.
The first lap saw everyone jockeying for position in such a large group but on the second it was Atkinson who put them to the test.
“I’ve been training for the Xterra World Championships in Maui next weekend, it’s a very hilly bike course over there and I’ve been training a lot on hills, so I was really confident on the bike and thought there would be a breakaway.
“I went a few times and maybe taxed my legs a little more on the bike than I should in and ITU race,” said Atkinson.
By lap three the group had been reduced to 55 with multiple lead changes but no opportunity presented for a break away and the group remained intact and prepared for a flat out 10km run.
As the lead group headed into transition it was frenetic but Portugal’s Miguel Arraiolos took advantage of the situation to scoot out first from Basson Engelbrecht (RSA) and Gabor Faldum (HUN) who has been in good form recently with podiums at the last two World Cup races. Sharp was the next out onto the run but knew he had to run his own race and pace.
Fajardo was 7th out of T2 and knew he had to work his way into this race and not go out too hard.
The wily Atkinson didn’t take long to move to the front with Dmitry Polyanskiy and Sergio Sarmiento (MEX) on lap two. But the charges were coming from behind and on lap three Joe Maloy (USA) and Sharp had joined Atkinson and Polyanskiy.
As the pace heated up there remained just three in contention in the closing stages and Sharp’s earlier patience paid dividends in the end with the fresher legs delivering him his first World Cup win.
“The gap was about 5-6 seconds and I thought if I keep surging I should be able to get the gap,” said Sharp.
Atkinson’s earlier efforts on the bike may have been a factor in the end as the young Spaniard got him in the final stages but still pleased to be back on the podium and philosophical about Rio.
Atkinson is vying for his third Olympic team and will be the first Australian to do so if he succeeds.
“It’s always nice to be up the pointy end.
It’s good because I hadn’t raced since London before the beginning of this year. It had been a long time and I had set myself a goal. Ideally I would have liked to have won a race, you always want to be at the top but realistically if I can get a podium, I’m back in the ballpark and can work on it again going to Rio next year.
“I stay at home all year in Australia and it’s a long long way to travel races, so when I race I’m up against guys that race week in and week out and at this and I’m not getting any younger but turning up and still racing still in the race.
“Maybe ask me after London if I’d be back doing this again and at this level, never say never,” said Atkinson.