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New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt put the perfect finishing touch on her already excellent 2011 season, leading a bike breakaway en route to a dominant World Cup win in Auckland.
After impressive victories in Beijing and Yokohama, Hewitt was the female triathlete to beat at home in the final World Cup race this year. And the World Championship silver medallist did not disappoint.
After quickly catching the leaders from the swim, Hewitt rode hard to lead a breakaway of five athletes on the tough, hilly and technical bike course before easily pulling away on the run for her third consecutive major win in a time of 2 hours 14 minutes and 12 seconds, almost a full minute ahead of Japan’s Tomoko Sakimoto who claimed her second consecutive World Cup silver. Her teammate Mariko Adachi claimed bronze, finishing a further 13 seconds behind Sakimoto.
Hewitt’s comfortable winning margin allowed her plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere in Auckland, where thousands of people lined the CBD streets. In the final kilometre, she took the time to wave and high-five fans, and had a huge smile on her face all the way to the finish line.
“It’s amazing, the feeling was so incredible running that last lap. It’s actually really hard to run and smile at the same time. But, it was just such a great race,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt was originally part of a lead group of eight that came together after the swim next to Auckland’s Queens Wharf, including Pan Am Games bronze medallist Pamela Nascimento Oliveira, Hungary’s Margit Vanek, New Zealand’s Teresa Adam, Italy’s Alice Betto, Great Britain’s Vicky Holland, Sakimoto and Adachi. But by the end of the second lap, Vanek and Oliviera had dropped, before Holland also fell off the pace on lap four of the eight-lap course.
Hewitt then kept leading the drive up the three climbs in each lap, as the gap back to the chase pack - which was being led valiantly by Nicky Samuels most of the way - increased each time. Apart from Poland’s Maria Czesnik, who tried to bridge the gap halfway through the bike and ended up riding almost half of the leg solo, the lead group of five had over two minutes on the main field coming in T2.
From there, Hewitt easily pulled away from Adachi and Sakimoto who were locked in an enthralling battle for the other podium places. While Adachi led early, Sakimoto just gained the edge in the final few kilometres to claim silver. It was her second consecutive silver, after she also finished second in Guatape two weeks ago. It was an excellent day for the Japanese women’s team, with 40-year-old three-time Olympian Kiyomi Niwata running through the field to claim fifth and Ai Ueda‘s ninth giving them four athlete inside the top 10. Germany’s Anne Haug and Kathrin Muller also had excellent run legs, enough to put them seventh and eighth overall while the Netherland’s Maaike Caelers had the fastest run split of the day, 35 minutes and 38 seconds, to give her a season best world cup result of sixth.
But no one was going to catch Hewitt who cruised to the finish line to secure her third consecutive victory, including Beijing and Yokohama.