ITU World Cups: 2018 in review

by Doug Gray on 21 Dec, 2018 11:01 • EspaƱol
ITU World Cups: 2018 in review

The 2018 season was once again jam-packed with first-class action as no fewer than 16 World Cup races took place all over the globe from February to November. As ever, there were thrills and spills aplenty, the athletes tackling the circuit of challenging courses and energy-sapping conditions among the beautiful locations of our host cities as they dug in to pursue the gold.

It all began in South Africa, and star-studded fields in the warmth of Cape Town, where home favourites Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman dominated the men’s race. It was a also a one-two in the women’s race, as Great Britain’s Vicky Holland began a season that she would never forget with a comprehensive win, followed over the line by teammate Non Stanford and Hungary’s Zsanett Bragmayer.

With one eye on the Commonwealth Games, Richard Murray also took to the line in Mooloolaba, where Australia’s Matthew Hauser pushed him all the way but ultimately couldn’t halt the South African’s charge for gold. Australia’s Emma Jeffcoat delivered the crowds the Aussie gold they so wanted, finishing ahead of Kirsten Kasper (USA) and Angelica Olmo (ITA) who would both go on to have excellent seasons.

Indeed, Kasper went one better in the very next race, topping the New Plymouth podium narrowly ahead of New Zealand’s own Nicole Van Der Kaay and Belgium’s Claire Michel. A gripping men’s race saw Declan Wilson claim gold for Australia, denying Sam Ward his moment in the sun by a yard, with the top five all finishing within just five seconds of each other.

The semi-final-final format of the Chengdu World Cup saw the fields well shuffled, with eight nations represented in the men’s top 10. Rostislav Pevtsov took the gold back to Azerbaijan, Felix Duchampt (FRA) edging Rodrigo Gonzalez (MEX) to silver by the finest margin. Emma Jeffcoat won the women’s final, USA’s Tamara Gorman and Fuka Sega of Japan completing the podium.

Astana made its World Cup hosting debut in May, and despite clear skies, plunging temperatures overnight meant the women’s race had to be held as a duathlon. Sandra Dodet was undeterred as she ran to gold, one of three from the French team in the top five with Emilie Morier second and Italy’s Angelica Olmo third. The men’s swim was cut back to one lap, and Russia’s Dmitry Polyanskiy delivered a controlled performance to take the tape ahead of Marcel Walkington (AUS) and Aurelien Raphael (FRA). The new-look ASICS World Triathlon Team also kick-started their 2018 campaign, led in Kazakhstan by Rolf Ebeling and Mick Delamotte.

Two weeks later it was time for the athletes to tackle the demanding hills of a Cagliari course baked in the heat of the Sardinian sun. It was the Italian men who rose to the challenge, Delian Stateff winning his first ever World Cup in style, Hayden Wilde (NZL) finishing between him and compatriot Davide Uccellari. A stunning finish between Lisa Perterer and Taylor Spivey (USA) saw the Austrian pip her rival at the tape, India Lee (GBR) coming home in third. 

The action moved to Huatulco, Mexico in June, where USA’s Chelsea Sodaro made light work of the sprint-distance course, rounding off with a blistering fast run to beat Deborah Lynch (NZL) and Beatriz Neres (BRA) to the women’s title. Home favourite Rodrigo Gonzalez then flew out of T2 to win the men’s race ahead of Brazilian duo Manoel Messias and Diogo Sclebin, Juan Figueroa of the ASICS World Triathlon Team making it an all Latin-American top four.

The Belgian city of Antwerp held its biggest triathlon event in over 20 years when the World Cup arrived two weeks later, its picturesque harbour the start of a sprint distance course that Jelle Greens (BEL) quickly got the measure of and, buoyed by the crowd, took the gold by the finest of margins ahead of Tayler Reid (NZL) and Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN). Summer Cook rediscovered the winning formula in the women’s race after a supreme swim set her on the way, finishing ahead of Beth Potter (GBR) and Verena Steinhauser (ITA).

One of the most popular and enduring stops on the circuit, the 2018 edition of the two-day Tiszaujvaros World Cup saw Sophie Coldwell take control in the women’s final to finish well ahead of Portugal’s Melanie Santos and Chelsea Burns (USA), before a storm blew in to the town and forced the men’s race to be cancelled midway through a bike ride that had been left precariously dangerous by high the winds and intense hail.

In mid-August, Lausanne laid the perfect foundation for hosting the 2019 WTS Grand Final with another challenging and beautiful course testing the athletes to the fullest in the Olympic capital. The indefatigable Nicola Spirig (SUI) made a statement of intent in the new Olympic qualification period with another gutsy display to finish almost a minute ahead of USA’s Taylor Knibb and Verena Steinhauser (ITA). Norway’s Gustav Iden dominated the run to take the tape over half a minute ahead of Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) and teammate Kristian Blummenfelt.

It was an engrossing finale to the women’s Karlovy Vary World Cup race as Vendula Frintova managed to find an extra gear down the final few hundred metres to pip Kaidi Kivioja (EST) and a resurgent Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA) to the post, the home-country gold banishing the disappointment of silver here 12 months before. Russia’s Dmitry Polyanskiy then seized control in the men’s race, conquering the climbs and cobbles to finish ahead of Ireland’s Russell White and Alessandro Fabian (ITA).

It was back to China at the end of September, the tropical coastline of Weihai witnessing USA’s Taylor Spivey finally deliver her first World Cup gold after an excellent 10km run capped a well-executed race, Italy’s Annamaria Mazzetti bagging another podium finish with silver and Spain’s Miriam Casillas the bronze. Likewise, it was yet a trademarklightening run from Norway’s Gustav Iden that brought his second World Cup gold of the season, Spain’s Antonio Serrat and young British talent Alex Yee rounding off the podium.

The Sarasota heat forced another duathlon in Florida, and a USA one-two in the women’s race saw Renee Tomlin edge the gold ahead of Kirsten Kasper and Vendula Frintova after a frantic finale in which just one second separated the top four athletes across the line. A rare World Cup appearance from Vincent Luis (FRA) then saw him win the men’s gold ahead of Jelle Greens (BEL) and Portugal’s Joao Pereira.

Over in Ecuador, the Salinas World Cup saw two dramatic sprint finishes as Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR) took the tape in the women’s race after a long-running battle with Brazil’s Luisa Baptista, Chilean Barbara Riveros coming home in third. Spain’s David Castro pipped another Brazilian, Manoel Messias, to the top spot, Joao Pereira making it back-to-back podiums just a split-second behind.

In the Korean coastal town of Tongyeong, Riveros again looked strong but was ultimately kept off the podium by a strong trip of Japan’s Ai Ueda, Sandra Dodet (FRA) and Renee Tomlin (USA). It was an emotional win for Ueda after she had left with silver two years running, while Tomlin marked her continuing recover from injury in style. Switzerland’s young Max Studer delivered the performance of his career to take the men’s gold, narrowly beating Felix Duchampt (FRA) to the tape, USA’s Eli Hemming finishing with the bronze.

The final stop of the year saw two strong fields descend on the southern Japanese coastal resort of Miyazaki, where USA’s Summer Cook underlined her love of beach racing with a superb gold having been shoulder to shoulder with teammate Chelsea Burns for most of the run, training partner Miriam Casillas (ESP) completing the podium. Another Spaniard, Vicente Hernandez, pulled a remarkable run out of the bag to win gold in the Pacific heat and mark his return, Eli Hemming securing another podium finish with the silver and Delian Stateff grabbing bronze with a dramatic late surge.

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