On a cool Summer ‘s Sunday afternoon in Yorkshire, Jake Birtwhistle became the first Australian since Brad Kahlefeldt to win a top-tier gold on the ITU circuit, nailing another incredible run to sweep past Spain’s Javier Gomez Noya and USA’s Matthew McElroy. The 24-year-old re-wrote the script as hometown heroes Johnny and Alistair Brownlee struggled to capitalise on strong positions during the bike segment, Mario Mola failed to close down a 60-second gap out of second transition and Vincent Luis had to out-sprint Marten Van Riel and Pierre Le Corre to claim a hard-earned sixth.
“It’s been a long time coming, but today I guess after a rough start to the year it’s nice to finally come out and put in a performance to show the world what i’m capable of and get that first win on the card,” said a very happy Jake Birtwhistle. “The swim was key, to be in the mix from the get go on the bike certainly makes my job a lot easier. We still had to work hard and it wasn’t easy but was able to stay at the front and stay safe and I was hurting on the run but could hang tough until the third lap when I wanted to go a bit earlier and not give Henri that gap.”
“I always knew I can mix it with these guys and this was dubbed the strongest ITU field ever so to come out and get the win is pretty special. There’s a big 18 months coming up and this is a big confidence booster for me.”
It was indeed a WTS Leeds starting line-up packed with some of the most successful triathletes of the past decade, boasting more than 70 WTS golds and over 160 podium places, as well as all six Olympic medals from the past two Games, between them.
One of those Olympic medallists, Henri Schoeman (RSA), was once again the fastest in the water over the 1.5km swim, New Zealand’s Tayler Reid and Jonas Schomburg of Germany right on his heels along with Marten Van Riel (BEL) and Pierre le Corre (FRA).
By the time the first athletes were through the T1, the Brownlee brothers and Javier Gomez among them, Mario Mola was 48 seconds back and Great Britain’s young gun Alex Yee a minute off the pace.
Johnny Brownlee was straight onto the power, hitting the point-to-point segment hard, the strong cyclist Van Riel right on his shoulder along with Schomburg. The gap to the chasers was up to ten seconds, but 6km in to the ride they had already caught up and a large peloton of 25 formed for the seven-lap city loop.
Another Brit, Tom Bishop, had led that charge and he then took up the baton with Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt to go on the attack. WTS Bermuda winner Dorian Coninx (FRA) and Johnny Brownlee then took their moment to roll the dice, but with each charge, the pack dug in and caught once more, Vicente Hernandez (ESP) and Sam Ward (NZL) among the cyclists also flying.
Heading in to T2 the race was wide open. Richard Murray, Mola and Yee were among the danger men a minute off the pace, too far away to trouble the podium given the talent ahead. Alistair Brownlee was looking strong in the early stages, and he and Ireland’s Russell White dropped the pack for half a lap after Jonas Schomburg had put in a brave stint to set a rapid early pace.
Matthew McElroy had put himself into contention with a solid bike and began to close down on the leaders once more, Vincent Luis and Javier Gomez locked in battle while Henri Schoeman took to the front on the penultimate lap to lay out his challenge. He looked strong for much of it, too, but was caught by Birtwhistle who stretched out his legs with commanding ease once more and assumed the front spot.
From that point Birtwhistle never relinquished his grip, leaving McElroy to hold off Gomez and take a rare men’s WTS silver for the USA, the Spaniard’s bronze maintaining his position among the top ranking at the halfway point in the season. Henri Schoeman came home in fourth followed by Sam Ward and Vincent Luis, Van Riel in seventh.
For the full results click here