Ai Ueda (JAP) won her third ITU World Cup race in Huatulco on Sunday, having won here in 2009 and 2010, while podium finishers Claudia Rivas (MEX) and Mateja Simic (SLO) posted their best career finishes on the hot and hilly course.
Ueda clocked a time of 2:14:52 after trailing on the 1,500-meter swim and much of the 40-kilometer bike, using a 36:39 run split to move ahead of the field and capture her third win in the Mexican city.
“I like the heat and the humidity here,” Ueda said. “This is a good race for me. And the support from the crowd is great. I was a little slow on the bike, the hill is really steep, and I dropped back, but I made up for it on the run.”
Rivas came second in 2:15:19 and Simic was third in a time of 2:16:48.
Rivas was first out of the water, bolstered by vocal home crowd support, and followed closely by Yuko Takahashi (JPN) with a 30-second gap to the chasers, led by Anastasia Abrosimova (RUS). Takahashi gained the lead in the switchback through the town on the second lap, working with Rivas throughout the 40k bike to build a solid lead on the chasers.
Heading into the run, Rivas and Takahashi had more than a minute lead on Ueda, Simic, Abrosimova and Mari Rabie (RSA). Rivas stole the lead in the second lap and Ueda found her feet, moving into second place ahead of Takahashi.
Ueda seized her moment in the third lap and powered into the lead ahead of Rivas to clinch her third win on this course.
For Rivas, the hard effort on the swim and bike paid off, leading to her best finish in Huatulco after a third-place finish in 2012 and fourth last year. The day was also special to Rivas as she celebrated her 25th birthday.
“It’s great to come second on my birthday,” Rivas said. “I love it here. The people are so supportive, which is great for me. The heat is so strong; it’s a very challenging event, for the heat and the climb, and the temperature of the water, which was 28 degrees. But it’s the greatest thing in the world. I had to do well from the beginning so that I could set a good pace.
“Ueda is a great athlete and I congratulate her. She’s a good friend of mine, so it’s great to race with her. I know she trained very hard and I did well to come second behind her.”
It was also the best finish for Simic, who has finished in the top 10 at this event three times before, missing the podium by two spots in her first time racing here in 2011.
“This is my favourite race […], I enjoy it and it’s such a beautiful place, and the atmosphere is great with all the people cheering,” Simic said. “The conditions are not perfect at all, because of the heat, but it’s a good course. The swim wasn’t so good for me, but I was pretty fast on the bike and in the run, and I was able to finish with a good result.”
All files from Adam Critchley.