Lindemann gives Germany the first win on the Mixed Relay's road to Paris 2024
Less than a year after the Mixed Relay made its brilliant debut at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the national teams are more than ready for round two of the format. Nineteen teams lined up this Sunday for the AJ Bell Leeds Mixed Relay, a race that gives the first points on the Mixed Relay Olympic qualification ranking for the Paris 2024 Games. And with a powerful display by Lasse Nygaard-Priester, Anabel Knoll, Lasse Luhrs and Laura Lindemann, the Germans proved once again that they are one of the strongest nations when it comes to Mixed Relays, claiming the victory in Leeds in front of home favourites Team Great Britain, who could only finish in second place, while Team France grabbed the last spot on the podium.
The teams faced a hilly and technical course in Roundhay Park, with every athlete doing a 300m swim, followed by a 6.9km bike and a 1.9k run. The Relay was the first event counting for the Mixed Relay Olympic Qualification system, but it was also the first one in which the new rules of men starting the Relay and women crossing the finish line were in place. A change that brought completely different dynamics to the Mixed Relay, and put some teams up front that were a bit different than the usual ones in the Relay.
The first 19 athletes -all males- lined up on the pontoon in Waterloo Lake at 13.25h and it was clear from the beginning that the German Team would be a hard one to beat today. Lasse Nygaard Priester, 5th yesterday in the individual race, was the one in charge of opening the race, and only a handful of athletes were able to follow him. One of them has Tayler Reid (NZL), who along with Tom Richard (FRA) and Richard Murray (NED) tried to open a bit of a break on the bike, but were quickly caught by Team Belgium, Team UK and Team Australia. Mathew Mcelroy, from Team USA, was last out of the water, and even though he tried to gain some time on the bike and run, it was clear from the first leg that this will not be a race on their favour.
With most of the women regrouping on the swim to form a large pack with most of the favourites included, it was Norway’s Lotte Miller who made the difference, and managed to bring her Team from quite behind the leaders to start the run in the third place, with a bike split that was by far the fastest of the day among the women. With only Sophie Coldwell (GBR) and Valerie Barthelemy (BEL) ahead of them, the trio managed to leave behind Team Germany with Anabel Knoll and Team France with Sandra Dodet, with a pack behind of Team Australia, Team Portugal and Team Netherlands closing the small group.
By the time it was the turn of the last men, a magnificent swim by Lasse Luhrs and Jelle Geens was enough to have them breaking away from the rest of the field, but as soon as both were on their bikes, Leo Bergere (FRA) started a hunt that when it all came to the 2km run, the difference was less than 3 seconds. The Frenchman showed again that he is hard to beat on the bike, setting the fastest bike split of the day on the technical and incredibly hard bike course in Leeds. Behind him, Gustav Iden (NOR) showed again magnificent bike skills to put Team Norway back in the game, while Grant Sheldon for Team GB managed to keep their hopes and stayed with the group.
For the last leg, a fast and furious swim from Audrey Merle (FRA) put them back together with the leading duo of Laura Lindemann (GER) and Jolien Vermeylen (BEL), but the chase behind was getting organised quickly. Georgia Taylor-Brown started to hunt the leaders on the bike and by the time the three leading women were on their running shoes, the British Olympic medallist had already Vermeylen in sight.
She also knew that the Belgian had to serve a 10 seconds penalty for leaving equipment outside the box, and with that in mind, she went on the chase. Vermeylen was the first one to be caught, Merle to follow in the last run lap. Cheered by the hundreds of spectators that gathered in Roundhay Park, Taylor-Brown seemed to fly on her run, but it was not enough to chase Laura Lindemann, who was all smiles when she crossed the finish line in the first place to be hugged -like in the pre covid times- by her teammates.
“It has been very exciting to be the first men to start a Mixed Relay at the elite level”, said Lasse Priester: “I think we had a great start. I was very concentrated on the run and was happy to deliver in first position and thankful for the great job of the Team.” Anabel Knoll said: “I am really happy that we could take the win, we did an amazing job and it was really fun to start here in Leeds.” Bronze medallist in Leeds, Luhrs, also talked about the happiness of winning another Mixed Relay race for Team Germany, the current World Champions. “It was really hard today but great to get the win. I just had fun out there and I am so happy we could take the win today.” Laura Lindemann, on her side, said: “I was a bit afraid of Georgia (Taylor-Brown) actually but I just tried to push as hard as I could because all my team mates did such a great job and I just had to take it home. I am so happy that we could do it.”
It was a delighted Taylor-Brown who managed to bring home the silver medal in Leeds, after another magnificent run. Tom Bishop said: “It’s the first time that it’s the first leg for a guy so I didn’t really know what to expect. I just thought I need to give Sophie (Coldwell) a sniff of the front and she did a great job getting there.”
Sophie Coldwell explained that the race for Team UK was “a bit tactical because it was really close together. It was really close and I didn’t do as much work on the bike but gave it all I had on the run. Tried to handover with as much ease as I can.” Sheldon was given the handover in a prime position. “I tried to keep us in the race as much as possible, I’m super lucky to have such a strong team around us,” he said.
Georgia Taylor-Brown: “I was just inviting the burn to be honest so I just had to embrace it. The noise from the crowd kind of blocked the pain out but I am feeling it now. The guys did amazing, Tom (Bishop) and Grant (Sheldon) did a great job at stepping in after Jonny (Brownlee) and Alex (Yee) had their accidents yesterday, they did incredible, it’s never easy being called in at last minute. The Team did amazing today.”
Another excellent run gave Merle third place for Team France, and she was all smiles at the finish line. “I was really nervous because it was my first experience in the Relay” she said. “I tried to do my best and push on the bike. I knew the run would be very hard with Georgia (Taylor-Brown) just behind me. I tried to just stay in my position and push until the finish line”, she said.
Team Italy had another magnificent come from behind led by Verena Steinhauser and crossed the line in the fourth place, with Team Belgium, Team Australia, Team Norway and Team Portugal closing the top 8, while Team USA could only finish in the 9th place and The Netherlands finished in 10th.
The next Mixed Relay race will take place in only two weeks at the Montreal Mixed Relay World Championships, a race that will give the first direct classification -two men and two women- for the Paris 2024 Games.
Related Event: 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds
|Results: Elite Men|
|5.||Lasse Nygaard Priester||GER||00:53:42|
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