If Javier Gomez is the king of triathlon in Spain, Mario Mola is the prince.
A precisely-timed killer kick during third run lap of the opening men’s ITU World Cup sprint race of the season in Mooloolaba saw the Spaniard take gold, dispatching a quality field of 68 men from 20 countries who lined up in the 12th edition of the race.
He crossed the line in 27 degree C temperatures in an equally sizzling winning time of 54:18 to win an event that boasted five of the top ten men in the world.
Mola said his swim surprised him as did the energy he found during the run.
“The race was great for me. I was surprised with my swim today. I felt really good from the moment we hit the water so that gave me a lot of confidence to push all my energy and strength into the run. The energy just came on the run and I had that bit of power which gave me the win and I couldn’t be happier. Richard (Murray, RSA) is an amazing runner, so I tried to give everything I had in my legs on the third lap so I knew I would find the gap which would be enough to find me first place.”
It’s another chapter in the rise of the WTS third-ranked Mola who has made no secret of the fact that his eyes are already firmly fixed on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
And it was a telling performance from the race favourite who, along with countryman superstar Gomez (who didn’t compete on Saturday), is helping plant Spain firmly on the world triathlon map.
World number four and Mooloolaba debutante Richard Murray (RSA) crossed the line 18 seconds behind Mola (54:37) to take silver while Athens Olympic Games bronze medallist Sven Riederer (SUI) snared the bronze in 55:04.
Murray said his race wasn’t without a measure of pain and a small amount of premonition.
“It (the sprint distance) was shorter that what I am used to so it definitely hurt in the last two and a half kilometres for sure,” Murray said. “It’s quite funny (that) over the past four (4) years Mario and I have running within ten seconds of each other every run and when I heard someone behind me I knew exactly who it was. We train quite a lot together and we’re very similar athletes and it was certainly a lot of fun today.”
France’s David Hauss took fourth place in 55:07 in a comeback of sorts after taking much of the 2103 season off after finishing fourth at the London 2012 Olympics.
Australian Commonwealth Games aspirants, the rejuvenated 23-year-old athlete Ryan Fisher, and 2012 London Olympian Brendan Sexton finished eighth and ninth respectively in front of selectors.
But it was Mola’s race, ostensibly from the start.
A good front pack positioning out of the water behind USA’s Ben Kanute and a clean first transition had him where he wanted to be – behind the early pacesetters and with good views of both ends of the field. Kanute was to eventually finish 41st despite leading a pack of 30 bike riders into the second lap of the 20km stage, but his front pace could well have set the foundations of Mola’s win.
A brief moment of race-lead glory went to Korea’s Ji Hwan Kim (51st) who led eventual sixth placegetter Thomas Bishop (GBR) and Ireland’s Connor Murphy (40th) around lap two, but it was only to be a brief moment in the sun.
An ambitious breakaway group formed in the third lap with Kanute back in the frame. However, he and fellow escapee, New Zealander Bryce McMaster, were caught by the time they arrived at what became a very busy transition, from which Sexton and Fisher emerged first for the 5km run home.
Mola was lurking and soon a three way race-within-a-race had developed between the Spaniard, Murray and Bishop. The pace seemed to quicken at this point as Mola gained ascendency, while Murray and a fast-finishing Reiderer were keen to go with him.
But a trademark Mola kick at the 4km mark was the defining moment of the race of the race and there was no way from that point that he’d be headed. His run time of 13:55 was 19 seconds faster than Murray’s and 50 seconds quicker than Reiderer’s.
Reiderer said he was happy with his success, but thought the hectic transition from bike to run was a challenge.
“This is just the first race of the season. The Brownlee (Alistair and Jonathan, GBR) brothers or Gomez (Javier, ESP) are not here racing and there are a lot of more races over the year. For me personally it was a really good race but there are a lot more to come,” Reiderer said.
All files by Wayne Hickson