Mario Mola (ESP) made it a remarkable third straight WTS Hamburg victory on Saturday afternoon, delivering a superb run to take the tape once more in Germany. It had been a strong three-deep group of Johnny Brownlee (GBR), Vincent Luis (FRA) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) that carved out a solid lead on the bikes, but Mola timed his attack to perfection as first he shut down the gap then created one of his own with an impressive 13:59 run to finish ahead of Luis in second and Richard Murray (RSA) in third.
“I saw that the leaders were running fast and working well and there was a gap opening up but the atmosphere is unbelievable here and I just love this course,” said Mola afterwards, still Series leader with two races left ahead of the Gold Coast Grand Final. “Im happy how things are going right now but i know from experience that nothing is over until it’s over, so i’ll keep up the work and hope for the best come September.”
It was a fast pace being set from the first strokes of the swim, and one that would eventually see Mola shave more than 40 seconds off his winning time from 12 months ago. He was already well placed as Vincent Luis, Belgium’s Martin van Riel and Richard Varga (SVK) led out of the water and up the ramp to T1, and the lead group was compact coming out of transition.
Norway’s Blummenfelt was ten seconds back at that stage but wasted no time in taking control over the early stages of the bike, forcing the breakaway with only Brownlee and Luis able to go with him. Meanwhile, behind, a huge peloton took shape, including the ever-dangerous Murray, Mola and Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle.
That remained the story for much of the 6-lap bike, the gap to the ever-stretching peloton reaching 23 seconds by the bell, but despite the lead trio exiting T2 together, Blummenfelt soon paid the price for his exertions, stomach cramps taking him right out of contention at the start of the run.
Meanwhile Mola and Murray, who had done battle over the final kilometres in Leeds just weeks before, had the lead pair firmly in their sights. First, Murray put down the hammer to close the gap and pile on the pressure, then Mola seized his moment and attacked hard towards the halfway point.
For Murray, it looked like that effort might have proved too much as Mola soared and Brownlee held strong, but the story was far from over.
Soon the momentum swung again. Fortunately for Mola, who by now had some light between him and the chasers, the battle was taking place several seconds back. A gritty sprint finale meant it was to be Vincent Luis who managed to press his way into second, leaving Murray to hold off Brownlee and claim third place, Jacob Birtwhistle coming home in fifth place.
“When you are running against guys like Mario or Richard you have to be very aggressive if you want to be on that podium,” admitted Vincent Luis afterwards. “I had a great swim, and then tried to go full gas on the first lap of the bike but the guys were not very cooperative. Blummenfelt and Johnny were pushing really hard. In the run, I know Richard is pretty fast on the first 2.5km, so I was moderating myself in the first lap to save some legs for the final sprint and I’m very happy with second place here.”
“I am certainly satisfied with my performance today,” said Richard Murray. “I had a pretty awful swim, I was a bit confused and stopped for a couple of seconds but I managed to have a pretty good bike and a very good run. I love racing here in Hamburg, as everyone does, and my performances are getting better towards the end of the season, so I’m really looking forward to racing in Edmonton in a couple of weeks.”