New Plymouth has proven a happy hunting ground for South Africa’s Richard Murray, defending his ITU World Cup title in a blockbuster race that went down to the wire.
It has been another positive start to 2016 for Murray, which is almost a mirror image to 2015, opening his Olympic campaign with a silver medal at the WTS Abu Dhabi season opener, and backing it up with an impressive performance over a world class field in the same location that brought him his first-ever World Cup victory just last year.
In a race that was full gas from the gun and never slowed down until the end, the experienced campaigner was able to capture his back-to-back New Plymouth title.
“Yeah it was a better swim than last year, I never know where I am so I look around and saw like ten guys in front of me. It was a really, really good swim, hard bike course, I tried to get away with the two other guys in our group, it didn’t happen but all round it was a great race and the weather turned our great for today,” said Murray on his winning performance. “I wasn’t sure how far they were away but when I came in I saw that they had left transition, I wouldn’t say I was completely concerned but definitely had to make sure I ran the first bit a little bit quick to make sure. I managed to get them half way or ¾ of the way through the run at least.”
“I am definitely very happy with my training block here and thinking about WTS Gold Coast next weekend because I didn’t want to overdo it today, I’ve got six days of recovery plus some travel before we get to Gold Coast so its important to not over due it today and racing the Brownlee’s so didn’t want to overdue it.”
“It was perfect for me today. I had a podium last year but this is definitely my best result yet. The start of the year has been about securing my place for the Olympics and I think I’ve done that now,” said Schilling.
When asked what else he had to do for Olympic selection, “Almost, it’s because of the ranking but I’m pretty secure now. Now I’ll go home and see what I want to do next.”
Frenchman Anthony Pujades led the one-lap 750 metre swim and managed to climb out of the water first. However, he was followed by a herd that would create a busy first transition zone as the field was able to exit the water right on each other’s feet.
The mass stuck together through the first lap and after five kilometres down on the bike, a 34-strong peloton had developed.
Heading into the second lap Schilling along with USA’s Ben Kanute made a bold move and managed to break away to ride as a leading two-some. After finishing the final 10 kilometres together with the large pack just a mere 26 seconds behind, they were able to avoid the crowded second transition zone and start the run with a slight advantage.
But with Murray charging at full force onward and advancing the peloton behind him, he was able to not only catch Kanute and Schilling, but eventually pass them just one kilometre in. His charge would then take him right into the finish line and guarantee him a sixth podium in a row since the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Qualification Event held in August 2015.
While Schilling was able to create a large enough gap to solidify his right to second place, the battle for the remaining spot on the podium looked like it could go to a variety of men. Pevtsov made the decision easy in the last remaining metres as he broke away from the group of Kanute, Irving Perez (MEX), Ron Darmon (ISL), Greg Billington (USA) and Marten Van Riel (BEL).
Schilling followed 19 seconds later, which earned him his first World Cup podium since he secured the bronze medal in Tiszaujvaros in 2015. Pevtsov was the bronze medallist at the 2015 Baku European Games, but his last World Cup podium was last year in Chengdu when he earned the silver.