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If there were any doubts about Paula Findlay‘s status as triathlon’s leading lady, the Canadian star officially smashed them in Kitzbühel when she became the most successful woman in the history of the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series with another dazzling performance today in Austria. Helen Jenkins finished second to Findlay as she had in Madrid two weeks ago while American Sarah Groff enjoyed a career breakthrough, taking the bronze.
The 22-year old now has five wins, which moves her ahead of Emma Moffatt’s four. Incredibly Findlay’s five wins have come from her last six races, and she is three from three in 2011.
Findlay’s record-breaking win in Kitzbühel was also her toughest so far in 2011. After a tough swim, where she was more than a minute down from the leaders, she was part of a 19-athlete chase group that caught the breakaway leaders, Helen Jenkins and Sarah Haskins, at the end of the fourth bike leg - before setting the pace on the run. From there, just like in Madrid, it came down to a head-to-head with Jenkins, but Findlay proved too strong - running away in the final 200 metres to claim her third straight win of this season. Although, Findlay did say it had been tougher as Jenkins turned-up the pace with two kilometres to go.
Jenkins said it had been a tactic to try and push Findlay earlier than she did in Madrid.
“After Madrid, I knew I wasn’t going to beat her over the last 400 metres and over the last 2.5 kilometres I was just really trying to push on and break her, and I could see she was working, but in the last few hundred metres I just couldn’t catch her,” Jenkins said.
“I’m happy with second, I wish I hadn’t waited now, but it’s racing you had to give it a go, Sarah is so strong and I thought we could get there. I’m just happy with the run, I felt awful on the first lap, but came good.”
Early in the race it was Haskins, who won her first career ITU World Cup title just last month in Monterrey, who started aggressively with the swim and had a 20-second lead out of the water. Jenkins was next out and worked hard to catch the American on the first lap. Together, they evoked memories of the 2008 Vancouver ITU World Championships, when they made a break on the bike and Jenkins (nee Tucker) out-sprinted Haskins in the final straight to win her first world title. It wasn’t to be in Kitzbühel though as a chase pack of 19 athletes, led by Andrea Hewitt, Svenja Bazlen and Annabel Luxford - and including Findlay and reigning World Champion Emma Moffatt – consistently cut the gap. After it started at 40 seconds in the first lap, the chase caught Haskins and Jenkins at the end of the fourth lap.
That group of 21 then hit T2 together, with Findlay, Haskins, Bennett, Groff, Melanie Annaheim, Erin Densham and Barbara Riveros Diaz moving to the front quickly in the run. Moffatt then caught that group and as others dropped - it came down to her, Groff, Findlay and Jenkins in the final lap. Groff held on to win bronze, her first ever Dextro Energy Triathlon Series medal, and was thrilled.
“I think it was just a matter of having fun today,” Groff said. “Last year I had a really rough year with injury, I’m just having fun with the sport, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to do it…I’m not a youngster like Paula (Findlay), so I’m just trying to have fun. It’s not going to work every day, but it’s fantastic just to be in there with some really, really strong runners.”
In other notable results, Ai Ueda of Japan ran through a large portion of the field to finish seventh.
With the perfect 800 points from each of the three races, Findlay now has a commanding 2400 points in the series. Riveros Diaz is in second with 1912 and Andrea Hewitt, who finished 11th in Kitzbühel, is in third, with Laura Bennett and Jenkins close behind.
Watch the entire race again on http://www.triathlonlive.tv