Sapunova Sprints to Win in Tiszy
After over 50 races on the ITU circuit, the Ukraine’s Yuliya Sapunova scored her first World Cup win in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary today, topping Great Britain’s Jodie Swallow in a last-second dash to the line.
“I was not very confident in my sprint,” Sapunova said. “I usually try to break away early in the run, because I have never been very good at sprinting, but today I felt different. I’ve never felt that strong at the end.”
Sixty-eight women started the swim, and to no one’s surprise, American Sara McLarty surged to the front from the gun. The only woman able to keep pace with McLarty was local favourite Margit Vanek of Hungary, as the rest of the group struggled to keep pace. McLarty finished the first lap with a small lead on Vanek, which earned the American a $500 (USD) prime. The pair continued to lead through the second swim lap, exiting the water with a lead of 40 seconds on the group.
McLarty showed why experience matters in transition, as she flew through T1 to take a solo lead onto the bike. The ride started off with an 8.3K leg to the centre of Tizaujvaros, before taking the athletes through seven 4.9K laps around town, for a total of 42.6K. By the time she arrived in town, McLarty had a lead of just over one minute on the chase group, and she continued to pull away as the women started the flat and technical laps around town. By the end of the bike, McLarty had a 90-second advantage on the chase group of 41 women, which included all of the race’s top contenders. By remaining in front for the entire ride, McLarty also earned both of the day’s $500 bike primes, netting her a total of $1,500 (USD) in primes.
“Myself and a couple of the other girls were trying to push the group to catch Sara on the bike, but most of the girls didn’t want to work,” Swallow said. “But I guess they were right because we caught Sara very early in the run.”
McLarty relinquished the lead at the start of the second of four run laps, as a new lead group of six women moved to the front. Swallow ran at the front, with Sapunova, Carla Moreno (BRA), Helle Frederiksen (DEN), Emma Jackson (AUS) and Zsofia Kovacs (HUN) right on her heels.
The group of six stayed together until the final lap of the run, when Sapunova and Swallow pulled away to set up a thrilling sprint finish. Swallow was the first to make a move with about 300 metres left to run, but Sapunova responded with a huge burst of speed to pull away with less than 100 metres to go. Sapunova broke the tape for her first World Cup win in 2:01:00, with Swallow crossing the line two seconds behind.
“I knew were both very tired at the end,” Swallow said. “Looking back, I know I gave everything I could in the sprint. That was the best I had today and I’m very happy with a podium finish.”
Moreno rounded out the podium, finishing another nine seconds behind Swallow. It is the first World Cup podium for Moreno since winning the Mazatlan World Cup in 2004.
“I haven’t done much ITU racing for the past two years, so I didn’t think that I would have the speed to stay with the front pack today,” Moreno said. “I really surprised myself with how I felt and I couldn’t be happier with a podium finish today.”
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