The town of Tiszaujvaros, north-east Hungary, was once again consumed by triathlon fever this weekend as two days of elite racing provided the focal point of its annual festival of sport and culture. For 22 years, Tiszy has been a staple on the ITU World Cup circuit, but this year for the first time in its history, the men’s race had to be abandoned after a freak storm saw hail and high winds leave conditions too hazardous for the athletes and spectators.
That was all after Britain’s Sophie Coldwell had delivered an imperious display in the women’s race to earn gold in the very city she won seven years ago as a Junior. Coldwell dominated the run to finish 16 seconds ahead of Portugal’s Melanie Santos, who scored her first ever World Cup podium. USA’s Chelsea Burns came home in third.
“I am over the moon to come back here seven years later and win my first World Cup. Melanie and I have always been close and she is running really well so I definitely think we help each other out. I’m building into the world U23s now and i’m just really pleased with how things are looking at the moment,” said a delighted Coldwell after the race.
With a large lead group of cyclists battling incredible weather conditions, the men’s race was cut short as the storm that blew in just after the athletes hit the water intensified. As the winds grew stronger, heavy rain gave way to hailstones, and with sections of the course becoming flooded, the race referee took the decision to abandon the race for the safety of the athletes and the spectators alike.
“The priority for us in any event is the athlete’s safety, and the extreme weather conditions in Tiszy this afternoon made it impossible to carry on with the men’s race. We had hailstorms, thunder, lightning and the wind was blowing over the barriers, so we had no choice but to cancel”, said John Petrides, ITU Technical Delegate.
Women’s race review
After a very well-executed and comfortable semi-final, Australia’s Emma Jeffcoat looked like the woman to beat on Sunday, but Coldwell also exuded confidence alongside Santos and USA’s Taylor Knibb in their semi.
The Hungarian duo of Zsofia Kovacs and Zsanett Bragmayer were equally focussed on securing their first-ever podium finishes on home soil, and as the swimmers found their rhythm and the field began to spread, it was Bragmayer who was able to assume the early lead and emerge first from the water.
Taylor Knibb had found herself a little way back in the traffic, but was typically unfazed as she and teammate Chelsea Burns soon made up lost ground and merged into a lead pack of 15 riders that also included Italy’s Ilaria Zane and Sara Sala of Spain.
With strong cyclists like Australia’s Jeffcoat and Tamsyn Moana-Veale, France’s Margot Garabedian and Britain’s India Lee also in the front runners, as each of the eight laps ticked by their lead grew, and by the bell it was a positively unassailable 75 seconds.
Through the second transition, Taylor Knibb struggled a little with her bike and it was Santos and Coldwell with Burns and Spain’s Ana Godoy-Contreras who were able to assert themselves on the four-lap run.
Indeed, once Coldwell decided to make her move with two laps to go, there was nobody who could keep pace. As the Spaniard fell away, Santos found herself alone in second and Burns managed to hold off a late burst from Emma Jeffcoat to ensure her first podium since Huelva last year. Bragmayer was the highest-placed Hungarian in 10th, while Poland’s talented Roksana Slupek, winner of the second semi-final, finished in 15th.
“It was a tough race and the swim was savage, a bit messy and the bike was really hard, but on the run I gave it everything I had. Taylor Knibb was always very strong on the bike but the girls did a good job to stay together. I’m really happy with my first World Cup podium and hope to do the same in Hamburg next weekend,” said Portugal’s Melanie Santos after her second place.
“This is my fourth time here and i’ve had some bad experiences so it feels great to finally get it done. I had a bit of a rough swim but Taylor Knibb really saved me and i’m glad to be out of that pond for another year! It’s not often we get so many strong cyclists all together but they made the race today and made me work hard to stay in there,” said Chelsea Burns of her hard-earned third place.
Full women’s results available here.