A field of 49 elite men lined up along the coastline of Halfmoon Bay, in the north-eastern corner of Weihai, China, to compete for World Cup glory. Conditions were near perfect for race day, with the water temperature officially recorded at a comfortable 23.1 degrees Celcius and the air temperature a balmy 27 degrees.
Hungary’s Mark Devay established the early lead in the first 750m of the two-lap swim course, with top-seeded male Jonas Schomburg from Germany and Max Stapley (ITU) closely in tow. After the second lap of the swim Israel’s Shachar Sagiv was the quickest man into the first transition of the day and out onto the bike course. Schomburg and Devay were only a few seconds behind.
The 40km bike course tested the power of the elite men, as the route featured a challenging climb and descent which they rode across six-times, and sorted themselves among a few small groups.
By the third lap on the bike, the small groups had joined to form one powerful train of nearly 30 elite men on the charge. By this stage of the race, the remainder of the field of men were strung out across the course. This technical and tough course left no room for error or for those lacking the training on hills.
The group of lead men took turns to drive, with the likes of Ryan Bailie from Australia and Gabor Faldum doing a lot of work in front. Schomburg attempted a breakaway and it looked like Faldum was going to join the German but the group of elite men in the lead were too strong and quickly closed the gap. With one lap of the bike course to go, there were 30-men on the hunt together and it was then decided that the battle for the podium was going to come down to the men who were tactical. conserving energy and saving their legs for the run.
The massive group of men hustled into the second transition of the day in a frenzy and the furious running battle commenced.
Switzerland’s Adrien Briffod was the first man to enter the run course, which was 10-kilometre across four laps. Grant Sheldon from Great Britain, Schomburg, Joao Silva from Portugal, Mexico’s Rodrigo Gonzalez, Max Studer from Switzerland, Faldum and USA’S Kevin McDowell were pushing the pace among the front runners.
Bailie from Australia started the run with the leaders and was hanging on but fell off the back after the first lap. By this stage of the race Italy’s Alessandro Fabian was running 39-second behind the leaders.
The warm conditions out on the run course was taking a toll on the men and Bailie and Gonzalez were among a few of the elite men who lost touch with the leaders who were hammering the pace.
In the final stage of the 10-kilometre running race, Portugal’s Silva surged ahead of Studer and Sheldon to take the tape and win the 2019 Weihai ITU World Cup title. Today’s World Cup, capped the season for Silva who was thrilled with his race result and marking an honourable first race experience in China.
“I am pretty tired now actually but it’s a nice course, a really tough bike and even the run is hard with a little hard in every lap. I am really pleased with my performance today. The support from all the people here was unbelievable.
“The first laps were a little bit scary for me especially the downhill. I thought it was smaller actually. The downhill was pretty technical and I did everything I could do and produced a good result.
“I really didn’t know what to expect because my preparation for the race was not ideal and I played it safe so I could arrive to the finish and then I went for it and I tried my best and lucky it was enough to secure first place.”
“This is my last race of the season so it was about leaving everything in the field and that’s what I did,” Silva said.
Studer produced an impressive performance, showcasing his incredible bike form, to run home with the silver medal. Sheldon put it all on the line to earn the bronze medal for Great Britain.
“For me it was a quite good swim, I didn’t make it directly into the first pack but then on the bike I caught up on the first hill. We did hill training like this with my squad and hill repeats and it was perfect and I could show that here today on the race. Especially for me on the Olympic distance, it was good that I could show a good bike and in the end a strong run,” said Studer.