Elite Womens Race:
America has another fleet-footed triathlete on the scene as yet again it was the Star Spangled Banner ringing out around an ITU race, this time at the ITU Chengdu World Cup in China.
In a battle of who can outrun the heat, Renee Tomlin (USA) demonstrated her athletic ability by not only taking home the gold medal at the 2015 Chengdu ITU World Cup, but did so in a come from behind performance.
Tomlin’s win is a first for the former track runner who has been in the sport for just over a year but today signalled that she surely has a long and successful career ahead of her, adding yet another name to the long list of impressive American women currently dominating the sport. Tomlin won in a time of 1:58:16, coming home in second on the day was Arina Shulgina (RUS), while third-place went to Lisa Perterer (AUT).
Tomlin is learning with each race and put some of those lessons from earlier in the season to good use today in temperatures that reached mid-thirties Celsius and felt much hotter.
“I guess coming off Mooloolaba where it was hot there and having some nutrition and hydration issues and having another hot race here I said ‘I have to nail it’ and thankfully I did. I made sure those things were a priority, I am only a year into the sport and these are things I am still learning about coming from a 4 minute race into a 2 hour race.”
Learn she did, riding in the chase group to close on the leaders as they entered T2, the entire podium came from the chasers but it was Tomlin who bided her time and ran through the field, closing on Perterer and Shulgina with one lap to go.
“I didn’t have splits but I was gauging off the front runners and trying to say relaxed, as cool as possible and work my way into it. The run is definitely my comfort zone but I look forward to nailing the swim and the bike and put myself in a better position.”
Tomlin was quick to point out the team work behind the scenes as she basked in her gold medal performance.
“It feels really good, a lot of the little lessons learned are starting to pay off, this is years’ worth of work and having Jarrod Evans (USA National Development Coach), Jono Hall, Bobby McGee (USA Tri High Performance Advisors) and some of my training partners like Kirsten Kasper, we are really excited and keep moving forward.”
Shulgina spoke through an interpreter post race.
“I am so happy, the swim was just okay, the bike we worked hard and the run was good but at the end I did not have any more energy to give, but I am very happy today.”
Perterer was delighted with another strong showing in China, proving again she loves the heat.
“It was a really hard race, especially after the swim when I went really bad but when I came out of the water I thought wow, this will be really hard today but we worked hard together and we caught the lead group. This was a good World Cup podium, it was very close to a win but the energy was not there in the end.
“There were some on the bike who were working and some not, I tried to push a lot especially at the beginning and to get more to work hard, but it was good in the end. I came back here because I like this place for triathlon, I am happy with my third place and maybe next year I can improve again, but this is very nice.”
With the women’s race starting second after the men in Chengdu, the heat of the day took full affect with the temperature at 33 degrees Celsius at race start but in reality feeling much hotter with the added humidity.
Starting out strong in the two-lap swim, USA’s Summer Cook established herself near the front of the race, leading into T1 and racing strongly to eventually finish 4th.
Following the footsteps of the earlier men’s race, a large front pack formed early on. The 18-strong group assembled together and included Cook, Line Thams (DEN), Erin Jones (USA), Sophie Corbidge (NZL), Carolina Routier (ESP), and China’s own Mengying Zhong.
The chase group was huge at 43 and with the gap close to one minute with two laps of the six to ride on the bike, few thought they would make an impression, but thanks to some strong work by them and poor work by the leaders, the gap did close right on entry to T2 and the race was transformed, with each of the medal winners coming from that second group.
Yuko Takahashi (JPN) led out of T2 and immediately put a gap on the chasers, looking like she meant business. But the lead was short lived and the big guns on the run soon took control, with Perterer, Shulgina and Cook amonst the first to show out, before Tomlin made her charge, taking 13 seconds out of Perterer and Shulgina on the third lap before easing clear for her first World Cup win.
It was a race of high attrition with the heat taking a toll and the ice baths well utilized upon crossing the finish line. The crowds were again amazing, with tens of thousands lining the course and the transition area on this purpose built triathlon course in the Jintang province of Chengdu.
Elite Mens Race:
The third World Cup of the season proved to be a test of surviving the masses and Ryan Fisher (AUS) showcased that he was the elite man to do it. The 2015 Chengdu ITU World Cup saw three disciplines of athletes banning together and forming gigantic packs that carried almost throughout the entire race.
Leaving it all up to a sprint finish, Fisher was able to break away at the very end to cross the finish line at 1:46:07 and claim his first gold medal since he won the 2013 Ishigaki ITU World Cup in 2013. Rostyslav Pevtsov (AZE) walked away with the silver medal, while Kevin Mcdowell (USA) won the bronze on a grueling day.
Fisher was delighted on his return to ITU racing after some time away with injury.
“I am over the moon to be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what sort of form I was in, I have only raced a couple of local races so far this year and it has been a long time since I have done an ITU race so this is a big confidence booster to come out here for my first race of the year and race like that.”
As for the sprint, Fisher wasn’t sure how that would play out.
“I have always had a little bit of confidence in my sprint but at the end of 10k it is not always the best sprinter who wins, it is who has a little bit left, I went on to the blue carpet in second and there was three of us and – I don’t want to see the video as it won’t look good, I just closed my eyes and went for it, it was probably a bit ugly.”
Pevstov was delighted with his podium, the second of his career.
“I give that everything today, I have nothing else, the others were too good in the finish but I am delighted, this is a very good race for me and I am very happy.”
Mcdowell stood on the podium for a second successive year on a course and venue that he enjoys.
“I do like it here, it is a great event, everyone puts on a great show and I love coming here, they know how to put on a triathlon on a course that is designed for the sport, I am happy to be back.”
And he didn’t mind the hot conditions either, with the temperature hitting 33 degrees Celsius by the end of the run.
“It throws down another challenge and you just have to adapt to it and you just have to be patient, that was the biggest thing out there, taking one step at a time, it was a big process goal for me to get through each discipline and then on the run the key was being patient, knowing when to go and when not to. But I like the heat anyway so that was okay.”
Under fair and sunny skies, the elite men started their competition with two laps in the warm Chinese waters. Marten Van Riel (BEL) showcased that he was the strongest swimmer of the day after he led in the water after the first lap and exited first from the swim heading into the first transition.
The bike leg did little to separate the leaders from the rest. After the first lap with Irving Perez (MEX) had a slight advantage in a leading pack of 10, but the advantage didn’t hold. A massive 46-strong group formed and remained consistent for the next four laps. But on the final lap two brave athletes made a small breakaway. Kohei Tsubaki (JPN) and Gaspar Riveros (CHI) capitalized on an onward push and were able to gain a small lead. However the 44-man pack they left behind were only a mere 28 seconds back coming into T2 and had grown even larger as the chasers caught them to form a massive group of 60 plus athletes.
That second chase group, which was led at times by young New Zealander Cooper Rand had done well to join the leaders. Down by over a minute after the first lap, they were able to close the gap to cause major chaos in the transition zone, forming an impressive herd that left all predictions down to the run.
Despite sporting the top-seeded number one to start the race, the fan-favourite Ryan Sissons (NZL) suffered a puncture during the first lap that caused him to ride a full lap on a flat. The setback put him too far behind to make up the difference and he was forced to pull out of the race.
Other notable performances came from Hunter Kemper (USA), the 39 year old posting a strong fourth place finish, while Manuel Huerta (PUR) posted one of the best finish in an ITU World Cup by a Puerto Rican with his 8th place.