Showing no weaknesses despite the rainy and cold weather, Gwen Jorgensen (USA) extended her undefeated streak in claiming her ninth consecutive win in taking out the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series Yokohama on Saturday.
Crossing the line with a lead of over one minute, the win for Jorgensen also marks her third-straight victory in Yokohama and catapulted her back to the number one position in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings.
Taking the silver medal was Ashleigh Gentle (AUS), who posted the best performance of her career in earning her first WTS podium. Fellow Australian Emma Moffatt also joined her on the podium when she took bronze to earn her first medal since the 2013 WTS Grand Final in London.
Jorgensen looked back a curious race, one in which she was more concerned about staying upright in the wet bike conditions than the actual pace that was being ridden.
“It was wet out there and I knew I had to be careful so rode at the front a little more to stay away from any crashes. I heard something behind me, I wasn’t sure if anyone went down or not but it is better to be safe.
“I came here knowing this is the last 10k before the Rio test event so I really wanted to get a good 10k in and push myself and really go hard.”
And as for the 9 in a row, Jorgensen isn’t keeping count.
“No, you guys count for me, I don’t need to. It is weird still when people say that and when I actually think about it so I stay focused on what I do, swim, bike and run and can’t control what everyone else is doing so I just control what I can control.
“The number one goal for this season is to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games, so I need to be top 8 at the Rio test event and first or second American, that is the thought top of mind.”
Meanwhile t was an emotional Gentle reflecting on a career best day.
“I don’t think it will (sink in) for a while, it feels pretty good,” said the 24-year-old who was not expecting that performance based on the past year but very happy with the result.
“I did my first ever WTS race at the test event for London in 2011, I got ninth there and it’s taken me quite a few years to actually get on the podium, it’s definitely worth the waiting for because it’s a pretty awesome feeling, a real confidence booster for the rest of the season.
“I guess not judging by the results I’ve had this year, I haven’t been that great but had a really good block of training. My coach Cliff English has been working me pretty hard this past five weeks after the Gold Coast race, my training has been going really well but you never know come race day.”
The smile on Moffatt’s face as she crossed the line was a mix of relief and excitement.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been up on the podium and to be there with Ash’s first podium is pretty special so really happy with today’s result,” said Moffatt.
“For me I think about getting my confidence back and today’s probably the first step to doing that.
“The last year I’ve had a lot of doubt when racing so hopefully now I’ll be able to back myself a little bit more and hopefully keep on improving.”
Choppy waters greeted the women elites as they started out the Japanese race that marked the halfway point of the 2015 World Triathlon Series. With wetsuits required at a water temperature of 19 degrees Celsius, it was USA’s Summer Cook, Japan’s Yuka Sato and Spain’s Carolina Routier who dominated in the choppy swim and led into transition.
While an early lead group of 22 formed early on the bike, which included the likes of Jorgensen, Cook, Sato, Andrea Hewitt (NZL) and Claudia Rivas (MEX), the gap to the chasers was short lived. The wet conditions saw riders focusing on remaining strategic instead of fast on the nine-lap course since each lap contained over 20 corners that could have caused crashes if the athletes were not careful. The lead bunch soon doubled in size and eventually increased to over 40 athletes as the chasers caught up and closed the gap with two laps to go before the run.
The large bike group caused a lot of congestion in the second transition that saw a pack of runners join together to head out on the run. However it did not take long for Jorgensen to bust out her signature move, breaking away from the rest and easing into a solo run that carried her well into the finish line with time to spare.
Gentle also capitalized on a breakaway performance in the second lap of the run that positioned herself into the second-place spot. While the battle for the bronze seemed to be up for grabs for awhile between the likes of Moffat, Non Stanford (GBR), Renee Tomlin (USA) and Hewitt, Moffatt pulled away in the last lap to secure the medal and give Australia two spots on the podium.
Yokohama was the first race back for former 2013 World Champion Stanford. She executed a strong performance, and although she was forced to serve a 15-second penalty for her wetsuit being out of the box in the transition zone, she finished in seventh place—a respectable comeback race and one that suggests the best is yet to come this season for the young Brit.
In winning, Jorgensen overtakes her compatriot Katie Zaferes (who did not race in Yokohama) as the leader in the Columbia Threadneedle rankings race in 2015.
Leaving it all down to the blue carpet, Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) won a thrilling sprint over Alistair Brownlee (GBR) to claim his first gold medal of the season at the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama on Saturday in one of the most exciting finishes in WTS history.
After the rain and slippery conditions of the women’s race had largely abated, the men enjoyed largely dry roads and clear skies to cap off the fifth stop in the WTS circuit and mark the halfway stage of an exciting season that has now produced four winners in five races.
The run enthralled the large crowd lining the course and in the grandstand watching every stride on the big screen, with Gomez, Brownlee and Mario Mola (ESP) breaking clear early and taking turns to push the pace, with the medals only unfolding in the final kilometer for Mola and the final few hundred metres for Brownlee and Gomez.
Gomez was delighted to pick up his first win of the season and consolidate his number one position on the Columbia Threadneedle rankings.
“I was probably running against the best runners in the sport in Mario and Alistair, I was feeling good and had something left, I tried with two k to go and dropped Mario but Alistair stayed and then surged. It reminded me a little of Cape Town but this time I kept up and it came to the last 200 meters and at that point anything can happen because we are both very tired and lucky I had a bit more than him and took the win which is great, the first one of the year.
“I have had good races in Cape Town, Gold Coast and Auckland. Being on the podium is great but winning is better. For my confidence as well to know I can run faster than anyone else, it was a great race and this is a great series, getting very exciting with a few guys with some victories, let’s see what happens.”
Brownlee looked back on a race in which he rarely felt at his best but used his competitive instincts to stay in the action.
“That was a bit different for me, it just felt terrible and I am delighted to get a result out of it. Three weeks ago if someone told me I would have a win and a second in the World Series, that is okay for now, I am pleased with that and hopefully it gets better from here. I knew Cape Town I wasn’t in great form and I thought I had come on from there and I probably have. I think this was one of those days, there was maybe a bit of jetlag and I thought I was better prepared but maybe now I can freshen up and be better for the next race.
“I am proud of that though, anyone can race well when they are having a good day and I have had some fantastic days over the years but a mark of you sometimes is what you can do on your bad days so I am pleased with that.”
The second of the Spaniards and the bronze medalist today, Mola too was pleased to be in such an intense race against two of the best in the business.
“That was really intense, really tough but Javi and Alistair were stronger today, but with one k left today I was dropped but I am happy with how my race went. A really solid swim and a solid finish to the race. It is tough and dangerous on the bike in some parts, but every time it is a concern people know that they must stay on their bikes and I think everyone rides safely. I am happy to be on the podium racing against two of the biggest triathletes ever and now I will come back to London with some more hunger to get first spot on the podium.”
While the medalists would come to the fore in the run, there were plenty to put their hands up earlier on in the race around, through and in Yamashita Park. Henri Schoeman (RSA) set the pace through the two laps in the water carried with him a small pack that would follow into the first transition. That pack, tallying seven, included the likes of Gomez, Brownlee, Igor Polyanskiy (RUS), Joe Maloy (USA), Aaron Royle (AUS), Dorian Coninx (FRA) and Schoeman.
The lead group could not extend on the bike though, with the chasers highly motivated and well organized, soon closing to form a large lead bunch that would stay together till the end - that is apart from a brave solo bid by Marten Van Riel (BEL), the daring move saw the Belgian extend to over 30 seconds within touching distance of transition until he crashed inside smelling distance of the food vendors in Yahamshita Park and T2, ending his hopes of a brief time in front on the run.
Sven Riederer (SUI) was another to be prominent early on the run, the 34 year old winding back the clock with his laconic, rolling running style taking him to the lead inside the first kilometer, before the big three took control and made the race their own.
Images: ITU/ Delly Carr