Challenging weather for the 32 women competing in the 2020 ITU Valencia World Cup, with British running star Beth Potter claiming her first ever world cup victory, followed on the finish line by Swiss Nicola Spirig and German rising star Lisa Tersch.
Under heavy showers, 32 women lined up in the Valencia Port for the last event of the 2020 season, with Brazil’s Ddjenyfer Arnold taking the lead from the first strokes in the calm waters that saw the America’s Cup boats navigated a few years ago.
With only a 750m swim ahead, Arnold led the way the whole segment, with the strong Portuguese squad of Gabriela Ribeiro, Melanie Santos, Vera Vilaca and Helena Carvalho right on her feet. Sara Perez Sala (ESP), Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS) and Beth Potter (GBR) managed to enter transition only 8 seconds behind the leaders, turning their heads back while going up the ramp to quickly realize that one of the favourites, Nicola Spirig, didn’t had her best swim and was far behind.
The group tried, with the help of Verena Steinhauser (ITA) and Beatrize Mallozzi (TA) quickly organized itself into a leading pack on first meters, but with not much fortune. By the end of the first lap of 5km, Spirig had managed to catch up with the leading group and led a large train of over 20 athletes for most part of the 20km bike ride.
The Swiss, one of the strongest riders on the field, knew that when it comes to leg power, very few can challenge her, but all her efforts to try to break away were in vain, and the large group entered the second transition all together when the last drops of rain faded away.
And it was when it all came down to the run when Potter showed that she was the one to beat. Coming from the back of the bike pack, she was quickly leading the group of seven athletes marching in front, alongside with Spirig, Lisa Tersch, Luisa Baptista (BRA), Santos (POR) and Steinhauser and Mallozzi.
With only one lap to go and without time references when passing through transition, Potter kept pushing hard and dropping athletes from the leading group. First was Santos, then the two Italians followed and half way through the run, Potter added an extra gear and no one could follow.
The British, who finished second in Arzachena World Cup this year, proved that her 15.24 personal best over 5km run a couple of months ago was not a surprise result, and left behind Spirig to grab her first ever World Cup victory. “To end the season on two highs, I am really happy,” said after crossing the finish line. “I was quite nervous. I wanted to come off on a high, I am glad I could go one better than Arzachena. I came off towards the back of the pack and when I felt like I could make that move on the run, I just went for it,” she explained.
Only a few seconds behind her, the drama of a sprint finish for the battle for second and third ended up with the Swiss, double Olympic medallist, showing her class and proving that even on first international race after an injury, Spirig can never be counted off the favourites for a race.
“I am really happy. I always try to give it all. Today I think I gave a really good race. I wasn’t quite there in the swim, I tried to make the ride hard for the other girls and I had a really good run. I think the tactics went well on the bike, I just wanted to have a good hit out and I go home really happy”, said Spirig.
And extremely happy Lisa Tersch (GER) managed to grab the last podium spot after a magnificent run. “It was amazing. I have never sprinted that much in my life. I am very very happy,” she said. “I kept thinking that I didn’t want to finish in fourth place, and I delivered”, she said.
The bittersweet fourth place was for Baptista, with Mallozzi closing the top five with a tremendous display after her Junior World Championships title two years ago.
Results: Elite Women
1. Beth Potter, GBR, 00:56:35
2. Nicola Spirig, SUI, 00:56:38
3. Lisa Tertsch, GER, 00:56:39
4. Luisa Baptista, BRA, 00:56:40
5. Beatrice Mallozzi, ITA, 00:56:58
Four out of four for Frenchman Vincent Luis, who sprinted out in the last meters double Olympic gold medallist Alistar Brownlee (GBR) to claim the last victory of the World Triathlon season, while Belgian Jelle Geens crossed the finish line in third place.
Luis has been able to hit the front from the first strokes of the swim since the return to racing, and 2020 Valencia ITU World Cup was not any different, this time with three other great swimmers right on his heels: Alistair Brownlee (GBR), Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Pierre LeCorre (FRA). The three of them managed to get a bit of a break out of the water and into the long way to transition, and were on the bikes a few seconds before the rest of the athletes was trying to get out of their wetsuits.
Behind them, the Norwegian”army” -Kristian Blummenfelt, Gustav Iden and Endre Espedal- organised themselves quickly to get the peloton moving and led the large chasing group, with the likes of Geens, Roberto Sanchez Mantecon (ESP) and Alessandro Fabian (ITA) working with the group to try to control the leading group. But the flat course in Valencia, along what was an urban Formula 1 circuit, worked in favor of the leaders, that left behind Schoeman with two laps to go and managed to stay in front despite the solid efforts of the chasers.
By the end of the 20km bike ride the three leaders had almost half a minute over the large pack, and when it looked like the medals were going to be decided among the three of them, Geens came out of T2 on a chasing mission. Meanwhile, the older Brownlee and Luis went shoulder to shoulder, with Luis constantly in front and Alistair keeping up with the pace, that no one else was able to follow. They both run together until the last meters, with Luis proving that he is unbeatable this season crossing the finish line in first place to grab the fourth consecutive win.
“Four races so far and four wins and this one was the hardest I have to say, Alistair was pretty strong. He was the strongest of us in the front of the bike. I just managed to tactically get him but he could have won this race I think. A few more races under his belt, he could have won for sure,” said the Frenchman. “It was a pretty hard ride and that is what Alistair wanted, to make it hard for us so we run a bit slower. On the run, I just took the lead and not really try to think. I knew Jelle was really close and I just ran all out for the run.”
The British was extremely happy with his second place. “I feel like I am in my second career at the moment and I am just doing it because I enjoy doing it. It’s been a long project, two years ago I was pretty close to retiring to be honest. Slowly but surely I have picked my races, got fitter and enjoyed it more. Today I was back racing with the best in the world again,” he said. “I think if I had another race in a few weeks’ time I would be really close. I’ve just got to keep the consistency through the next few months and hopefully I can come out next year and be even a little bit better.”
Behind them, the Belgian went full gas and managed to catch LeCorre halfway through the run segment, but the French never gave up and stayed with Geens on the chase of the leading group. With only a few meters to go, Geens sprinted to grab the second third place of the season, after his podium in Karlovy Vary. “Off the bike I saw it wasn’t a big gap, I just had to go full and go for the win. You know Vince always has a sprint and Alistair is, well just Alistair so I am happy with third place.It was quite a good season, didn’t get a win but we keep that for next year.”
Behind LeCorre, Antonio Serrat Seoane showed once again a magnificent run form to run from the back of the bike group to complete the top five of the day.
Results: Elite Men
1. Vincent Luis, FRA, 00:50:22
2. Alistair Brownlee, GBR, 00:50:25
3. Jelle Geens, BEL, 00:50:33
4. Pierre Le Corre, FRA, 00:50:37
5. Antonio Serrat Seoane, ESP, 00:50:45