It was another day to remember for Italy at the 2022 World Triathlon Multisport Championships on Wednesday as Sandra Mairhofer rose to the challenge of the Targu Mures course to produce a golden display, the 2021 Winter Triathlon World Champion adding the World Cross Triathlon title to her growing collection of accolades.
It was far from straightforward for the 29-year-old, who found herself 1m40s off the lead out of the water, fell hard at the start of the bike and then again on lap two, but those incidents seemed to simply fuel her determination as she motored her way to the front of the bike with only compatriot Marta Menditto able to stay the pace. Menditto’s challenge faded on the final lap, but she was able to secure second and the U23 World title ahead of French newcomer Solenne Billouin in third.
“I was born in the Italian mountains so I love these races. It was hard and I fell twice and landed on my head, but I liked this bike course challenge. Last year was difficult finishing in second place so i’m just delighted with the win,” said Mairhofer.
It was a deep-water start for the two-lap, 1km swim, Slovakia’s Zuzana Michalickova setting the early pace with a blistering first 500m. As the athletes emerged onto dry land and dived back in to the man-made lake, Samantha Kingsford (NZL) was going well along with USA’s Amanda Felder, but neither could prevent the leader putting 40 seconds into them by the time they emerged for the second and final time.
Defending champion Loanne Duvoisin was more than a minute back, Solenne Billouin nearly two behind Mairhofer and Menditto, Monday’s Cross Duathlon world champion Eleonora Peroncini already over three minutes off the front.
It was pushing on the connecting bike to the five-lap loop that Mairhofer took her first tumble. Emerging battered and bruised but far from beaten, she quickly closed the gap along with Menditto, Billouin and Kingsford, as Michalickova struggled to come to terms with the short sharp climbs, finding herself two minutes adrift by the end of the second lap.
Suddenly there were just four athletes riding together out front and stretching away from the field, before Kingsford was the next to be dropped, the bike proving one lap too many and with the 7km run still to come.
Duvoisin was also finding the terrain hard going and couldn’t make up any ground, and on the last lap Mairhofer finally broke away from Menditto to find daylight ahead.
Knowing her only threat on the run, Duvoisin, was out of contention, from the moment the Italian came through T2 the result never looked in any doubt, and she cruised a testing final 7km in an impressive 32m33s.
Behind her, Menditto was also flying, safe in the knowledge silver and the U23 world title were hers, before a delighted Billouin crossed for the bronze on World Triathlon debut.
Kingsford held on for fourth ahead of Alizee Paties (FRA), Duvoisin eventually crossing for sixth. Michalickova finished with the U23 silver, fellow Slovakian Lydia Drahovska the bronze.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, Great Britain’s Isla Hedley was crowned Junior World Cross Triathlon Champion after an excellent bike and run, Chiara Porta (ITA) and Austria’s Junior Cross Duathlon World Champion Katja Krenn with silver and bronze respectively.
Full results can be found here.