Kate Waugh and Connor Bentley both secured their first Under 23 World titles after putting in excellent races as Hamish Reilly also medalled on the penultimate day of action at the World Triathlon Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi.
In the men’s U23 race, Bentley was one of the first athletes into transition one with Reilly only a few seconds behind. A quick transition from Bentley saw him head onto the bike first as a group of around 20 athletes formed the front group on the bike leg including both Bentley and Reilly.
Dan Dixon was in the chase group, but that group caught the leaders to see close to 40 athletes arrive into transition two together.
Bentley and Reilly were again towards the front out of transition and remained part of a front group which reduced in size after each lap.
It was down to four as the athletes took the bell with Bentley and Reilly side-by-side, with Eric Diener (GER) and Gergely Kiss (HUN) just behind the British pair.
On the last lap, Bentley made his move, breaking away from the other athletes to open up an advantage. The British elite triathlon champion lifted the tape to secure the world U23 title by nine seconds ahead of Kiss.
Reilly and Kiss were locked in a battle down the blue carpet, but it was Kiss who had the edge over Reilly in the sprint as the British athlete claimed bronze to join Bentley on the podium. Dixon crossed the line 35th.
“It feels amazing,” Bentley said. “If I look back at the year I have had and what I have gone through this year. I was grateful to just be here. To be the first person across the line I don’t have many words for it other than I’m so happy and I’m so grateful to everybody back in Loughborough to get me back into the racing shape I was in at the start of the year.
“The swim start was nice because me and Hamo [Hamish Reilly] started next to each other and we got off to a good start, I got around the first buoy in the front bunch and just held it for the first lap. The dive back in was a bit appalling but I wanted to avoid diving in on top of Max [Stapley]. Onto the bike, I pushed hard into transition to try and get a break going and me and Jamie [Riddle] tried to get two laps in off the front but it didn’t stick, unfortunately. I spent the next four laps paying for it, just trying to recover, and thankfully today my run legs were there.”
Speaking after claiming bronze, Reilly said: “It’s my first year as an Under 23. I came here with no results in mind, just to gain experience and learn. I wanted to experience some of the racing in the heat because unfortunately I wasn’t able to get into the heat chambers back in the UK. It was tough trying to get around that, but I have come away from here with a bronze medal. I’m over the moon with that.”
In the earlier women’s U23 race, Waugh came out of the swim in a pack a few second behind Anika Koch (GER) with the Brit joined by team-mate Jessica Fullagar as they formed a strong pair in the chase pack.
They quickly caught Koch and the group rode a strong race to extend their lead from the chase pack but with a few laps left the British pair made a move to breakaway.
They took the race out and pushed for the lead and soon held a minute’s lead over the rest of the field.
Coming into transition two, it was the Brits out in front looking strong, but Waugh made a break and moved away from Fullagar.
Koch soon caught Fullagar and moved into second place but was still almost a minute down on Waugh who continued to look strong out front.
Soon, the race became a masterclass from Waugh as she could not be caught for the win and came down the blue carpet to secure the victory with almost a 30 second lead.
“It just feels amazing to be world champion,” Waugh said. “It’s a dream come true, I’ve had second and third before and never a gold, so I am excited to stand on the top step for the first time. I just knew I didn’t want to have any regrets today.
“Obviously the break on the bike is pre-planned. We really thought about how we were going to do it and we tried a couple of times and going onto the second to last lap I just thought I am going to have to go and not look back. We sat at the back and saved ourselves for a bit before just going for it.
“Jess put in a really good effort in what was her first standard distance. I just had to keep my head on the run and know that I had a break in 35 minutes.”
Fullagar finished the race in seventh place while Daisy Davies finished in eighth place overall.