A day that started with the chance for TriStars to experience the Super League course ended with Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee both coming away from Super League Triathlon Championship Series London with a bronze medal as British athletes put on a show in front of a home crowd.
The elite races were raced over the Triple Mix format and it was the women’s which was the first elite race to take place. Sophie Coldwell, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Sophie Green, Beth Potter, Sian Rainsley, Non Stanford and Kate Waugh all competed in front of a home crowd in Canary Wharf.
The first stage was swim, bike, run and saw Cassandre Beaugrand leading out of the water. Rainsley was the first Brit out of the water in what was a flurry of athletes heading into transition.
The four-lap bike course saw a lead group established which saw Taylor-Brown, Coldwell, Green and Taylor Spivey at the front midway through. Stanford, Rainsley and Potter were in the chase group looking to hunt them down.
Onto the final leg of the first stage and it was Taylor-Brown who led them out onto the run followed by Spivey, Coldwell and Green, with Beaugrand and Potter further back looking to bridge up.
Across the two laps Beaugrand made her way forwards to finish stage one in third behind Spivey and Taylor-Brown in first.
The second stage saw the format reversed as they started with a run. It was Potter and Beaugrand who set the pace early on with a train of chasing athletes following them through the run and into transition.
The pair maintained their lead onto the bike with Coldwell at the head of a chase pack riding to reel them back in. The start of the second lap saw them catch the front two and form a large lead group all cycling together. Taylor-Brown, Coldwell and Potter were at the lead at the start of the final lap.
The stage ended with the swim and saw the trio of Brits joined by Spivey and Beaugrand and it was these two who quickly made the race their own to drive through the water. Spivey took the stage win ahead of Beaugrand, Coldwell, Taylor-Brown and Potter.
The final stage was a pursuit start, with bike followed by swim and then run. The start was determined by the accumulation of stages one and two, with Spivey heading out first followed by Beaugrand, Taylor-Brown, Coldwell and Potter. Green started 10th, Waugh 12th, Rainsley 13th and Stanford 15th.
As they navigated the tight bike course, it was Spivey, Beaugrand, Taylor-Brown and Coldwell who had formed a pack at the front and were riding their way into the distance as Potter, cycling solo, sought to try and catch them up.
This stayed the same throughout the leg and in the water as well, as, further back from Potter, Brits were lining up for top-ten places. Waugh was sixth, Green seventh and Rainsley eighth as they entered the final discipline.
Running for victory, it was Spivey who navigated transition quickest and established an unassailable lead, whilst, despite a slow transition, Beaugrand ran her way passed Coldwell and Taylor-Brown to take second. Taylor-Brown finished third and Coldwell fourth.
Potter finished fifth, Waugh sixth, Green 11th, Rainsley 13th and Stanford 18th.
Speaking after the race, Taylor-Brown said: “It’s nice, I’ve not had a third for a while but it’s better than expected. I didn’t know how I would go coming down from altitude as it’s all pretty new to me. It was either going to be really good or a bit flat, and it was a bit flat.
“I’m glad I’ve blown the cobwebs out. It’s been five weeks since we raced and it’s getting used to it all again, remember what it’s like and it’s really, really hard, but incredible out there and I really enjoyed it.
“I really like the format, it keeps you on your toes, it’s just very, very painful and I’m excited for the rest of the season now.”
Reflecting on their Super League experience, Coldwell, Green, Waugh and Potter commented:
Coldwell: “Brutal as ever. It’s fun once you get through the pain and family and friends are here, loads of people are out to support everyone so that masks the pain a bit. It’s carnage, but it’s all good and it’s all transferable skills.”
Green: “It’s really exciting, the most difficult part for me is the transitions. It was great getting to race some of the girls and just really pushing myself. It definitely hits your legs different, but the more we do it the better we’ll get at it.”
Waugh: “It was all just a blur to be honest. I feel a bit out of it. It’s incredible, I’ve bumped into so many old friends who live and work in London and have come out to support today. It’s been really special, and I’ll remember this day for a long time. I can’t be disappointed because I gave it my all.”
Potter: “That’s the best I’ve felt since Commonwealths. It’s challenging because you have to think more about what you’re doing as you don’t usually swim after you’ve done the others. I felt that I was in the mix until the last stage, but it’s just the way it goes.”
On the bike, they were joined by Chase McQueen, Tyler Mislawchuk and Emil Holm to form a leading five. Brownlee and Yee were at the head of the chasing pack riding to draw them back in.
The short bike course saw them unable to bridge, with Yee, Brownlee and Hayden Wilde making early inroads on the run, with the trio taking the lead and crossing the line first (Yee), second (Wilde) and third (Brownlee).
Stage two (run, bike, swim) started with Wilde and Yee pushing each other early on and Hauser and Brownlee on their tails.
Yee was first into transition and he, Wilde and Hauser were riding quickly as Brownlee headed the chasing group. Dixon and Perham were further back in the order.
Heading into the water, Hauser was the strongest of the leading three and pulled ahead to cross the line for the stage win. Yee outsprinted Wilde from the pontoon to the line, with Brownlee crossing the line sixth, Dixon 13th and Perham 19th.
Once again the final stage was a pursuit start, with Yee, Wilde, Hauser and Brownlee the front four. Dixon set off 15th and Perham 19th to start the bike, swim, run.
Yee, Wilde and Hauser broke and rode together knowing the race would be a tactical battle across the final stage, with Hauser carrying the short chute. The swim continued to be a tactical battle, with Wilde keeping alongside Hauser and Yee sitting slightly behind. All three came into transition in quick succession to make it run for the win.
Wilde set off fastest, however Hauser’s short chute saw him take the lead and Yee running in third. Brownlee was leading the chasing effort in fourth.
In the final lap, Wilde pulled clear and stayed there for the win. Hauser took second and Yee third, whilst Brownlee (fifth) was outsprinted by Mislawchuk (fourth). Dixon finished 15th and Perham 17th.
Commenting after his medal, Yee said: “for me this was the first race back after the Commonwealth Games and I’m very much training for the World Series, so it was a definite shock to the system. A lot of rustiness on my part, but I think I had a good race considering how I felt at the start of the week.
“Look at how many people came out. I couldn’t even warm up until ten minutes before because I was signing so much stuff. It’s awesome and so great to see so many young guys out and there was an aquathlon at the start of the day [for TriStars] so it’s great to see the new generation coming through.
“It’s imperative to have this [TriStar] kind of racing. I had this in 2012 at the Olympics, but to have it three or four deep around here is awesome.”
Dixon, reflecting on the race and year so far, commented : “That was a bit of a shock to the system, it’s been a while since doing Super League, but it’s been awesome being back.
“It’s quite the spectacle this. It’s so off in your head, different formats, you’re making silly mistakes and it’s all about learning this. Racing these guys is unreal. I did it as a youth, so to be on the start line at 20 with some of your idols is pretty cool.
“I’ve been so harsh on myself this year, I’ve been able to race at such a high level with different opportunities coming around and, yeah, looking back at 20 years old and coming from a junior last year it’s been pretty awesome.”
Image credit: Super League Triathlon