Olympic Champion Georgia Taylor-Brown and Sophie Coldwell made it a double podium for Great Britain in the women’s World Triathlon Championship Series race in Abu Dhabi.
The sprint distance race saw eight Brits on the women’s start list, with Jess Learmonth, Vicky Holland, Sian Rainsley, Lucy Charles-Barclay, Beth Potter and Non Stanford competing alongside Taylor-Brown and Coldwell in a field that included international stars aplenty.
Learmonth and Coldwell led out of the swim, with a swarm of British athletes close behind as they made their way through transition and onto the bike. The leading pair were joined by Taylor-Brown, Charles-Barclay, Olympic Champion Flora Duffy (BER) and Taylor Knibb (USA) to create a leading pack.
This group dropped to five as IRONMAN 70.3 world champion, Charles-Barclay fell behind and rode the remainder of the leg on her own. Behind her, Holland and Rainsley rode together in a small group with Potter and Stanford in the next group back. These groups would merge before the end of the 20km.
Onto the run and the leading five left T2 together however, they soon spread out as Duffy set the early pace. The quintet were evenly spread out, with all still to play for as they entered the second run lap.
Stanford, Potter and Holland were all running well at the front of the chasing pack and swallowed up Charles-Barclay who ran with the group to the finish.
Back at the front, Duffy made her move and extended her lead to see Taylor-Brown come across the line in second and Coldwell third.
The successful day for Britain didn’t end on the podium however, as four more Brits finished in the top ten with Learmonth finishing fourth, Potter and Stanford seventh and eighth, Holland tenth, before Charles-Barclay crossed the line in 12th and Rainsley 24th.
“That race was really hard and a massive shock to the system,” Taylor-Brown said. “The swim was really hard from the start and around the buoys, but then it settled down a little bit and I just thought I am in a good place so hold this place.
“I knew I had to run quite hard to transition because I was fourth and then just biked really hard. I got on Flora’s wheel, and we got a pack formed but the whole bike leg was ridiculously hard and I haven’t felt that bad in a long time. Taylor [Knibb] is so strong and she just pulled it apart. The run for me was just going to be survival and I gave whatever I had today.”
“I am very, very happy to end my year like that,” Coldwell said. “It’s been alright, 2021, for me. I am heading home to have a couple of weeks off and I have lots of things to look forward to and then back into the winter grind ready for next year.
“I led the swim which I was a bit surprised at and thought, what am I doing out here. The bike was pretty fast once Taylor [Knibb] joined us. I almost got dropped at the start, so I just thought keep your head and keep pushing and I got back into my running. I was just trying to find the finish line in the end. I hit it hard, but I am really happy.”
Following the swim, Vincent Luis (FRA) and Mark Devay led, with a steady stream of athletes following them up the ramp and into transition. The lead pair were quickly out onto the bike, with Benson the first of the Brits onto the bike followed by Sheldon and Dickinson.
As chase groups emerged, the Brits found themselves battling to be in the best position. Dickinson and Benson rode well in the main chase group across a lot of the second 10km, with Sheldon dropping back.
At the start of the final bike lap, Benson and Dickinson were at the front of the lead chase group and trying to bridge the gap that was over 30 seconds to the lead group of 17.
Coming out of T2, Luis and Jelle Geens (BEL) lead the way. Benson was 37 seconds adrift and Dickinson 39 seconds, with Sheldon over a minute behind the front runners.
Mid way through the second and final lap 2.5km lap, Benson was running in 18th place and Dickinson 23rd as they both pushed hard to make gains in the final stages. Out front, Geens had opened up a lead of Luis heading towards the line.
Geens took the tape ahead of the Frenchman, with Bence Bicsak (HUN) rounding out the podium. Benson crossed the line in 17th place, with Dickinson not far behind in 22nd and Sheldon finishing in 48th.