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Swim, Bike and Rerun: revisiting the 2017 World Triathlon Series

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Starting in Abu Dhabi and culminating in Rotterdam, the 2017 World Triathlon Series took the world’s best triathletes on a nine-stop trip around the globe.

The World Triathlon Series (WTS) once again started in Abu Dhabi in 2017, with athletes diving into the marina for a standard distance race. In the women’s race, Jodie Stimpson and India Lee represented Great Britain, with Stimpson the defending champion having taken victory in 2016.

A notable absentee was Gwen Jorgensen. The two-time series winner and Olympic gold medallist from Rio had taken the year away from the sport to have her first child.

Having come out of the water a little off the leaders, Stimpson was able to work with the chase group to bridge the gap in the first 10km of the bike. In the closing stages, she was well established amongst a new lead group, entering transition at the front of a ten-woman chain.

Above: Stimpson was outsprinted in the season opener

Running strongly, Stimpson, Andrea Hewitt (NZL) and Sara Vilic (AUT) raced away until the Austrian dropped off the pace. Entering the final hundred metres a sprint ensued, with the New Zealander having enough to pass Stimpson and take the win.

Having won the previous four series’ between them, Javier Gomez and Mario Mola (ESP) were the centre of attention in the UAE whilst, racing for Britain, were Tom Bishop, Adam Bowden, Grant Sheldon and Marc Austin.

Austin was the first Brit through the swim, with Bishop a matter of seconds behind him. Cycling on the Yas Marina Circuit, a large group of athletes formed to ride together, breaking down to a group of ten or so as they approached T2.

Above: Bishop with his first WTS podium in Abu Dhabi in 2017

Bishop was among them and ran well with Gomez over the 10km, the Spaniard having that bit extra to take the tape ahead of the young British athlete who finished 36 seconds ahead of Vincent Luis (FRA) in third.

Following her silver medal, Jodie Stimpson was the sole Brit to make the trip to the Gold Coast, Australia for the second race of the series, this time over the sprint distance and a new course.

With near enough the whole field cycling together in a long train, which Stimpson spent time at the front of, it all came down to a 5km foot race. Hewitt (NZL) made it two-from-two, with Stimpson coming across the line in 16th.

There were no Brits in the men’s race, and it was a different Spaniard who took the win this time out. Mario Mola claiming gold ahead of Richard Murray (RSA) and Fernando Alarza (ESP).

British athletes were out in force as the series made its third stop, this time in Yokohama, Japan. The women’s team consisted of Vicky Holland, Non Stanford, Jess Learmonth, Lucy Hall and Sophie Coldwell, with Gordon Benson, Tom Bishop, Jonathan Brownlee and Adam Bowden in the men’s.

Reigning world champion, Flora Duffy (BER) made her season debut in Yokohama, racing alongside the winner of the first two races, Andrea Hewitt (NZL).

Learmonth, Hall and Coldwell were the first, second and fourth athletes to complete the swim, with Duffy and Stanford not far behind as they passed through T1.

Duffy and then 22-year-old Coldwell, who was racing in her first standard distance WTS race, made their way to the front and established a sizable lead of over a minute in the driving rain.

Above: Watch as Coldwell makes her WTS standard distance debut in Yokohama.

As Duffy made the run her own and won by a record margin, Coldwell was passed by Americans, Katie Zaferes and Kirsten Kasper, however managed to hold off Holland to maintain fourth place. Holland finished fifth, with Stanford and Learmonth sixth and seventh ahead of Hall who finished eleventh.

The men’s results were a bit more mixed than in the women’s race, with Benson finishing 11th just ahead of Abu Dhabi silver medallist, Bishop, in 12th.

Bowden recorded a DNF on the bike course, with Brownlee also affected by the conditions. First, losing his bike shoe early on and seeing him return to transition, then crashing as he tried to avoid another rider. This left him to carry a broken bike for 1km, before running to 42nd place overall.

Returning for a second year was WTS Leeds as the series made its way to Europe for the first time in 2017, with defending champion Alistair Brownlee making his season debut having been focussing on longer distances since Rio.

In 2016, Alistair finished first with younger brother Jonathan second, and the Brownlees were joined by Adam Bowden, Tom Bishop, Marc Austin, Gordon Benson and Grant Sheldon in their home race.

After the swim, both Brownlees were out on the bike on their own for much of the 40km as they established a large lead over the chase group as they rode through the countryside and streets of Leeds.

Alistair kicked on to run away from his brother and to a second consecutive win in the city, whilst further back, Bowden and Bishop battled with Fernando Alarza (ESP) for the final podium spot.

Above: A Brownlee one-two in front of a home crowd in Leeds

The Spaniard had just enough to claim it, with Bowden fourth and Bishop fifth. Austin came across the line in 13th, with Benson 28th and Sheldon lapped out.

In the women’s race, India Lee returned to race alongside Jess Learmonth and Non Stanford. Learmonth was the fastest swimmer, with Flora Duffy (BER) not far behind her.

Having slowed to cycle with Stanford, Duffy soon made the race her own at the front of the lead group on the bike. Once out on the run, the Bermudan strode away from the rest as she won by a minute and a half.

Taylor Spivey became the seventh different American woman to stand on a WTS podium as she finished second, with Alice Betto becoming the first Italian of either gender to make it onto the WTS podium.

Learmonth crossed the line in 6th, with Stanford 11th and Lee 17th

The series stayed in Europe as the athletes moved onto Hamburg, with nine British athletes making the trip for the sprint distance race and Mixed Relay World Championship.

Following back-to-back wins, Flora Duffy (BER) was looking to continue her attempt to defend her world title from 2016.

Above: Defending champion Duffy was in fine form again in 2017

Duffy, Learmonth and Kirsten Kasper (USA) rode as a three-woman breakaway early on in the 20km bike leg. On the final lap, Duffy dropped the other two to create a 41-second lead at T2, with Coldwell at the front of the main chase group a further 15 seconds back.

Learmonth and Kasper were swallowed up by the chasers as Duffy made it three-from-three. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) made her way through to take second place, whilst home favourite, Laura Lindermann sprinted ahead of Katie Zaferes (USA) for bronze.

Coldwell was the first British athlete across the line in 11th, closely followed by Lucy Hall (14th) and Learmonth (17th), with India Lee and Georgia Taylor-Brown 26th and 33rd, respectively.

In the men’s race, despite Australian Matthew Hauser finishing the 750m swim 13 seconds ahead of his nearest competition, there was no real advantage to be gained on the bike as a long train of cyclists navigated their way around the German city.

Following a congested T2, Mario Mola (ESP) was able to kick on and take the gold, with Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) and Ryan Sissons (NZL) battling it out for second behind him. The Australian claimed it, with Bishop (12th) the highest finishing British athlete.

Having been announced as an Olympic discipline for Tokyo the month before, the athletes teamed up to represent their countries in the Mixed Relay World Championships.

Above: Highlights of the Mixed Relay World Championship

Britain held the record with three victories at the championships, however had to settle for fourth in 2017 as Australia took their maiden victory. You can watch the highlights here.

The series left Europe and made its way to Canada for a double-header. The first stop, Edmonton, for a sprint distance event with Jonathan Brownlee, Grant Sheldon and Gordon Benson the sole Brits racing.

For the 30th race, Richard Varga (SVK) led the athletes out of the water following the 750m swim. Brownlee made it into the lead group on the bike, however on the 20km ride, by the time they’d finished the leg, one large group had formed.

Despite this, by the midpoint of the run, a top four of Brownlee, Mario Mola (ESP), Richard Murray (RSA) and Javier Gomez (ESP) had moved ahead of the rest until Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) sprinted ahead on the second lap, mistaking it for the third and final one.

Having run down the finish chute, the Australian hurdled the advertising board to rejoin the course, but the sprint had taken it out of him as Mola passed him to reclaim the lead. Birtwhistle hung on for second, with Murray third and Brownlee fourth.

Mola had made it four wins in 2017 and Flora Duffy (BER) was looking to do the same in the women’s race, where no British athletes competed.

Katie Zaferes (USA) entered the race as the series leader, however it was her compatriot, Summer Cook, who made it into T1 first.

Duffy jumped her in transition who, alongside Taylor Knibb (USA), cycled to a lead of over a minute. In the final 2km of the bike, the Bermudan rode clear to give herself some breathing space on the run. A lead she extended to a minute as she took the series lead. Knibb and Zaferes finished second and third.

Above: Brownlee narrowly missed out on the Edmonton podium

It was the same three Brits who made their way to Montreal a week later for round seven, this time for a standard distance race.

Brownlee followed Richard Varga (SVK) as the fastest swimmers as the Brit looked to get an early advantage over the competition.

The pair were joined not far into the cycle as a lead group of seven emerged, a group which included Javier Gomez (ESP) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) grew a gap to just over a minute by the time they reached T2.

After a poor transition for Brownlee, he, Gomez and Blummenfelt made their move early, however the Spaniard dropped the Brit and then the Norwegian to run to the line. Brownlee was passed by Richard Murray (RSA) who took bronze.

In the women’s race, Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) proved it is possible to beat Flora Duffy (BER) as she recorded her first win of the series, Duffy taking second with Andrea Hewitt (NZL) third.

Gentle established her lead early on into the 10km run as she set a quick pace and then left the rest behind to win her first WTS race.

The series returned to Europe for the penultimate race in Stockholm, before the athletes made their way to Rotterdam for the Grand Final.

Mario Mola (ESP) came into the race with a 300 point lead following four wins, racing against 52 other men including, Jonathan Brownlee, Adam Bowden, Tom Bishop and Marc Austin.

In what had appeared to have become a WTS tradition, Richard Varga (SVK) was the fastest swimmer through the 1500m. Brownlee was there with him as a group of six emerged from T1 and onto the bike, looking to build a big, early lead.

With a couple of laps to go on the bike, their lead was just shy of a minute to the chase group which included Bishop and Mola.

A 10km race to the finish then ensued amongst the leaders, with Brownlee establishing an early lead which he would extend all the way to the finish line. Having moved up from the chase group, Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and Pierre Le Corre (FRA) joined Brownlee on the podium. Bishop finished 6th and Bowden 13th.

After no British women competed in the two Canadian races, Jess Learmonth, Jodie Stimpson, Lucy Hall and India Lee all took their place on the pontoon in Stockholm.

Learmonth and Hall were joined by series leader, Flora Duffy (BER), as the first three athletes to make it to T1.

Above: Learmonth won her first WTS medal in Stockholm 2017

Having been joined by Zaferes (USA), Learmonth and Duffy dropped Hall and created a lead cycling group until the American crashed out and had to take a trip to hospital.

With a two-and-a-half-minute lead over the chasers, Duffy and Learmonth set off on the run with the Bermudan quickly leaving the Brit behind. Learmonth ran well to ensure second place was hers and win her first WTS medal, crossing the line over 90 seconds ahead of Ashleigh Gentle (AUS).

From Stockholm the series would make its way to Rotterdam, Netherlands for the ITU Grand Final, with Flora Duffy and Mario Mola in prime position to defend the titles they’d won the year before.

All the action from the final race of the 2017 World Triathlon Series and much more action from the Grand Final will be covered in an upcoming Swim, Bike and Rerun.

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