Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee both secured their third World Triathlon Championship Series wins of 2022, while Jonny Brownlee returned to the podium on a successful day for British triathletes in Cagliari.
The first WTCS race hosted in Cagliari marked the return of the World Triathlon Championship Series after a three-month break, but it was a similar story to the events that have already been in 2022 with Taylor-Brown and Yee again ending the day on the top step of the podium.
The beach start offered a glimpse of the spectacle which will also be seen when Sunderland hosts the World Triathlon Championship Series next summer and it was a frantic start to the 1.5km swim.
Starting with the women’s race, all four British athletes were well placed after the two swim laps of 750m with Taylor-Brown, Sophie Coldwell and Beth Potter all positioned in the top-10 and Kate Waugh only a few seconds further back.
Onto the bike and it was a course that included flat straight roads as well as some twists and turns. The constant pressure being applied at the front of the lead group of around 25 athletes caused the lead group to split up on the fourth lap, but Coldwell, Taylor-Brown and Waugh all remained in the lead group which shrunk to 11.
Potter was on the other side of the split and was part of the chasing group behind which found itself nearly 40 seconds behind the leaders at the halfway stage of the 38km bike. With the lead group continuing to push on, it was an advantage that grew to one minute, 45 seconds heading into transition two.
Out of transition and onto the run, Taylor-Brown went straight to the front of the race alongside Knibb and Emma Lombardi (FRA). It was Taylor-Brown who was dictating the pace at the front of the group and on the penultimate run lap appeared to up the pace, first dropping Knibb before then distancing Lombardi with around 4km to go.
Taylor-Brown would go onto to take the tape 12 seconds ahead of Lombardi in second and Knibb in third to extend her lead over Olympic champion Flora Duffy (BER) at the top of the Maurice Lacroix World Triathlon Championship Rankings with Duffy not racing in Cagliari.
All four British women finished in the top-12 with Coldwell the next British athlete to cross the line in seventh, while Potter made up a number of places on the run to finish 10th, two places ahead of Waugh in 12th.
“I’m really pleased,” Taylor-Brown said when speaking to World Triathlon after crossing the line. “The swim was long, the bike was long, the run was very long. It’s a bit of a shock to the system for most of us, but I just tried to run my own race at the end and just tried to stay in contact with the bike group.
“Taylor [Knibb] made it really hard but that worked in our favour because we got a really good gap. I think it’s still going to come down to the Grand Final, but I’ve got three wins and a second, so that’s all I could do, that’s all I’ve got so it will come down to Abu Dhabi now.”
By the time the men’s race started in the afternoon, there were rougher conditions in the swim which strung out the field and saw Brownlee exit the swim 15 seconds behind the leader Mark Devay (HUN) and Yee 32 seconds behind.
After Devay and Matthew Hauser (AUS) had been caught after spending the first lap of the bike off the front, there was a main pack of around 30 athletes, including Brownlee, while Yee found himself around 25 seconds behind in a smaller chase group.
Yee and the rest of his group worked well together to reduce the gap to the front of the race and they joined the main pack with a couple of laps to go.
At this point, France’s Leo Bergere (FRA) had already tried his luck off the front of the lead group, but had been caught just before the halfway mark on the bike before Brownlee made a move at the head of the race, joining Japan’s Jumpei Furuya to form a leading pair.
They gained a 30 second advantage over the main pack heading into transition and it was a lead Brownlee would use to his advantage, heading out onto the 10km run as the sole leader.
Yee was 17th and more than 35 seconds behind, but quickly made his way through the field and by the halfway point had moved just ahead of Brownlee.
With Yee now in the race lead, the Olympic gold and silver medallist was looking in control but appeared to grab his hamstring and stopped to stretch his leg during the third lap before continuing on.
Battling away and still appearing to suffer from cramp, Yee got back into his rhythm to cross the line eight seconds ahead of Brownlee, who claimed his first World Series podium since 2019, after holding off the challenge of Manoel Messias (BRA) in third.
Speaking after his third win of the series, Yee said: “I had cramp from the first lap for pretty much the whole time. I was in so much pain during those last three laps. I was just trying to hang onto whatever I could. I was just thinking about this place and how much it means to me.
“We had to work so hard on the bike to get to the front. It was full gas and maybe I need to go back and learn something from today. I was in the same amount of pain the whole time, but I invested in the little I did have to make sure I was first to the line.
“It [the swim] was a worry. I didn’t have a very good start into the water and for me I was on the back foot from there. But I’m over the moon and to do it here is a fairy tale.”
After the race, Brownlee said: “I think what I am most proud of today is I actually committed to racing, got stuck in and had a really good go on the bike. I felt confident and back to my old self of dictating the race rather than being a passenger and that’s what I’m really pleased about. I saw an opportunity and took it.
“It’s taken me a few months to get my confidence back [on the bike] but I was enjoying it. I knew I had to pace the run and then build into it. I did that until the last k and then it really hurt. It’s a proud feeling, I can’t remember the last time I was on a World Series podium. It’s nice to be back and know I’m not past it just yet.”
(Image: World Triathlon)