The World Triathlon Championship Finals Edmonton saw Alex Yee claim men’s overall series bronze to back up his silver and gold medals from Tokyo, with Sophie Coldwell securing fifth in the women’s standings.
Having started in Yokohama before moving onto Leeds and into a Canadian double-header after Tokyo 2020, it was the second race in Canada that would decide the 2021 world champions at the World Triathlon Championship Finals Edmonton.
Alex Yee started the race ranked number one in the standings following his performances during 2021. Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) was second, less than forty points behind Yee.
Alongside Yee, Blummenfelt and a host of international athletes including Tokyo bronze medallist Hayden Wilde (NZL) and 2019 and 2020 world champion Vincent Luis (FRA), were Brits Tom Bishop and Grant Sheldon.
Luis forged a fast pace over the first of two 750m swim laps and, having exited the water before diving back in the for the second identical lap, he’d stretched the field out with Hungarian Mark Devay and Belgian athlete Marten van Riel the only ones able to keep within touching distance.
With these three athletes first onto the bike and opening up a lead of 26 seconds by the end of lap one, Blummenfelt was riding in the main chase pack and Bishop (+49 seconds) was the first of the British athletes, with Yee further back and over a minute behind the leaders.
As the 40km unfolded, the trio stayed clear of Blummenfelt’s chasing pack with the group with Bishop and Yee in further back. The gaps were consistently around 25 and 90 seconds from the leaders throughout the bike stage, however, by the time they transitioned from bike to run, the Norwegian had made sure the gap was all but eradicated.
Setting off in pursuit on the run, Yee left his group behind in transition to start the four-lap, 10km run alongside Wilde. At the front, Blummenfelt and van Riel were part of an eight-athlete breakaway, with Luis running just behind.
At the mid-point of the run, the Olympic individual silver and bronze medallists were one minute and eight seconds behind the champion from Tokyo and his lead pack, trying to close the gap and making their way through the field.
Starting the final lap, Yee was 13th and had cut the gap to 46 seconds. Having already made inroads into his final 2.5km, Blummenfelt made his move at the front to lead the way alongside van Riel and Bergère (FRA).
A sprint down the blue carpet saw Blummenfelt add the World Triathlon Championship Series title to his Olympic gold as he won in Edmonton, with van Riel and Bergere second and third in the race. Van Riel’s result saw him take series silver as well.
Yee crossed the line in 11th which saw him finish third in the overall series standings, with Bishop finishing 30th and Sheldon lapped out on the bike.
Speaking to World Triathlon after the race, Yee said: “Today wasn’t my best day, no excuses, I just didn’t swim well enough. I gave it everything I had and for me, I fought to the end and luckily I get to hold onto a podium with these great guys. They did a phenomenal job today and kudos to them because they were all incredible.
“I just gave it everything I think. You don’t want to die wondering what could have happened or anything like that, you never know if you’re going to be in this position again. I was extremely proud to put on the number one to start this race and, for me, I had to race that with pride and I did everything I could and today it wasn’t enough, but it was amazing and really fun to be back out racing again.”
Commenting on Yee’s World Triathlon Championship Series bronze, British Triathlon’s Performance Director Mike Cavendish, said:
“I want to congratulate Alex on another strong performance and his podium in the overall World Triathlon Championship Series standings.
“He’s had a fantastic year and to back up his Olympic silver with bronze in the overall standings is testament to all the work that he, his coach Adam Elliot and his wider support team in Loughborough have put in over the last few months. That team has been key to Alex’s development over the past few years and his performances in 2021 show that he’s very much at the top table of men’s Olympic distance racing.
“The exciting thing about Alex is that there is still so much more to come and I know that this result, alongside his silver and gold from Tokyo, will motivate him to kick on again next year.”
Coldwell secures overall fifth place with top-ten finish in Edmonton
Earlier in the day, the final race of the women’s 2021 series took place in Edmonton.
Sophie Coldwell was the highest placed Brit in the rankings in fifth going into the race, just 150 points behind Maya Kingma (NED) in third. Olympic champion Flora Duffy (BER) and American Taylor Spivey occupied the top two places in the rankings.
Leaving the lake beach in Hawrelak Park, three distinct groups formed on the swim before merging together to create a long chain, with Brazilian athlete Vittoria Lopes at the front.
Lopes maintained her lead at the halfway point and Holland, the highest placed Brit, was in fourth. Olympic champion from Bermuda, Duffy, (11th) and Coldwell (13th) were a matter of seconds behind, with Brits, Rainsley (16th), Potter (17th) and Stanford (23rd) all within 15 seconds of the leader.
By the time the athletes completed their second 750m lap, American Taylor Knibb was in the lead at the front of a long train of athletes heading into first transition and onto the bike.
Despite Knibb, Spivey and Kingma being first onto the bike course, a chase group set off to draw them back in. Whilst they caught Kingma and Spivey, Knibb pushed hard to break away on her own over the opening stages of the first lap.
The chase group, which now included Coldwell, were over 30 seconds behind the American at the end of lap one, with the next group of athletes, including Stanford, Holland and Rainsley, a further 40 seconds adrift.
Knibb put further time into the chasers on the second lap, a pattern that would continue lap-by-lap as the 40km bike leg unfolded. The American rode solo throughout the second stage of the race and built a lead of two minutes and forty-four seconds by the time the chasers racked their bikes and set out on the run.
The chase group spread out throughout the first lap of the run, with Duffy and Leonie Periault (FRA) pulling away from the rest as Knibb continued to look strong. At the midway point in the 10km, the pair had managed to cut the American’s lead to two minutes, with Coldwell 17 seconds back in fourth alongside Spivey, Kingma and Laura Lindemann (GER).
As the race result was decided with Knibb taking the tape in 01:54:47, the battle developing behind her was for the order of spaces on the overall World Triathlon Championship Series podium. Despite Periault moving clear of Duffy to claim race silver, the Bermudan athlete took the series win with her bronze in Edmonton.
Coldwell crossed the line in 7th, with Holland and Stanford running through the field to finish 9th and 11th respectively. Rainsley (14th) and Potter (18th) both finished in under two hours in the final race of the 2021 series.
The overall series podium saw Duffy add the world title to her Olympic gold, with Knibb taking second and Spivey third. Coldwell maintained her position of fifth in the rankings, with Stanford moving up one place to ninth.
Reflecting on the top-ten finishes for Coldwell and Holland in Edmonton, Cavendish said: “It was another strong performance from Sophie today. She’s been steadily improving year-on-year and to end the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series as the highest British finisher, both at the Grand Final and in the series overall, demonstrates the further step that she’s taken in 2021.
“Vicky bouncing back from her crash in Tokyo to secure yet another World Triathlon Championship Series top-ten was also very impressive.”
Blummenfelt and Duffy both made history by becoming the first triathletes to add world series titles to Olympic gold medals.
The 2022 series starts next month with races in Hamburg, Bermuda and Abu Dhabi all counting towards next year’s rankings having been postponed due to Covid-19.