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World cup round up: Yorke takes seventh in Huatulco, Pennock 12th in Cagliari

Canadian short course athletes toed the start lines in Mexico and Italy for the final world cup races of the Olympic selection period this weekend. Yesterday, Kirsten Sweetland, Joanna Brown and Paul Findlay fought the heat and hills in Huatulco to finish 12th, 13th and 18th respectively in the women’s field. In the men’s race today, Andrew Yorke posted an impressive seventh place at his second race of the year after a DNF last month. Kyle Jones hung on for a top 15 finish and 21-year-old Xavier Grenier-Talavera pulled off 26th in a competitive field.

Credit: ITU Media
Credit: ITU Media

Across the ocean, Russell Pennock backed up his first place at the Richmond CAMTRI sprint last weekend with a solid 12th place at the first ever Cagliari world cup race. Matt Sharpe, who followed Pennock in second last weekend, finished 22nd in Cagliari.

Huatulco men’s race

The Canadian men battled the same heat that challenged the women in yesterday’s race on the gruelling Huatulco course, known to be the toughest on the world cup circuit.

Credit: ITU Media
Credit: ITU Media

Yorke was about a minute down from the leader exiting the water into T1. He worked hard to maintain a solid position for the bike and run and managed to pass some athletes with about three kilometres to go before crossing the finish line in 1:59:16.

“This is probably the hardest race on the calendar and requires you to race with with lot of discipline,” Yorke told TMC. “I did some serious heat prep in order to get ready for Huatulco and having grown up riding a bike in the Caledon hills I’ve got a lifetime of short steep hills to draw upon.

I had an average swim and quickly made the mead group on the bike. The first time up the hill I knew would be the hardest so I focused on finding my rhythm and finding what the best place to position myself was. For the rest of the ideas it was about hydration and food. T2 was terrible so I had my work cut out for me early in the run but I let myself find a rhythm and then made made a move. I had plenty in the tank and was able to move up to seventh.”

For Yorke, this was just the strong finish he needed heading into the final WTS of the Olympic qualification period — Yokohama on May 14th.

Jones pulled off a 15th place despite swallowing a bee on the bike course.

“It’s true, I swallowed a bee on the first lap of the bike. It got caught in my throat coming down the hill. In the moment it gave me a bit of a scare because I’ve had bad swelling with bee stings in the past, but I was fine” he said.

He agreed that Huatulco was a challenging race and was happy with his result.

“The hills and the heat play a big factor here and today was no different. It wasn’t my best day but I was able to score some Olympic points ahead of Yokohama next weekend.”

So far, Jones has the best Canadian men’s score on a WTS race this year — ninth at Abu Dhabi in March.

Huatulco women’s race

Kirsten Sweetland told TMC in a post-race interview that given the health challenges she’s faced for the last year and bit, she was thrilled to have placed 12th yesterday.

Joanna Brown was also happy with her 13th place finish, just a few seconds behind Sweetland.

Credit: ITU Media
Credit: ITU Media
“We knew that the conditions were going to be extremely hot so my coach Craig (Taylor) took precautions to keep us as cool as possible before the start. We had frozen bottles and slushies and I would have dumped my head in a bucket of ice if I could have! The water was approaching 30C and the air was over 40C with the humidity. Luckily we raced in the evening so the worst of the heat was on the swim and the bike,” she told TMC.

“I had a low starting position so I took one of the few remaining spots to the left of the start line close to Kirsten and not far from Paula (Findlay).
When the gun went off I had a good start and found Paula’s feet right away. We were together until the first turn buoy (about 400m) and then as everything came together I got dunked and pushed under and lost my feet. I battled around the next buoy and then found some clear water for the remainder of the swim.
The first time up the hill was probably the most painful. That’s when everyone has some juice left in their legs and a couple girls tried to sprint off the front. I tried to stay very engaged and always have good positioning coming down the hill. The combination of loose gravel, rough pavement, and sand of the downhill made it pretty scary but being near the front meant that I could choose my own path down the hill.
Reality set in after we hit the first of eight hills on the run and I started to move backwards. I held on well after Kirsten passed me and I did my best to just keep looking up at her and not look back. I was so ready to be done racing and jump in some cold water.
I am happy with the progress that I have seen so far this year and I’m really hungry to keep pushing. I’m not even close to peak shape yet and being able to train week to week and see improvement has been an amazing feeling! I’m looking forward to more fast racing this summer.”