Twenty-one-year-old Canadian Paula Findlay stunned the women’s field at the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship London, running away with the win in 1:51:48. The youngster broke away on the final lap of the run from Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig and Brit Helen Jenkins, who finished second and third, respectively. It was the first-ever World Championship Series start for Findlay, who won her first ITU World Cup race in Monterrey, Mexico this April.
“I absolutely can’t believe this,” Findlay said afterward. “I felt better than ever on the run. I definitely did not expect to win, but I felt so smooth on the first two laps and then just tried to push things on the final lap. This is just crazy-I’m so happy.”
Sixty-eight women took to the Serpentine Lake in world famous Hyde Park to kick off the race under clear skies with an air temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. American Laura Bennett and Aussie Emma Moffatt charged to the front from the start, just as they did last weekend in Hamburg. Bennett’s teammate, Sarah Haskins, joined the lead pair as the top women dove in to start lap two, with the rest of the group getting strung out behind.
After just over 19 minutes in the Serpentine, Bennett led into T1, with Haskins, Moffatt and Hewitt only seconds behind. The top swimmers were unable to force a break early on the bike, and a group of 24 women came together on the first of eight bike laps around Hyde Park.
After three laps of riding, the leaders had 35 seconds on the chase pack of 30 women, which included Sweden’s Lisa Norden and Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz. Aussie Emma Snowsill, who exited the swim over 45 seconds behind the leaders, withdrew from the race on the second lap. The lead group continued to extend their lead on the next two laps, building a gap of 1:15 at the start of lap five.
The leaders grew their advantage to just under two minutes as they made their way out of the second transition, with Hewitt, Findlay, Spirig, and Jenkins moving to the front at the start of the three lap run. After hanging with the front group of eight for much of the first lap, Moffatt fell off pace, clearly feeling fatigue from racing six days ago.
Jenkins began to up the pace at the start of lap two, pulling Spirig, Findlay and Hewitt with her as the rest of the lead group faded back. As the top four started the third and final lap, Findlay moved to the front and slowly turned up the tempo as the rest of the leaders struggled to stay with her.
“Running with a group of four is always hard, because there’s only three spots on the podium,” Findlay said. “At that point in the race I was just hoping for a podium spot. Then I looked back and saw I had a little gap and just ran my heart out.”
One by one the rest of the women fell off Findlay’s pace, and with 800 metres to go, it was clear that the rest of the leaders were running for second. Findlay broke the tape for the biggest win of her career in 1:51:48, with Spirig finishing three seconds later to claim second.
“This was a really hard race for me today,” Spirig said. “I had to miss last weekend’s race in Hamburg because I was sick, so I’m really happy to be racing again and to finish second.”
Jenkins rounded out the podium, finishing another two seconds behind. It’s the second year in a row that Jenkins has finished third at this event.
“I’ve been finishing third a lot lately-it’s about time I get second or first!” Jenkins joked afterward. “My plan today was just to commit to the whole race and to go hard for two hours, so I’m really happy with how things turned out.”
With her ninth-place finish today, reigning world champ Moffatt continues to lead the 2010 World Championship Rankings.
“I didn’t have my best day out there today, but I’m lucky I’m still at the top of the rankings,” Moffatt said. “I felt great on the swim and bike, but I was really feeling the fatigue of last week’s race once we got on the run and those girls were pushing a really tough pace.”
The women will now have a three-week rest before heading to Kitzbühel, Austria for the penultimate stage of the Series on August 14-15.
The Elite men will race in London tomorrow, starting off at 4pm local time. Live text, timing and video will be available at triathlon.org/tv.
Elite Women Results
1. Paula Findlay (CAN) 1:51:48
2. Nicola Spirig (SUI) 1:51:51
3. Helen Jenkins (GBR) 1:51:53
4. Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 1:51:55
5. Laura Bennett (USA) 1:52:34
6. Vicky Holland (GBR) 1:52:39
7. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 1:52:45
8. Kate Roberts (RSA) 1:53:04
9. Emma Moffatt (AUS) 1:53:12
10. Akane Tsuchihashi (JPN) 1:53:24
38. Kathy Tremblay (CAN) 1:56:56
45. Kirsten Sweetland (CAN) 1:58:18