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France controls the top of the podium at ITU Guatape

World Cup wins for Peon and Diemunsch. Widney 18th, McMahon gets a flat.

France’s Carole Peon overcame brutal conditions on a challenging course to seize her first ITU World Cup title in a thrilling finish in Guatape, Colombia today.  Japan’s Tomoko Sakimoto closed out a strong performance to take silver while Spain’s Zurine Rodriguez recorded her second straight World Cup podium with bronze.

“It’s just amazing to (win) here in this altitude, it’s just so great,” said Peon.  “It was a hard race and I am really really happy.”

Heavy overnight rains caused a landslide, blocking half the bike course which forced race officials to reduce the race to a sprint distance – 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run.  The rain did not relent as the women stepped onto the start pontoon amidst miserably cold and wet conditions.

Brazil’s Pamela Nascimento Oliveira was first out of the water with Margit Vanek (HUN) and Line Jensen (DEN).  Also not far behind were a host of contenders including Vicky Holland (GBR) and Mariko Adachi (JPN) and Juri Ide (JPN).  Peon was also in that front pack from the swim and biked in the lead group made up of about 16 women including many of the pre-race favourites.

Once out onto the run course, Peon made a break early on with Adachi. But Adachi, the reigning Asian Games gold medallist, couldn’t hang on to Peon’s impressive pace and soon faded back. But it wasn’t long before another Japanese athlete, Sakimoto, challenged Peon for the lead

But Peon, who’s returning from injury, refused to back down and stayed in the lead for good.  She cruised to the finish line to celebrate the first World Cup title of her career.

Top 10 Women

1. Carole Peon FRA 1:04:11

2. Tomoko Sakimoto JPN 1:04:30

3. Zurine Rodriguez ESP 1:04:37

4. Margit Vanek HUN 1:04:41

5. Agnieszka Jerzyk POL 1:04:44

6. Alexandra Razarenova RUS 1:04:44

7. Lisa Perterer AUT 1:04:45

8. Vicky Holland GBR 1:04:57

9. Carlyn Fischer RSA 1:05:05

10. Maria Czesnik POL 1:05:12

18. Chantell Widney CAN 1:06:04

Elite Men’s Race

Etienne Diemunsch completed a French sweep in Guatape today, the first time since 1991 that France has swept gold at a World Cup.  It was a career breakthrough for Diemunsch, claiming his first World Cup title after an impressive fourth place showing at the recent Under23 European Championships.

“It’s just the second World Cup of my career so I’m very happy to win today,” said Diemunsch at the finish area.

Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales pulled ahead of France’s Tony Moulai for the silver after Moulai was forced to serve a 15-second penalty on the last lap of run when it looked like he had the win wrapped up.

Cuba’s Michel Gonzalez and Richard Varga (SVK) led the men out of the water and into T1 with Canada’s Brent McMahon close behind.  The trio was first onto the testing 20km bike course but they were not alone as there was a long line of approximately 35 men behind them.  Doing the bulk of the work up front were notably strong bikers such as Moulai, Matt Chrabot (USA), Andy Potts (USA), Leonardo Chacon (CRC), and Ivan Rana (ESP).  Absent among them was McMahon who suffered a flat tire and was forced to withdraw from the race.

That lead pack-which contained many of the pre-race favourites-rode together, perhaps playing it conservative on the slick course.

Rana was the first into T2, followed closely by Chrabot, Kris Gemmell, Diemunsch and Moulai as it was evident this was going to come down to a fast and furious battle on the 5km run course.

Diemunsch quickly surged to the lead but his French teammate Moulai kept within striking distance.  Grajales also joined the two Frenchman as the three names to fill the podium came into focus.

In the late stages of the final lap, it appeared that Moulai had broken clear of his teammate but his road to victory snarled to a halt as he was forced to serve a 15-second penalty upon entering the town square where the finish line was located.  The penalty was due to dismounting his bike past the dismount line when entering T2.

Moulai’s penalty opened the door for Diemunsch who seize the opportunity and sprinted home for the first ITU World Cup victory of his young career, stopping the clock at 57 minutes and 15 seconds.

Top 10 Men

1. Etienne Diemunsch FRA 57:15

2. Crisanto Grajales MEX 57:22

3. Tony Moulai FRA 57:26

4. Jose Miguel Perez ESP 57:30

5. Carlos Javier Quinchará Forero COL 57:33

6. Juraci Moreira BRA 57:37

7. Ivan Rana ESP 57:40

8. Miguel Angel Fidalgo ESP 57:42

9. Manuel Huerta USA 57:43

10. Matt Chrabot USA 57:44

DNF Brent McMahon – flat tire