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Hot and Humid Conditions at ITU World Cup in Chengdu Prove No Trouble For Sullwald and Backhouse

Photo: Delly Carr/ ITU
Photo: Delly Carr/ ITU

Wian Sullwald of South Africa won his first ever ITU World Cup in Chengdu, China this weekend, outrunning Kevin McDowell of the US and Aurelien Lebrun of France. All three athletes posted career best times. At only 20 years old, Sullwald’s performance was a massive jump on his 15th place finish at the Capetown ITU WTS event a week ago.

“I am happy to take the win, like I said in the press conference I wanted to be on the podium today and I made it, I am over the moon, “ said Sullwald. “I remained calm throughout the whole race, the swim was decent and the bike was quite easy, all the packs got together and were just riding along, I stuck to the back and on the last two laps I worked my way to the front and hit it hard on to the run and just kept my pace.

“Today the sun is out and it is really quite warm but coming from South African I am used to the heat and for me it was perfect racing conditions. From Capetown to Chengdu it is all going great and hopefully now I can back this up with another good performance in Yokohama.”

Like Sullwald it was a first time on a World Cup podium for the brave American McDowell who has spent two years rebuilding his strength for the past two years after overcoming cancer (Hodgkins Lymphoma).

“This is my best performance, in just my second World Cup race, to come out and get on the podium, I was trying for the win and was pushing pushing over that last bit but Wian is a class act guy, congratulations to him, it was a great race and I gave all I could out there.

“This is real special for me, it is a signifying moment to say I have made it through, there were a lot of trials, my friends, coaches and parents have been so supportive of me and helped me through, without them I would not have made it through.”

Ancaster, Ont.’s John Rasmussen finished in the middle of the pack (37th of 76 elites), gaining invaluable experience. The 22-year-old clocked a time of one hour, 51 minutes, 27 seconds (1:51:27).

“It was a wild race and something special to experience,” said Rasmussen. “I didn’t get out as quickly as I would have liked from the start and had to fight my way through the swim, but did find my way into the lead pack on the bike.”

In the women’s race, Australia’s Gillian Backhouse won in a dominant fashion finishing 29 seconds ahead of American Jessica Broderick in hot and humid conditions. Claire Michel  of Belgium was third. It was a first win for Backhouse and one that she was delighted with.

“In terms of career performances this is the absolute best for me by a mile. My previous best at an ITU World Cup was 15th. It is not a complete surprise though, training has been going really well over the past month, my coach and I were hoping for a top five but to win is just absolutely amazing,” said Backhouse.

“The conditions were pretty much perfect for us today. The smog has cleared up a bit today, when we first got here I was a bit worried but it is much much clearer today and great for competing,” she continued.

Broderick felt the heat but held on to second place.  “It was pretty hot, I haven’t been to China before but I have been to Taiwan and remember the hot conditions from there. I wasn’t expecting it to be this hot before the race but I just made sure to hydrate on the bike and stick to my race plan and it seemed to work” she said.

“Gillian went out kind of hard, and I know in myself that I need to ease into the run. I haven’t raced for 11 months so I had to be a bit cautious. I had an injury last year and with the floods and all in Boulder it was too chaotic to race at the end of last year. I just started to work with Darren Smith this year and had a consistent training block for the past four months and I guess things are working. This is my all-time high for sure.”

The event  attracted over 100,000 spectators surrounding the park in Jintang, Chengdu.