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ITU Season Wraps up in Tongyeong

Matt Sharp (GRB) and Yuka Sato (JAP) earn their first ITU Triathlon World Cup victories in Tongyeong, South Korea. Michael Lori, the lone Canadian in the field, finishes 21st.

From an ITU Press Release

The final stop of the 2015 ITU World Cup circuit came to a close on Saturday with 126 athletes lining up for one last chance of a podium finish and final opportunity to add Olympic qualification points to their 2015 tally.

Women’s Wrap

A total of 50 women hit the calm waters for the two lap swim in 21.1°C Tongyeong Harbour. Brazil’s Pamella Oliveira was the first out but had good company with Lisa Norden (SUI), Yuko Takahashi (JAP), Gaia Peron (ITU), Mari Rabie (RSA) and crowd favourite Yun-Jung Jan (KOR) out in quick succession.

A speedy transition from Norden saw her head out onto the bike first, the lead pack of 12 quickly forming.
The next group out of the water and 34sec down included Sara Vilic (AUT), Tamara Gomez Garrido (ESP), Lisa Perterer (AUT), and Ai Ueda (JAP).

But just one lap into the bike the chilly water combined with air temperature claimed a few casualties including pre race favourite Juri Ide (JAP).

With five laps of the bike and two very step inclines to negotiate the front group that also included Jolanda Annen (SUI), Carolina Routier (ESP) and Valentina Zapatrina (RUS) were working like a well drilled cycling team and the gaps to the chase group extended at every time gap.

“In the first loop we work really hard and I thought I would have a good position – really thanks to all the girls in the first group,” said Annen.

Despite the efforts of the girls in the second group like Perterer, Under 23 World Champion Audrey Merle (FRA), Ueda, Chelsea Burns (USA), Claire Michel (BEL) they could not get organized and paid the price coming into T2 with a 2min 21sec deficit. It proved too much for even the best runners in the group to recover from and the podiums would come from the front group in the end.

The Japanese pair Sato and Takahashi had positioned themselves well among the riders but it was Takahashi and Norden who showed a clean pair of heels to lead out of T2.

Sato was quick to follow, Zapatrina and Annen all in close proximity for the 4 lap run.

Norden was the first to falter and was struggling by lap two as the Japanese pair took control at the front of the race. Annen was looking strong as she moved into medal contention overtaking Zapatrina.

Annen and Takahashi ran shoulder to shoulder for the final lap before the young Swiss girl found an extra gear to claim an emotional silver from Takahashi. Zapatrina held on for fourth and Ueda recording the fastest run split of the day to claim fifth.

“She is a good runner and I tried to push but she would come back and I just want this second position.
“It’s really good for me because I need these points and I hope it’s enough for Rio,” said Annen.

2015 Tongyeong ITU Triathlon World Cup – Elite Women
1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run – Results

Men’s Wrap
A capacity men’s field of 76 broke the glassy conditions of the Tongyeong Harbour in a two-lap non-wetsuit swim. After a frenetic start to the 1.5 kilometre swim the first to emerge was Ben Kanute (USA) then the looming figures of the Polyanskiy brothers Igor and Dimity (RUS) and Australia’s Courtney Atkinson. The swim did little to break up the field and subsequently a long line of athletes emerged in quick succession.

Kanute was the first to lead out onto the bike but there would be no quick breaks as the front group formed with 60 men.

The first lap saw everyone jockeying for position in such a large group but on the second it was Atkinson who put them to the test.

“I’ve been training for the Xterra World Championships in Maui next weekend, it’s a very hilly bike course over there and I’ve been training a lot on hills, so I was really confident on the bike and thought there would be a breakaway.

“I went a few times and maybe taxed my legs a little more on the bike than I should in and ITU race,” said Atkinson.

By lap three the group had been reduced to 55 with multiple lead changes but no opportunity presented for a break away and the group remained intact and prepared for a flat out 10km run.

As the lead group headed into transition it was frenetic but Portugal’s Miguel Arraiolos took advantage of the situation to scoot out first from Basson Engelbrecht (RSA) and Gabor Faldum (HUN) who has been in good form recently with podiums at the last two World Cup races. Sharp was the next out onto the run but knew he had to run his own race and pace.

Fajardo was 7th out of T2 and knew he had to work his way into this race and not go out too hard.

The wily Atkinson didn’t take long to move to the front with Dmitry Polyanskiy and Sergio Sarmiento (MEX) on lap two. But the charges were coming from behind and on lap three Joe Maloy (USA) and Sharp had joined Atkinson and Polyanskiy.

As the pace heated up there remained just three in contention in the closing stages and Sharp’s earlier patience paid dividends in the end with the fresher legs delivering him his first World Cup win.

“The gap was about 5-6 seconds and I thought if I keep surging I should be able to get the gap,” said Sharp.

Atkinson’s earlier efforts on the bike may have been a factor in the end as the young Spaniard got him in the final stages but still pleased to be back on the podium and philosophical about Rio.

Atkinson is vying for his third Olympic team and will be the first Australian to do so if he succeeds.
“It’s always nice to be up the pointy end.

It’s good because I hadn’t raced since London before the beginning of this year. It had been a long time and I had set myself a goal. Ideally I would have liked to have won a race, you always want to be at the top but realistically if I can get a podium, I’m back in the ballpark and can work on it again going to Rio next year.

“I stay at home all year in Australia and it’s a long long way to travel races, so when I race I’m up against guys that race week in and week out and at this and I’m not getting any younger but turning up and still racing still in the race.

“Maybe ask me after London if I’d be back doing this again and at this level, never say never,” said Atkinson

2015 Tongyeong ITU Triathlon World Cup – Elite Men
1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run – Results