There were lots of questions heading into today’s Paris Test Event. Was the water in the Seine going to be clean enough to allow for the swim? Could the French team rise to the occasion and thrill the hometown crowd with some top finishes? Who would nail themselves an automatic selection spot for their country’s team next year? Is Flora Duffy back and ready to regain her dominance of the World Triathlon race scene?
We recapped today’s racing in words and pictures (it’s worth checking out Janos Schmidt and Wagner Araujo’s great shots!) earlier today. Now it’s time to take a bit of a deeper dive into what we learned from today’s racing – and answer some of those questions.
It sure is a beautiful course
With the Eiffel Tower in the background and a course that takes in sights like the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais and the Champs Élysées, you start to understand why the Paris organizers really want to make that swim in the Seine work. The stage is set for some spectacular racing next year.
Flora Duffy “not quite ready”
The Tokyo Olympic champion has been out all year with a knee injury and, despite making the trip to Paris, wasn’t able to race.
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The Bermudan’s absence makes a huge difference at these races – with her bike skills we don’t often see a big pack hitting T2 together, which changes the dynamics of the race considerably. While Taylor Knibb’s power on the bike is certainly impressive, the American doesn’t seem to have the same bike handling skills or experience that are needed to break up a group. Adding Duffy to the mix next year, provided she’s healthy, should make the race dynamics quite different when Olympic medals are on the line.
Making the US women’s team is … nuts
Even without 2016 Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen in the field, the US still managed to have five athletes in the top-16. All five were in the lead group coming off the bike. If one of them had finished on the podium, two could have earned automatic selection for the US team with a top-eight finish.
We’re not sure what happened to Taylor Knibb, who managed to lose a chunk of time in the second lap of the swim, then struggled into T2, starting the run last of the 23 women in the group, but once she got herself moving on the run she put herself in the hunt for the podium. She would eventually finish fifth.
A podium finish at the Grand Final will nail another auto-qualifying slot for the US team and then, according to a release from USA Triathlon, there will be another chance to qualify next year;
After the Championship Finals race, a to-be-determined Olympic-distance World Triathlon Championship Series race in spring 2024 will serve as the final Olympic auto-qualification opportunity for U.S. elite triathletes. The first U.S. athlete to finish on the podium will earn automatic qualification.
For Tokyo, USA Triathlon used a discretionary selection to put Katie Zaferes on the team, which left Taylor Spivey off the roster. Zaferes would go on to take the individual bronze and help the Americans to a silver medal in the mixed relay. If Knibb had made it to the podium and Spivey could have ended up two spots ahead of her 10th, she would have been Paris bound.
The bottom line here is that there is going to be a spot up for grabs on the American team next year, which is great news for Jorgensen. That still leaves five contenders (add Zaferes, 12th, Kirsten Kasper, 15th and Summer Rappaport, 16th to the mix) for two spots – how’s that for competitive?
Beth Potter is the real deal
We’re not sure who supposedly implied that the British star didn’t have what it takes to make it to the Olympics in triathlon – it sure wasn’t us. After competing for Great Britain at the Rio Games on the track, Potter has steadily improved her swimming and cycling to the point where she regularly puts herself in a great position to win any race.
That running background makes her a huge threat, as was displayed today with her impressive win. It’s hard to imagine Potter won’t be at the Games next year, but a podium finish in Pontevedra will guarantee her a spot on the British team. The way she’s raced this year, Potter is certainly likely to be in the mix for a podium finish in Spain.
Cassandre Beaugrand is ready for the pressure of a home Olympics
Today’s runner-up was coming into the event of two straight WTCS wins – Hamburg and Sunderland. While she didn’t take the win today, she was certainly close enough to it, and it’s worth noting that neither gold medalist from Tokyo won that test event. (OK, officially Duffy took the win at the Tokyo Test Event, but that was only after winners Georgia Taylor-Brown and Jessica Learmonth were DQ’d for trying to tie.)
All of which leaves us thinking that today’s finish proved two things – Beaugrand is more than capable of dealing with the pressure of trying to nail the win on home ground, and that she’ll also have lots of motivation to improve by one spot next year.
Turns out it was hardly a perfect day for Beaugrand, a tribute to her toughness and determination.
“I am not going to lie, it was a tough one,” admitted Beaugrand. “I don’t know how I made it to the end, I was cramping after the first lap in my legs. I tried to keep motivating my mind ‘you want this podium so much so keep pushing and running with Beth.’ I just couldn’t run the sprint finish at the end, I gave it everything I had and have no regrets. The crowd was amazing. I was so disappointed not to win but maybe next year.”
Germany is now a draft-legal powerhouse
You know how impressed we were with five Americans finishing in the top 16? Anyone else notice that three Germans finished in the top nine? Third and sixth for Laura Lindemann and Nina Eim guarantee them spots in Paris next year, while Lisa Tertsch could very well find herself on the pontoon next summer, too.
Eim’s finish was especially huge since she sits behind both Tertsch and Lena Meissner in the Olympic rankings, which means those two will be competing for a potential third spot.