Last weekend the Super League Championship Series finished off with its final event in Neom. While Cassandre Beaugrand took the win on the day, she hadn’t competed in enough events to vie for the overall title, which went to Kate Waugh. Léo Bergere would end up beating last year’s champ Hayden Wilde to take both the win and the championship title. Here’s what we noticed from the big weekend of racing:
Refresher on Neom
I am hoping I wasn’t the only one doing a Google search to find out what on earth this Neom place was all about last year. For those who haven’t got around to doing their own search, Neom is a futuristic region that’s being built in Saudi Arabia. According to Bloomberg news, it is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “flagship mega project” that is the biggest part of his “plan to diversify the country’s oil-dependent economy.”
Neom is almost the size of Belgium – 26,500 km – and includes some distinct climactic areas – everything from beaches to snow-capped mountains. There’s US$500 billion being put into the development, which will eventually include a number of cities and even a luxury island destination in the Red Sea called Sindalah. Oh, and it makes a great spot to host a triathlon – my guess is getting the roads closed isn’t quite as tough as it might be in London, Toulouse or Malibu.
Beaugrand takes the win
France’s Cassandre Beaugrand only took part in two of the four championship events. That meant she wasn’t in line for the overall title, but didn’t stop her from taking the two races she competed in. After winning in Malibu, Beaugrand took the Enduro event (three triathlons run in a row without stopping. Beaugrand basically stayed with the group for most of the race, clawing back her countrywoman Emma Lombardi, who had opened up a bit of a gap during the final bike, and starting the run with the group of six. We’ll have more on the short chute stuff later, but Beaugrand didn’t get to cut the course as Kate Waugh and Jeanne Lehair, the two women vying for the overall title, would. It didn’t matter, though, as Beaugrand’s smooth, loping strides easily moved her to the front for the win.
Waugh takes the title
Great Britain’s Kate Waugh has already won a U23 world title, so it isn’t much of a surprise that she’s ready to step up to the top of the Super League Podium. A consistent season that saw her surge to a huge win in Toulouse (see the link below) put her in position to take the title as long as she beat Lehair and Lombardi. Her second place finish got that done in style.
Bergere takes the win and the title
Last year’s world champion has had a consistent season, but certainly his biggest wins this year have come at the Super League Championship events. Bergere won over defending series champ Hayden Wilde in Toulouse (both ended up riding through transition, but Bergere was able to recover and take the win – it’s all in that link we mentioned earlier). Wilde took the win in Malibu, which meant it all came down to the Neom race for the title.
By the time the men were hitting the water for the third and final leg of the Enduro race, Wilde and Bergere had managed to open up a bit of a gap heading into the Red Sea, with Tokyo gold medalist Kristian Blummenfelt in third, 23 seconds back, alongside American Seth Rider and Brit Jonathan Brownlee. The two men vying for the overall title stayed together and out in front through the bike, too.
Once again, more on the short chute below, but suffice it to say that Bergere got one, Wilde didn’t (his Scorpions team manager decided to give the bonus to Henri Schoeman). Now, all of that said, Bergere’s nine-second win probably was enough to have given him the title anyway, but Super League thrives on drama, and there was lots of that.
OK, finally … Hayden Wilde, the short chute and the team title
Wilde earned his team the short chute after leading the way out of T2 for the first time. As mentioned above, Scorpions team manager Michale Gilliam chose to give the advantage to Henri Schoeman, no doubt in the hopes it would be enough to give the Scorpions the team title. Wilde appeared to be very annoyed as he crossed the line, but quickly calmed down. In the end he was quoted as saying he’d actually had a pretty good day as he’d been sick with a cold.
So, in the end, the short chute gamble didn’t pay off – Bergere’s gap was just too much for Wilde to close. Bergere’s Eagles team would end up taking the overall team title with 425 points, while Beaugrand and Wilde’s Scorpions squad would end up second with 407 points.