While the Mixed Relay worlds had long been planned to take place in Hamburg (it was only 10 days before the event that the individual races were given worlds status), even with some advanced notice teams like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico unable to attend because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Which is why, for many, all the world championship medals handed out in Hamburg will always have an unofficial asterisk associated with them.
Which isn’t to imply that today’s ITU Mixed Relay World Championship wasn’t both exciting and competitive. In the end it was three of the most competitive countries in the world with arguably the deepest talent pools that went into the final leg of the race duelling for the medals.
Throughout the race we saw some countries take flyers to the front, but when it comes to relay racing, depth is everything, and the three powerhouse nations of France, Great Britain and the United States were the ones who contested for the medals at the end of the race.
Taylor-Brown surges ahead … again
In the first leg of the race it was Austria’s Therese Feuersinger who pushed the pace early, but by the time the lead group of 13 teams hit the run, it didn’t take long before Georgia Taylor-Brown would pull clear as she did in taking yesterday’s individual race. The Brit would really string the field out – by the time she was done she had opened up a gap of almost 15 seconds on American Taylor Spivey and France’s Leonie Perrault.
Heading out second for Team GB was Barclay Izzard, who would relinquish the lead to France’s bronze medalist from yesterday, Leo Bergere. It was Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, though, who would be the story of this leg. Seemingly determined to use the relay to get over his tough day in the individual race, Blummenfelt powered away from Bergere, Belgium’s Jelle Geens and American Kevin McDowell. As he finished the run Blummenfelt’s lead was just under 15 seconds.
Then there were three
Norway sent off young Stine Dale (she was born in 1998) for the third leg, and, while she managed to keep her team in the mix for a top-five finish, she hasn’t exactly had much opportunity to race with the likes of Katie Zaferes (USA), Jessica Learmonth (GBR) and Cassandre Beaugrant (FRA) over her short career. Those three swallowed Dale up with about 150 m to go in the swim and would spend the rest of the leg making it a three-team duel for the medals. Beaugrand led the crew out of the water, then sat behind Zaferes and Learmonth through the bike before making a move to the front with about 400 m of running to go. Zaferes would have none of it, though, and pulled even with the Frenchwoman as they finished.
No touching Coninx
Dorian Coninx (FRA), Morgan Pearson (USA) and Ale Yee (GBR) all hit the water together, with the Frenchman pushing the pace in the water. He hit T1 with Pearson on his shoulder and Yee a few seconds back. It looked like Yee was fast enough in transition to be able to join the group, but Coninx never allowed that to happen – he quickly pulled clear and opened up a gap to Pearson, who in turn opened up a gap to Yee.
It would have been interesting to be able to ask at a post-race press conference why Pearson didn’t try to work with Yee to reel Coninx back, especially since Pearson has posted some quick runs during his career. It’s probably not hard to answer that question, though, even without the ability to have been at the event. Yee is one of the most feared runners in the sport with a frightening 27:51 10 km personal best, so even if you’re on your running game, you don’t want to have him racing next to you over a 1.7 km run course. Then there’s also the question of whether or not, even working together, they would have been able to make a dent in Coninx’s lead – he was very determined to be clear at the start of the run.
“Last year I had a crazy sprint finish with Alex Yee and I wanted to avoid that as best I could,” Coninx said after the race, describing his close win over Yee at the Tokyo Test Event relay.
There was no chance for a sprint finish this time as the Frenchman led Pearson by 16 seconds and Yee by 31. Coninx held on for an eight-second win over the USA, with Great Britain rounding out the podium. Norway hung tough for fourth, with Belgium taking fifth.
How good is France in mixed team relay racing? They’ve now won the last three world championships and last year’s Olympic test event. If there is an Olympic event next year, it’s hard not to make them the prohibitive favourites.
Results – each Lap consisted of a 300 m swim, 6.3 km bike and 1.7 km run
|Country||Overall||Lap 1||Lap 2||Lap 3||Lap 4|