The Olympic buildup continued today at the World Triathlon Cup Arzachena in Sardinia, Italy. In the men’s race some big names were on hand, using the race as a tune-up either for the Olympics in July or the World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds race. While the women’s race didn’t have quite the same firepower, it was every bit as exciting – Germany’s Marlene Gomez Islinger made a huge move in the final stretch to take her first world cup win.
The Arzachena course was “only” a sprint (750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run), but the challenging course features lots of steep climbs on both the bike and run.
While his big brother Alistair’s return to racing probably engendered more attention heading into the race, it was Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee who proved himself to be rounding into Olympic fitness, staying at or near the front for the entire race and sprinting to a big win – his first since taking the win at the WTS race in Edmonton in 2019 (pictured).
Hungary’s Mark Devey leads out of the water over Slovakia’s Richard Varga, with Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee five and 10 seconds back. The Canadian men in the field were well back after the wetsuit-legal swim – John Rasmussen was 34 seconds down, Charles Paquet 37 seconds behind and Jeremy Briand was 44 seconds back heading to T2.
The three-lap bike course in Arzachena features a long, steep climb that quickly separates things out, and heading to the first run up the hill Jonny Brownlee was joined by Devay and American Seth Ryder in what appeared to be a possible breakaway group. Heading up the climb Brownlee handily dropped the other two, but by the bottom of the hill Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, fresh off back to back wins in Yokohama and Lisbon, led the charge up to Brownlee, bringing a group of 22 athletes with him. Alistair Brownlee appeared to be trying to help countryman Tom Bishop to a top finish in hopes of securing Great Britain a third men’s spot in Tokyo – the two-time Olympic gold medalist led the chase group that included American Ben Kanute, Spain’s Mario mola, Bishop and Paquet, who was having a stellar ride.
By the end of the bike Mola had managed to bridge up to the lead group that had ballooned to 28 men, setting himself up to compete for the win. Bishop and the elder Brownlee were well back by the end of the bike – Brownlee would pull out, while Bishop would hang in for the run.
Paquet managed to stay with the chase group, coming off the bike 54 seconds behind the leaders, but looked exhausted as he started the run.
Up front, though, Jonathan Brownlee pushed hard early, keeping the pace up and spreading the field out behind him. There was still lots of men near the front at the end of the first lap of the run, but heading up the hill for the second lap Brownlee started to really push and only Switzerland’s Adrien Briffod could go with him. Mola moved himself through the field into third, but couldn’t get close to the two leaders as they hit the final kilometre. Brownlee really put the hammer down over the last few hundred metres, dropping Briffod and hammering to the line for a convincing win.
“I’ve doubted myself over the last couple of weeks (since Yokohama) … it’s important to get some confidence going into the Olympics,” the younger Brownlee said after the race. “Alistair told me when I went I really had to commit, so that’s what I did.”
Briffod would hang tough for second, five seconds down, with Mola rounding into form heading towards Tokyo by taking the bronze, 11 seconds behind Brownlee.
Briand would run himself past a tired Paquet to lead the Canadian men in 37th, with Paquet crossing in 44th. Rasmussen finished 51st.
Gomez Islinger gets first World Cup win
It was Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes who led the women out of the water, with Portugal’s Helena Carvalho a couple of seconds back. Those two would work together early to create a two-woman break, but eventually a group of about 10 joined up at the front of the race.
Canada’s Emy Legault was 25 seconds back at the end of the swim, while Dominika Jamnicky was 53 seconds down after the swim and was never able to get in with a group to move forward – she pulled out of the race after the bike.
Towards the end of the bike Switzerland’s Julie Derron made a strong move to stretch the lead group out and flew in and out of T2 to start the run with a bit of a break on the women chasing behind that included Italian favourite Verena Steinhauser, France’s Audrey Merle and Germany’s Marlene Gomez Islinger. Legault hung tough through the challenging bike and was 1:21 behind the leaders starting the run.
Derron pushed hard throughout the run, but as they neared the finish it was Gomez Islinger who made a big push, passing the Swiss athlete in the final few hundred metres to take her firs World Cup win. Derron hung on for second, with Steinhauser rounding out the podium. Legault would hang on for 24th.
Results from today’s races can be found here.