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Team France is on fire … and other things we learned from WTCS Sunderland

France's domination of the race in the UK wasn't the only news of the day

Photo by: World Triathlon/ Tommy Zaferes

It will be the last World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) race in the UK for at least the next couple of years (Triathlon UK announced earlier this week that it wouldn’t be trying to host an event next year because of prohibitive costs and a precarious economy – see link below) and, while we’re used to British athletes dominating many WTCS events, it was France, rather than the home country, that dominated the day in Sunderland.

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Here are a few things worth noticing from the exciting day of sprint racing in Sunderland:

The French team is rounding into form for the Paris Test Event part 1

Ladies first on this one, even though the men raced first today. After winning the world super-sprint title in Hamburg two weeks ago, Cassandra Beaugrand put together another masterful performance to take the win. The only woman who was able to keep up with her for at least part of the run? Her countrywoman Emma Lombardi, who hung tough until the climb on the second run lap, then simply had to concede to Beaugrand who powered away to the win. Fourth place went to France’s Leonie Periault. They are obviously ready for a great day in Paris – the question will be whether or not they can handle the pressure the day is likely to bring.

The French team is rounding into form for the Paris Test Event part 2

After tag-teaming and taking turns pushing Kiwi Hayden Wilde to the limit, world champion Leo Bergere and Pierre Le Corre were simply too strong for the rest of the field and the pair found themselves sprinting for the line and the win. Tom Richard took seventh, putting all three of the French athletes competing in the top 10. Think these guys are ready for a big day in Paris in a couple of weeks?

The British team’s big hitters are preparing for the Paris Test Event?

Georgia Taylor-Brown wasn’t able to race due to injury, and presumably WTCS leader Beth Potter is gearing up for the Paris Test Event, which left Olivia Mathias (23rd) as the only British woman in the race. Alex Yee wasn’t in attendance, either, leaving Barclay Izzard (eighth) and Jack Willis (20th) to represent the British contingent.

Leo Bergere is really strong right now … and is a class act

Anyone else notice who was driving the breakaway? I mean, really driving it? Bergere was at the front powering away without much help, then when the break got caught, he managed to break away again with Ricardo Battista and Tayler Reid. Then, after all that work on the bike, he almost pulls off the win, only getting out-sprinted just before the line. And, just to show how classy the world champ is, he was grinning ear to ear, happy for his training partner Le Corre, who won his first WTCS title.

Is all the long-distance success helping fuel Germany’s Olympic dreams?

We all know how much of a power house Germany has been on the long-course front over the years. In fact, the best known Olympic-distance athlete from the country is likely Jan Frodeno. The popularity of the sport in Germany appears to be rubbing off to short course racing of late. This year we’ve been seeing a lot of the German uniforms up near the front of various WTCS events – in Hamburg Laura Lindemann, Annike Koch and Marlene Gomez-Goggel finished third, fourth and fifth. Today Koch went one better to grab a spot on the podium, while Gomez-Goggel nailed another fifth-place finish. Anabel Knoll took 15th, too, a sign of the country’s depth.

Gwen Jorgensen’s Olympic goal continues to be a challenge

Gwen Jorgensen, left, finishes the swim at WTCS Cagliari. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

We always knew that the 2016 Olympic gold medalists goal to make the Paris team was going to be a tough one. While Jorgensen had another decent finish (24th) and continued to show improvement as she returns to racing, it just seems like time is not on her side. There are five women on the start list for the Paris Test Event, which is one of the key qualifying opportunities for the US team, and Jorgensen isn’t one of them. (The athletes representing the US are Taylor Spivey, Taylor Knibb, Kirsten Kasper, Summer Rappaport and Katie Zaferes.) Don’t get us wrong – the last person we’d ever count out for a challenge like this is Jorgensen. A few decent swims that put her in the mix on the bike could be game changing. Today she was 25 seconds behind the leaders, but that wasn’t quite enough to get her in the first chase pack.

At the end of the day, though, the American women’s team is likely to be the most competitive of any country to make. If she was from almost any other country she’d very much be a contender to make the national team.

Look who came fifth!

Anyone else remember that Richard Murray had heart surgery just before the Tokyo Olympics? He now competes for the Netherlands, and lost a sprint to Vasco Vilaca for fourth, but managed to finish one spot ahead of former countryman Henry Schoeman (RSA).

Canadians in the house

Charles Paquet takes 7th, tying his best-ever WTCS performance in Montreal.

Brock Hoel was third out of the water, but didn’t make much of an impression in the race after that, finishing 42nd. Quebec’s Charles Paquet took 24th in the men’s race, while Dominika Jamnicky led the chase pack into T2 and would eventually take 36th.