After WTS Edmonton, which was after the 70.3 World Championships, which was after WTS Hamburg, someone asked Javier Gomez if he was tired yet. He reportedly said, “I’m a pro triathlete. I’ve been tired for 10 years.”
And it hasn’t exactly slowed him down yet.
Not that many of the athletes are slowing down as the season ends, despite what I’m sure is overwhelming fatigue. If the women’s WTS Grand Final was all about the Americans, then the men’s is mostly about the Spaniards. Led by Gomez and Mario Mola, who went 1-2 in the series last year too, the Spanish had four athletes in the top ten rankings going into Chicago. But Vincent Luis and Richard Murray certainly had plans to stop the Spanish show. And Jonathan Brownlee decided Chicago was a good time to make a return to WTS racing after a stress fracture. That meant the Spanish domination was anything but sure.
To reiterate, if you didn’t watch the women’s event yesterday, the Grand Final caps off the ITU WTS season. That’s a lot of funny names and acronyms for what is essentially the world championship event for the season-long series. That means the Chicago race is worth 1.5x the regular number of points and has extra prize money. The winner takes home $30,000, second gets $22,000, and third wins $16,000.
The real key to Chicago, though — along with possible Olympic qualification depending on your country’s standards, bragging rights and glory — is the bonus money awarded for overall year-end series rankings. If you (and, by that, we don’t really mean you) come out on the top of the series at the end with the most number of points, then you get a bonus $80,000 — which isn’t so much a bonus as the whole point. Second in the series takes a $55,000 bonus, third earns $38,000, and 35th at the end of the year win $1,800. You can see the full prize money list here if you want to start making plans and dreaming big.
Is Gomez the Best Triathlete in the World?
Unlike the women’s race, the men had no threat of thunderstorms to reschedule their race. That made it an evening event in the Windy City — perfect Saturday night date plans. After diving off the pontoon and swimming two laps around Monroe Harbor, Richard Varga, who won the aquathlon world championships earlier this week, was first out of the Lake Michigan wetsuit swim, with a small group forming quickly around him — as is the custom in ITU races.
There were a handful of separations and breaks, with Gomez in a group about 14 seconds back and another group behind that. A pack of 26 soon came together on the bike, though, with Gomez, Brownlee, Mola, Luis, Aaron Royle, and plenty of others. The key person missing in that was Murray, who found himself nearly a minute back, behind one of those tiny, but oh, so essential, separations.
As the groups biked around the nine laps, with 45 U-turns (ugh), one athlete after another kept throwing themselves on the front, testing to see if a breakaway would happen. But, instead, that front group just grew and grew, with more athletes catching up from behind — eventually including Murray. With one lap to go, there were over 60 athletes within 20 seconds of each other, which sounds both awesome and terrible.
It was finally in that last lap that a couple guys were able to get away. American Ben Kanute, Brazilian Reinaldo Colucci, and the Swiss Andrea Salvisberg managed to get a 30-second head start on the run.
But they didn’t hold on to it for long.
Kanute tried. Oh man, did he try. Even as Mola and Gomez blew by him (and blew by everyone else, to be fair), he tried to fall in behind them. A top-8 would have gotten the local Chicago boy an Olympic spot and he did everything he could to stay in that eight. But, as every major name went by him, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Here’s Kanute, who ended up 20th:
Fairly quickly, it was the race it was largely expected to be: Gomez and Mola again at the front, just like last year’s final event. All the big names — and I mean all the big names — in the group behind them, with Fernando Alarza trying to take the third spot for a solid Spanish sweep of the podium, and Murray, Brownlee, and Luis trying to stop him. Brownlee eventually fell a full minute back — one has to assume due to the lack of running on a stress fracture — and Mexican Crisanto Grajales pulled into the second group.
Here’s Brownlee talking about his injury and this comeback race:
As it went on and on, Mola tried to get ahead and Gomez hung on, then Gomez made him move but Mola wouldn’t let him go. Back and forth the battle raged. (Genuinely, it was very exciting.) But Gomez couldn’t make a break before it came down to the sprint and Mola’s better kick got him the win. The second-place did lock up Gomez’s fifth ITU world title as the series’ winner — which, of course, raises the question: given how dominant he’s proven himself to be across distances and disciplines, is he the best triathlete currently or the best triathlete ever?
“It was amazing being able to run with Javi to the end. I hope the people enjoyed that as much as we did. It was an unbelievable race,” said Mola after the race. The two are training partners and friends — and it’s hard not to see this race as Gomez handing off some kind of a torch to his younger countryman. “He’s the best.”
“I knew the title was in my pocket, but I wanted to win the race, I tried to win the race,” said Gomez, but he just couldn’t break Mola. “He deserved to win.”
In case you don’t fully get a sense of how fast they were going: Mola ran a 28:59 10K and Gomez followed with a 29:06 run.
Behind them, Murray managed to pull away from the group with his 29:40, locking up third despite coming out of the water a minute down on the leaders. Grajales followed, and then Luis, and then Alarzo wrapping up what has to be some kind of record performance for the Spanish team.
- Mario Mola – 1:44:53
- Javier Gomez – 1:44:57
- Richard Murray – 1:45:35
- Crisanto Grajales – 1:45:40
- Vincent Luis – 1:45:44
- Fernando Alarzo – 1:45:52
- Aaron Royle – 1:46:03
- Jelle Geens – 1:46:10
- Joao Pereira – 1:46:10
- Ryan Bailie – 1:46:13
- Javier Gomez – 4,930
- Mario Mola – 4,795
- Vincent Luis – 4,422
- Richard Murray – 4,317
- Fernando Alarza – 3,774