Located on the east coast of Australia in southeastern Queensland, Gold Coast is the third stop for the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series. This might be the only Australian city to host a 2015 WTS race series this season, but that doesn’t mean the races weren’t filled with superstars.
In a fitting tribute to the late Jackie Fairweather, the number one race spot was reserved for the Australian triathlon legend who passed away in November. Gwen Jorgensen wore #2. The golden bike rack was also left open to salute the spectacular Fairweather who was a dominating and admired woman in the sport of triathlon.
The 2 loop swim was fairly uneventful and after 1 lap of the 2 lap swim all of the big hitters were still in the mix. Gwen Jorgensen, Flora Duffy and the rest of the strong American contingent were in striking distance hanging onto the front group after one lap. No major gaps opened up, and after the second lap Brit Jessica Learmonth exited the water first, with a big group of talent just seconds behind.
The technical eight lap, 5k bike course proved to be relatively flat and fast. A group of about a dozen quickly formed on the bike that included Jorgensen, Sarah True and Lucy Hall. Flora Duffy stormed to the front and was chewing her teeth from the moment she left T1. The Bermudan spent most of her ride with her nose in the wind driving the front group trying to break the running legs of race favorite, Gwen Jorgensen. However, Jorgensen never looked too uncomfortable and patiently waited in the shadows. The narrow and technical course ended up getting the better of more than a few talented athletes as seven athletes were taken out by a crash or bike-handling mishap of some kind. That didn’t stop the front group from pushing the pace and taking chances, though. By the eighth and final lap, the lead pack was reduced from twelve to seven and included a trio of Americans, including Jorgensen.
Duffy was first off the bike followed by Lucy Hall and Gwen Jorgensen. Jorgensen may have been a bit too quick in T2 as her Specialized Amira fell over as she threw on her running shoes and darted out of T2. This would result in a 15 second penalty. In less than 2k, Katie Zaferes and Sarah True grabbed the second and third spots and ran uncontested to the finish. However, a surging Andrea Hewitt caught a fading Flora Duffy to grab the fourth spot. Gwen Jorgensen ran away with the race and was untouched, despite having to serve the 15-second penalty half way through the run. The pride of the midwest clocked a 1:56:59 and secured her eighth straight victory. Sarah True and Katie Zaferes rounded out the podium to make it an American sweep.
This was just the second time in WTS history that a country claimed the top 3 spots. After just three races, Jorgensen looks untouchable and the American women are the strongest they’ve ever been. “I don’t think you ever have a perfect race but I was certainly thrilled to come out of the water and be in the front pack right away. I mean one, two, three for Team USA, I don’t think you can get any better standing on the podium and looking over and seeing the other two girls and hearing the national anthem, we could not ask for anything more,” said Jorgensen.
“Last year in London, Gwen and I were one and two and I knew that Katie was a podium athlete so it was just a matter of time before we swept the podium,” said True. “But for those of us who are thirty-plus, it takes us a little bit longer to get warmed up in the season so I am just happy to be back up on the podium.”
Richard Varga set the pace from the start of the swim and exited the 2-loop swim first. Other than the three men who received false start penalties, the swim was rather uneventful. Varga exited the water first, while one half of the Brownlee demolition crew, Jonny, and the Polyanskiy brothers were just seconds behind.
With his thick Yorkshire accent, Jonny Brownlee immediately began to bark orders at Varga and the Polyanskiy brothers as they mounted their bikes. The four set a blistering pace right out of transition. After the first of eight laps, the lead pack of four had a 35 second gap over the chase group that included Javier Gomez. Halfway through the bike, the gap from the first to second group grew to 47 seconds. With 15k to go, Igor Polyanskiy lost control on a round-a-bout and nearly took out the front group. Brownlee was forced to hop over the Russian but he and the rest of the pack came out unscathed. Unfortunately, Igor’s race was over.
Together, Varga, Brownlee and Dmitry Polyanskiy were first off the bike. The chase group came into T2 just 23 seconds down.
With a lead of just 23 seconds, Jonny Brownlee set out on the 4 lap course at a scorching pace in an attempt to stretch his lead. Brownlee soon was alone in front, but the chase group included a dangerous bunch. That group included Mario Mola, Richard Murray, Javi Gomez, Pierre Le Corre and veteran Courtney Atkinson. At 5k, Mola would break away from the group and go after Brownlee, solo. But Brownlee wouldn’t surrender, and his lead only extended as the second half of the 10k run unfolded. Jonny Brownlee hit the line first in 1:46:53, followed by the Spanish Armada consisting of: Mario Mola, Javier Gomez and Vicente Hernandez.
As the other half of the Brownlee demolition crew is out dealing with the effects of a turned ankle, the younger and slightly more handsome Jonathan handled another deep field and made it two WTS wins in a row. “At the start of the season I had an awful race, it was a little bit of a shock really because I got a lot of things wrong so I knew I did not want to make those mistakes again. Today it started really well, had a great start in the swim, had to get around a few people to get on Richard Varga’s feet and then we had a gap, I saw the four of us and knew I just had to ride aggressive and on tempo,” said Brownlee.
“That is racing, we were in the third pack in the beginning, we could not close that gap but Jonny was amazing today he did a lot of work on the bike and then ran like a maniac so congratulations to him,” said Mola. “I am very happy with my performance, I think it has been a great race for all of the Spanish athletes, we are doing well.”
Gomez grabbed the bronze medal and the last spot on the podium when he also pushed in the last lap to break away from Hernandez. “It was very tough today. I felt better towards the end of the run but the first laps I struggled on the pace,” said Gomez. “It was kind of an average race out there for me, my swim was not great, it was not my best day but I secured a spot on the podium which is always good. Jonny was strong today and so was Mola.”