With an incredible run over the 10k, Vincent Luis claimed his first ever victory in WTS Yokohama to make a serious statement over his intentions of fighting for the Series trophy. The French had an impressive performance to beat almost over the finish line South African Henri Schoeman and young Hungarian hope Bence Bicsak.
50 men lined up this Sunday in Yokohama in the third stop of the World Triathlon Series, with Luis, Schoeman and Marten Van Riel (BEL) dominating the tough swim from the first strokes. They didn’t have the chance of breaking a large gap tho, and behind them into transition came a large group of athletes, including strong names like Javier Gomez Noya (ESP), Dorian Coninx (FRA) or Aaron Royle (AUS).
But as soon as they got out of transition, they were quickly joined by Jonas Schomburg (GER), Bicsak, Ilia Prasolov (RUS) and Alois Knabl (AUT). The ten of them rode together keeping the chase group at a safe distance between 30 seconds in the first laps and up to 56 seconds at the end of the 40km, working in turns to manage carefully the sharp turns and the different surfaces of the circuit.
They all knew that some of the fastest runners of the field were in that second group, including Fernando Alarza (ESP), Alex Yee (GBR), Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), Ryan Sissons (NZL) or Casper Stornes (NOR). And they also knew that some of the likely candidates to end in the podium were even further bak, with Mario Mola (ESP) having a dissapointing swim for the second time in a row, or Jake Birtwhistle (AUS).
When the group of ten changed the bike for the running shoes, Luis decided to push from the first meters and tried to break away, to be followed on his heels by Schoeman, Bicsak and Noya. The four of them added one extra gear to break away from the rest with more than 7km to go, and it looked clear that the battle for the medals was going to be on them… until they saw Yee.
Behind the leaders, the young and talented British runner started chasing rival after rival, reducing the gap with Luis in 30 seconds in the first 5km of the run. By then, the British looked exhausted and the four leaders increased a bit their path, so the efforts of Yee were in vain and he had to see Luis managing to sprint to the finish line to grab the victory in Yokohama, with Schoeman a few seconds behind.
Another final sprint, this time from Bicsak, saw the young Hungarian passing over Gomez to claim his first ever WTS podium after collecting the bronze medal in the U23 World Championships last year. Alarza, Luke Willian (AUS), Van Riel, Sissons and Sam Ward closed the top ten positions for the day.
The race that was indeed “the hardest race” of the season for Luis. “I didn’t feel great at the start and wasn’t expecting to have a great race but I just wanted to keep my lead and I worked hard on the breakaway. I tried to lead as long as I could during the run, which I did not do in Bermuda and it cost me a bit. I think today I was one of the strongest and I am really happy that it played off”, he explained.
Keeping that lead was not easy, knowing that Yee was coming behind them. “We heard when we left the bike that he was about 50-seconds behind. I was sure he was going to reach 30-seconds in the first 5-kilometre because we really started slowly and I know Alex is a fast starter. We saw this in Cape Town in the World Cup, how he extended his gap pretty quickly. After the second lap, I started to push at the front to make the others think a bit and I think it was a good idea because I was able to respond after they tried to attack. That was my tactic, to just let behind me suffer until the last few hundred metres, and it paid off”, he said.
With three WTS races in the pocket and three more to go before the athletes head to the Grand Final in Lausanne, the French is leading the Series with almost 500 points over Fernando Alarza, who sits in second place for the moment. But Luis don’t want to think about the end of the season yet. “I am always thinking about my squad mate Katie (Zaferes). She was leading into Gold Coast and she lost the title. Until the finish line in Lausanne, I am not going to expect anything. I am just racing. If I can lead until that I will be happy. If someone else is stronger than me, I will be happy for them to win.”
Also extremely happy looked Schoeman after finishing. “I really wanted that (podium). I’ve had some disappointing performances of late and I just really wanted to come out here and really have a good result. We are one year away from the Olympics. This is where the Olympics is going to be next year and I really wanted to have a good result. To finish second after a disappointing Bermuda, I am really happy to be back and be back in good shape,” he said.
Another man all smiles was Bicsak, after getting his first ever WTS podium at only 22 years of age. “I was just trying to be patient before the race and I tried everything in the swim to do my best, I was in the first group finally. I was in the breakaway and tried to work hard but I wasn’t thinking too much, I just tried to stay in the front. The running was very hard. I just tried to stay in the front. It was really hard work but this is the best result I could achieve and I am so motivated,” he said.
Fourth place went to
Results: 2019 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama : Elite Men
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