If the Paris Olympic triathlon course was looking outstanding on Thursday morning, then the performances more than lived up to the hype of day one of Olympic Games Test Events as the two in-form women in 2023, Beth Potter and Cassandre Beaugrand, gave us a finish to remember in the French capital.
Beaugrand had flown out of the second transition but Potter reeled her in on lap two of the run and after they finally shook off the attentions of Emma Lombardi and Laura Lindemann, there was nothing between them at the bell. A final kick from the Brit left Beaugrand chasing shadows with nothing left in the tank, and Potter soared to the tape, mission accomplished in Paris and a big step closer to her Olympic triathlon debut.
“I don’t really know what to say to be honest, I just really enjoyed that battle with Cassandre,” said Potter, thrilled with her first Olympic-distance triumph in the Series. “I just couldn’t go with the pace out of transition but thought I would work my way back up to her and it was actually really fun! It was an interesting swim, I don’t think it was brilliant for me. I would never choose middle of the pontoon so don’t know why I went for middle today, but I enjoyed every moment of it. This was my main goal for the season and I ticked it off, I am super happy.”
Pontoon positions play early part
As the majority of the top-ranked athletes did indeed take to the centre of the pontoon, Taylor Knibb took up her position on the far right, Zsanett Kuttor-Bragmayer far left, but it was Bianca Seregni (ITA) who lined up next to the American and was soon carving through clear water on the longer first lap of the Seine swim.
Summer Rappaport was also going well with Vittoria Lopes, Lombardi and Sophie Coldwell on their respective feet, Knibb and fellow American Katie Zaferes just off that group as they hit the pontoon again and into the second shorter lap.
It was a mark of Seregni’s strength that she had 10 seconds over Beaugrand, 35 over Potter, Knibb and Tertsch out of the water, but that was where the Italian’s challenge ended as she slipped further down the bike field as the opening laps of the 40km ride played out.
Knibb with work to do
Knibb found herself inevitably driving on a third chase group, Potter in a second with an eight second margin to the lead eight led by Taylor Spivey, Leonie Periault and Maya Kingma a minute off after poor swims left them out of contention, Verena Steinhauser of Italy’s group 90 seconds back.
As they came thru transition for the third time Knibb was already on the front, Spivey and Kate Waugh sitting on her back wheel as she upped the tempo, Jeanne Lehair (LUX) trying to hold on at the back at the halfway point of the 40km ride.
Kuttor-Bragmayer was hauling the now-third chase pack closer to Kingma and Periault, but the gap to the leaders was up to 2m30seconds at the bell, Knibb, Waugh and Spivey once again tucked together in at the front.
Beaugrand hits run course hard
Spivey was typically smooth to transition and flew out of T2 but it was Beaugrand straight to the front, Knibb and Zaferes both losing precious time getting out onto the run course, Knibb quickly finding herself 14seconds down.
She may have slipped to 15th out of T2, but Potter didnt let Beaugrand extend her lead too far, and was able to up the tempo and pick her way back onto the French shoulders, Lombardi there too with Tertsch and Lindemann as the lead five slowly established control, Spivey in chase.
Knibb was picking her way through from 23rd place out of T2 and had soon passed Spivey in the battle for the USA’s first Olympic qualification spot, Lombardi suddenly locked into battle with Lindemann for third and the podium that would guarantee her Paris 2024 berth.
Potter plays it to perfection
Up ahead it was Potter who had enough left in the tank to deliver the decisive kick and she finally shook off Beaugrand, breaking the French challenge and ensuring a magnificent gold. Beaugrand’s silver will have booked her a Paris 2024 start with a 6th or better Series finish in 2024, Lindemann’s place was assured after holding off Lombardi to take the bronze, Knibb’s fifth earns her the first Olympic place for USA.
Sixth place for Nina Eim secured her Germany’s second available place on the day, Waugh (GBR) in seventh, Julie Derron (SUI), Tertsch and Spivey rounding out the top 10.
“I am not going to lie, it was a tough one”, admitted Beaugrand. “I don’t know how I made it to the end, I was cramping after the first lap in my legs. I tried to keep motivating my mind ‘you want this podium so much so keep pushing and running with Beth. I just couldn’t run the sprint finish at the end, I gave it everything I had and have no regrets. The crowd was amazing. I was so disappointed not to win but maybe next year.”
“It means so much and it’s such a relief for me to get the qualification (to Paris 2024) here, I am just so happy,” said Lindemann. “I think I had a very good race from the start - the swim was good, the bike was good and the run I had good legs, I am just so happy about it. The swim strung out a lot I but I just felt confident and was able to stay on the feet of the very good swimmers. It’s great to be qualified and now I can focus on the Olympics and prepare from now on.”
Full results can be found here.