There would be no denying Team France yet another Mixed Relay title on Sunday afternoon in Sunderland, even the prospect of serving a late 10-second penalty unable to prevent the French from making it three golds from three over a memorable first-ever Series weekend up in the north east of England.
Tom Richard had set them on their way before Emma Lombardi picked up the duties, as well as a swim penalty that at one point threatened the team’s dominance. That left Saturday’s individual champions Pierre Le Corre and Cassandre Beaugrand to steer the team home, the French women’s number one serving the penalty and still soaring home over 20 seconds clear of Great Britain’s Jessica Fullager, Solveig Lovseth hauling Norway into bronze after New Zealand also faced a late penalty.
It was another knee-deep water start for the 19 men lining up for the first leg, all facing a 300m swim, 7.7km bike that reversed the previous day’s course, and 1.7km run before handing off to their teammates.
Soon, 15 countries were all together into the second transition and it was Thorn out first chased by Richard and Barclay, Vilaca picking his way back to the front. Studer then led at the bell, but it was Vilaca tagging Melanie Santos first and she was soon flying into the sea.
Santos increased the Portugal advantage through the water, Emma Lombardi 5 seconds back with Germany’s Annabel Knoll, Gwen Jorgensen for the USA +20s, Vittoria Lopes putting Brazil within 45 seconds into T1.
Beth Potter was right with Lombardi and Santos out onto the bike as a six-deep group then tried to work a getaway. The Brit was on the power and dropped Santos but then the packs began to merge, Lotte Miller and Julie Derron powering it it over, Jorgensen also now back in touch.
As 12 teams hit transition together, Miriam Casillas Garcia missed the dismount line to give Spain a 10-second penalty, Lombardi slipping over too but recovering well.
Potter and Derron pulled away on lap one but Lombardi and Jorgensen were flying, the American putting together comfortably the fastest women’s leg, Ainsley Thorpe keeping New Zealand in the hunt before Potter handed over to Max Stapley, Derron to Adrien Briffod, Jorgensen to Darr Smith and Lombardi to Pierre Le Corre, Stapley leading Smith out into T1.
Hayden Wilde, Antonio Serrat Seoane and Casper Stornes gave chase 20seconds behind the leaders but Stapley was out front and pulling clear over the early stages of the bike, holding off Batista and Smith as Wilde and Stornes surged up to them and Le Corre.
That bike effort would take a toll on Stapley’s legs though as Wilde, Le Corre and Batista all caught him early in the run, and it was the marauding New Zealander who was able to hand off first to Brea Roderick for the final leg, Cassandre Beaugrand now right on her feet.
Fullager was able to swim GB back to third and close to Roderick behind Beaugrand, now with 33 seconds to Maria Tome and Noelia Juan for Portugal and Spain.
Fullagar and Roderick caught Beaugrand on the first bike lap and the three then rode together while Solveig Lovseth biked Norway into contention 20 seconds back, but the New Zealander incurred a transition penalty for missing her bike rack.
Meanwhile Beaugrand had made ground on Fullager with a slick transition and was on the pump to stretch the suddenly growing gap knowing there was a penalty to serve. That she did at the end of lap one, and still there was nothing Fullager could do to reign in the leader whose time of 5m45s even with the penalty gave her an incredible window, allowing the time to whip up the crowd on the final lap and down the blue carpet to seal yet another fabulous French gold in Sunderland.
Fullager took silver to the home crowd’s delight, Lovseth running Norway into bronze, New Zealand with fourth and Sergio Baxter Cabrera taking Spain home in fifth.
For the full results, click here.