Round six of the 2023 World Triathlon Championship Series saw top-tier racing head to Sunderland in the north east of England for the first time, as the city took over hosting duties in the UK from the longstanding WTCS Leeds.
The sprint-distance course was tight, fast and demanding, the chilly 750m swim followed by 21.3km, 5-lap bike and wrapped up with a 5km run that brought the very best out of the athletes. Knee-deep in the water was an unusual start, and dolphins watched on as Roker Beach put on a show for triathlon fans around the world and the French athletes made the very best of their weekend, hoovering up three gold medals and two silvers.
That included a first Series win for Pierre Le Corre at the end of a scintillating sprint finish against teammate Leo Bergere, which you can watch back on demand over on TriathlonLive.tv, but for now, here are five of the big talking points from the WTCS Sunderland action.
Crowds go ‘cor!’ for Le Corre
Since winning the U23 world title back in 2013, Pierre Le Corre (FRA) has won European Championships, Long Distance World Championships, Mixed Relay World Championships and a World Cup in Colombia, but – until this weekend - the WTCS gold he craved had been out of reach.
That all changed on Saturday afternoon as the 33-year-old started only his second Series race of the year and found a devastating final kick down the finish chute to defeat teammate Leo Bergere in a sprint finish for the ages. As evidenced by their Mixed Relay gold on Sunday, Team France is fast establishing itself as huge favourites for Olympic gold at Paris 2024.
Mint display from Murray
Netherlands’ Richard Murray rolled back the years to pull out the third fastest 5km split of the day in Sunderland, running his way into a fifth-placed finish. That was the 34-year-old’s highest Series finish since the 2019 WTCS Montreal and the clearest sign yet that he is finally getting the better of the Atrial Fibrillation that he was diagnosed with in 2021.
Annika Koch gets better and better
Anyone who put Annika Koch‘s career-best fourth place at WTCS Hamburg down to the incredible home crowd support a fortnight ago will need a rethink after the 24-year-old held off the marauding Leonie Periault to secure a first podium and the bronze in Sunderland. Only Beaugrand, Lombardi and Gwen Jorgensen could surpass her 16m34 time for the 5km - the American legend posting a time just 6 seconds off Beaugrand’s, the fastest second leg of the relay, and giving another indication of her returning powers on the blue carpet.
Who you gonna call? Jess Fullagar
With Olivia Mathias ruled out through illness on the morning of Sunday’s Mixed Relay, Team GB called upon Jessica Fullagar to deputise, and how she stepped up to the responsibility of taking the fourth and final leg! After winning the British Super Series the day before there was no sign of fatigue as she took up the baton from Max Stapley in sixth place. By the end of the swim she was in third, by the end of the bike she had brought GB into the lead. A vintage Beaugrand run would put any dreams of gold to bed, but silver for the makeshift team felt almost as good as a win as Stapley, Barclay Izzard and Beth Potter cheered her over the line.
Sunderland puts on a show
As far as WTCS debuts go, the city and people of Sunderland delivered the goods. And the buckets and spades to the medalists. We had sun, wind, cold water but very little rain, the dolphins put on a show and the course brought the very best out of those who had the chops to attack it! 10/10.