British athletes on top in Florida
A distant 15th at Challenge Daytona in December on her last visit to Florida, Great Britain’s Jodie Stimpson had plenty to smile about (and some emotional tears), on Friday, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Very aware of her relative strengths and weaknesses, “I know I’m a strong biker, technically good and I can put down good power on a road bike – but it’s a different skill on a TT bike”, Stimpson showed her progression. A triathlete for approaching 25 years already, that’s something she’s shown throughout the many highs, and lows, of her career.
As outlined in my preview, while this was another motor-racing ‘Oval’ based event, the race was certainly not a copy/paste of Daytona. With strong winds and plenty of turns on each lap, Stimpson was able to use her ITU background of the surges that would be required, in tandem with her clear improvements on a TT bike, to be ‘in’ the race from the start.
With late news that Germany’s Anne Haug would not be able to start due to testing positive for COVID-19, the race was a little more open when the hooter kicked the action off.
No surprise to see Lucy Charles-Barclay lead the way in the water, but we did have the rare sight of somebody not called Lauren Brandon able to stay with her, courtesy of Spain’s Sara Perez Sala in her first long(er) distance event. When you learn she represented Spain at the 2004 Olympic Games, albeit as a breastroke swimmer, she has significant pedigree. They built a lead of around 90 seconds over the trio of Stimpson, Fenella Langridge and Daytona winner, Paula Findlay.
Perez Sala proved she could bike, perhaps no surprise having ridden for Spanish professional cycling team, Río Miera–Cantabria Deporte. She looked a natural on a TT bike, with a great position too.
Perez Sala built a small lead over the opening laps, but the gap to Charles-Barclay was never more than around 20 seconds. They traded the lead a few time during the ride, but during that process Lucy passed on the left hand side, which per the pre-race briefing would give rise to a two minute penalty at T2.
Behind, Stimpson, Findlay and Langridge were also holding their positions… at around two minutes back. The stage was seemingly set, for Perez Sala to start the run with a lead, and find a quartet (taking into account the Lucy penalty), set to chase her down. That looked set to play out… though Lucy managed to add further excitement by going over the handlebars on her T2 dismount! Well, she’s not raced since Daytona 2019. Unfortunately for Langridge, a hamstring injury would end her race at T2.
The two Brits were soon side-by-side on the run, chasing the Spaniard, with Paula Findlay not able to replicate her Daytona form and steadily losing time. As they moved into the second half of the run, Stimpson was able to pull clear of Charles-Barclay, and was now closing in rapidly on Perez Sala, soon to take the lead with around 4.5 mile of running remaining.
Jodie never looked like fading, moving fluidly and the only concern she showed was making sure she had counted the correct number of laps. She would cross the line 1:24 clear of Lucy, while behind Jackie Hering (USA) was closing on the run and would in the very final stages, manage to deny the Spanish athlete of a top three finish.
Challenge Miami, Friday 12th March 2021
1.6km / 62km / 16.9km
1st – Jodie Stimpson (GBR) – 3:01:04
2nd – Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) – 3:02:26
3rd – Jackie Hering (USA) – 3:03:25
4th – Sara Perez Sala (ESP) – 3:03:31
5th – Skye Moech (USA) – 3:05:05
DNF – Fenella Langridge (GBR)