Sanders eventually claimed victory in his final race of a gruelling 2021 season, but only after disaster befell his two rivals. Both of whom were moving up from short-course racing.
Luis saw his hopes of victory shattered when he was knocked off his bike by a car, while Geens picked up a five-minute penalty on the bike for drafting. Luis would eventually finish second with Geens third.
Vincent Luis on car trauma
Afterwards Luis, bloodied and battered from that scrape with an automobile in California, said on Instagram: “2nd in Indian Wells today for my first 70.3. I swam well and was pushing good watts. With 10kms to go I still had a 2’ lead but then a car hit me and I hit the ground really hard.
“Jumped back on my bike and reached T2 with @lsanderstri . My run was just a struggle and my only goal was to reach the finish line and have a check up with a doctor. Congrats Lionel for the win and to @jellegeens for finishing 3rd.”
Strange feeling for Sanders
Sanders meanwhile had clearly been looking forward to “a battle with the ITU boys”, so he was left with mixed feelings in the aftermath of his win.
Speaking on Instagram, he said: “Strange feeling after this one. Came in looking for a battle but my competitors unfortunately had a lot of adversity.
“@vincentluistri got hit by a car but is tough as nails and got back up and persevered onwards. @jellegeens had his own adversity but went on to have the days fastest run.
“I’m happy with my performance but look forward to the rematch against these guys.”
Geens hungry for more after debut
Geens finished with the fastest run of the day to claim the final spot on the podium – but that drafting penalty was too much to overcome for the Belgian in his bid to win.
He said: “3rd place finish for my debut 70.3 in Indian Wells. I got a 5’ penalty after 85km on the bike. In my opinion I was 12m behind the guy in front of me but that’s probably what everyone says..
“Happy with how I fought back to 3rd with the fastest run of the day! Huge congrats to @lsanderstri and @vincentluistri for finishing 1st and 2nd! Hope Vince is okay after his nasty crash on the bike. I really enjoyed my debut and am hungry for some more!”