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Sensational Zaferes secures Grand Final and World Championship double

Fantastic racing in Lausanne sees Great Britain's Jessica Learmonth push Katie Zaferes so close at the World Triathlon Grand Final

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Katie Zaferes sprints away from Jessica Learmonth in Lausanne

Brits take Silver and Bronze in Grand Final and World Championship

What did the Elite women’s race today at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Lausanne have in common with the men’s race? Not a lot, if truth be told. But it was still compulsive viewing!

The shape of the race followed the now familiar script of women’s ITU racing of late. That script sees Great Britain’s swimming machine, Jessica Learmonth, pushing the pace from the first stroke until the last to break up the field before the athletes are even on dry land. It’s a great tactic too; everybody knows what she is going to do, but nobody can do anything about it. As they say, train your weaknesses and race to your strengths.

The Brit had a rapid transition and a fast start to the bike, very quickly gaining a solo lead of around 15 seconds – probably not one she was expecting, or, from a tactical point of view, wanted. No problem as with the likes of Flora Duffy and Katie Zaferes not far behind, chances are they will soon join you anyway. Which they did. That quickly left a quality front group of seven clear on the bike: Jessica Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Sophie Coldwell, Taylor Spivey (USA), Katie Zaferes (USA), Flora Duffy (BER) and Vittoria Lopes (BRA).

In the normal course of events, that would likely be it, race over – but cheered on by her adoring home crowds, Nicola Spirig (SUI) was leading the charge from the chasers, who were doing their best to hold on to the wheel of the London 2012 Olympic Gold medallist. The Spirig Train was as popular as ever, though its passengers were struggling to hold on to her power. They were certainly doing nothing to help her with the chase.

Being ‘in a group’ on the relentless nature of the Lausanne bike course is not enough to remain in it, you have the earn your place. Coldwell and Spivey were dropped from the lead group, Vicky Holland was among those who lost contact with the Spirig group, while Non Stanford came off her bike and would not finish at all.

Over a minute back starting the bike, Nicola Spirig pulled the chasers to less than 30 seconds in arrears, but that was as close as it got, before the leaders started to (re)gain time again. By T2 the now leading five had a 52 seconds advantage and surely the podium would be decided between them.

The leading three in the WTS points standings – Zaferes, Learmonth and Taylor-Brown – soon distanced themselves from Duffy and Lopes, quite appropriate for their consistency through the season. Zaferes ‘only’ needed to finish 12th to secure the World Championship title, so with that seemingly more than secure, this was now a race for the Grand Series race victory. 23 stitches in her mouth two weeks ago, could the U.S. athlete not only recover, but take the title AND win the race?

The leading trio were locked together with two of the four run laps completed, now 41 seconds ahead of Flora Duffy with Rachel Klamer (NED) 58 seconds back and the quickest from that chase pack of Spirig and company. The leading trio were not going to be threatened however – and entering the last lap, they were still stride-for-stride.

Inside the final mile and surprisingly, Taylor-Brown was the first to lose a few seconds as Jessica Learmonth was pushing the pace hard, more than proving her running improvements. The event was not an Olympic selection race for Great Britain, but all logic suggests that Learmonth absolutely has to be part of the British female team. Could she drop Zaferes and claim her first World Triathlon Series victory?

250m to go and Learmonth gained a couple of yards on the American… but Katie battled right back on the final short hill. Jess pushed again on the downhill and with 100 metres to go the race was still up for grabs, but finally, the undisputed queen of the 2019 season, Katie Zaferes, proved the strongest and she would reach the blue carpet and win both the Grand Final and World Championship. Having finished 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd for the past four seasons in the World Triathlon Series, very well deserved.

The first three across the line were also the top three in the Series – a fine finish to the 2019 WTS year.

Athlete Quotes

Katie Zaferes:

“I had a lot of emotions and a lot of doubts… but I’m so happy right now. I knew physically I would be OK, but I had to work very hard on the mental game after Tokyo. I thought his course would be good for me if I was having a good day… and thankfully, I had a good day!”

Jessica Learmonth:

“I can’t quite believe it – such a hard race. It was ridiculously hard! The swim went well and I thought everyone was with me… it was just a hard bike, everything was hard! I’m delighted, it was a good day for me. I was waiting for Katie to hold my hand and cross the line… but she ran off for some reason?!”

Georgia Taylor-Brown:

“That was hard. I had a good swim. The bike was hard, really hard…. I just had to hang on, I couldn’t contribute anything, I was useless! The run felt comfortable, but I just couldn’t give any more at the end. It was an amazing crowd here, I’m very happy to be on the podium with Jess again.”

ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Lausanne – Saturday 31st August 2019
1.5km / 40km / 10km

ELITE WOMEN

  1. Katie Zaferes (USA) – 2:02:44
  2. Jessica Learmonth (GBR) – 2:02:48
  3. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) – 2:03:02
  4. Rachel Klamer (NED) – 2:03:43
  5. Flora Duffy (BER) – 2:04:25
  6. Laura Lindemann (GER) – 2:04:40
  7. Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA) – 2:04:50
  8.  Alice Betto (ITA) – 2:05:10
  9. Taylor Spivey (USA) – 2:05:39
  10. Nicola Spirig (SUI) – 2:05:52

13. Sophie Coldwell (GBR) – 2:06:49
18. Vicky Holland (GBR) – 2:08:02
28. Beth Potter (GBR) – 2:10:03
DNF. Non Stanford (GBR)

END OF SEASON SERIES RANKING POINTS

  1. Katie Zaferes (USA) – 6175
  2. Jessica Learmonth (GBR) – 5326
  3. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) – 5191
  4. Taylor Spivey (USA) – 4651
  5. Summer Rappaport (USA) – 3589
  6. Rachel Klamer (NED) – 3586
  7. Non Stanford (GBR) – 3435
  8. Cassandre BeaUgrand (FRA) – 2548
  9. Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA) – 2456
  10. Laura Lindemann (GER) – 2427

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.

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