The race boiled down to a shootout on the run between two of the sport’s finest, with Potter only shaking off her rival in the closing stages. The victory also means she will be crowned World Champion if she wins the season’s WTCS finale in Pontevedra, though the same equation applies to Beaugrand.
Germany’s Laura Lindemann took the bronze, just ahead of Emma Lombardi (FRA), with Taylor Knibb (USA) in fifth after an up-and-down day.
The gold and silver medallists from Tokyo – Flora Duffy and Georgia Taylor-Brown – may have been missing through injury but all the other big names lined up in the most important race of the season so far and here’s how it panned out…
Swim – Seregni shows the way
All the doubts about whether the swim would be able to take place seemed a world away on a picture-postcard morning on the Seine.
And it was soon Bianca Seregni (ITA) who moved into the lead in the first – and longer – of the two laps, opening up a four-second lead on Summer Rappaport (USA) by the time they first exited the water.
The top 10 at that point also included Beaugrand in third, Lombardi, Sophie Coldwell (GBR), German pair Lindemann and Lena Meißner, American duo Knibb and Taylor Spivey plus Vittoria Lopes (BRA).
The second lap in the water may have been shorter but it saw things get more strung out as Seregni and Rappaport pushed their advantage to 11 seconds and the one woman to drop right out of the top 10 and down to 22nd was Knibb, leaving her with work to do in her strongest discipline on the bike.
Her compatriot Katie Zaferes was moving in the other direction and up to 13th while WTCS overall leader Potter was 20th at this point, with a 36-second deficit to make up.
Ilaria Zane (ITA) would later be disqualified as she “did not follow the described swim course”.
Bike – All eyes on Knibb
Out of T1, Rappaport moved straight into the lead and as things started to settle down on the first of seven loops we had three distinct front groups.
The first comprised the leading nine from the swim and they were equally matched in numbers by the chase group, 10 seconds behind, which included Potter after a decent transition. Knibb though missed that split and was driving a seven-woman pack who were 23 seconds down.
But the second lap was all about the recent PTO US Open winner, whose strength on the bike was underlined again as she first drove that third group up to the chasers before their combined force quickly swallowed up the leaders.
Crossing the line at the end of lap two Knibb was right at the front of what was now a 24-strong group, with swim leader Seregni having dropped back and the rest were already more than a minute back and effectively out of contention.
There was then a relative status quo and by the end of the penultimate lap the 24 were still all together, with the likes of Beaugrand and Potter coasting along and seemingly in pole position with their rapid runs to come.
But there were battles within battles to play out with the different qualification scenarios from country to country – all five American women were in the lead group as were four Germans and three Brits.
All eyes were on Knibb as she took the bell in front before the seventh and final lap but everyone was content to bide their time and take their chances in what was going to come down to a showdown on the run.
Run – Potter wins head-to-head battle
With 24 of them heading into T2 together there was always going to be some congestion but the only person to really lose out was Knibb, whose rollercoaster day took another dip as she began the run in 24th position and suddenly 14 seconds down – which would prove costly.
In stark contrast, and to the delight of the French fans, it was Beaugrand who had surged to the front and soon began to power clear on the first of the four 2.5km laps.
It looked a real statement of intent but her rivals didn’t panic in behind and her advantage started to come down and was three seconds at the end of the lap.
On lap two it was Potter who eased alongside Beaugrand and fractionally into the lead and we now had a group of five, with Lindemann, Lombardi and Lisa Tertsch (GER) the other three right in the mix.
Knibb meanwhile was on another upward move as she now led the next pack of five alongside fellow American star Spivey and Nina Eim (GER), Jeanne Lehair (LUX) and World U23 Champion Kate Waugh (GBR).
But on the third lap the decisive shakeout happened as Potter and Beaugrand moved clear, leaving Lindemann and Lombardi tussling for third.
At the bell the leading two were still locked together and with an eight-seconds advantage on the chasers and they were shoulder-to-shoulder until Potter kicked with around 200 metres left to claim a famous win. Lindemann repelled Lombardi for third, with Knibb having to settle for fifth.
There was so much else at stake too, with Beaugrand, Lindemann, Knibb and Eim among those sealing their Olympic spots based on their countries’ varying selection criteria.
And when the overall standings were updated to the latest best-four results, it was Beaugrand who took over at the top, but another winner-takes-all showdown now beckons in Pontevedra between herself and Potter.
Paris Test Event results
Thursday August 17, 2023
Elite Women – Olympic Distance
- 1. Beth Potter (GBR) – 1:51:40
- 2. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) – 1:51:46
- 3. Laura Lindemann (GER) – 1:51:59
- 4. Emma Lombardi (FRA) – 1:52:00
- 5. Taylor Knibb (USA) – 1:52:04
- 6. Nina Eim (GER) – 1:52:13
- 7. Kate Waugh (GBR) – 1:52:23
- 8. Julie Derron (SUI) – 1:52:26
- 9. Lisa Tertsch (GER) – 1:52:36
- 10. Taylor Spivey (USA) – 1:52:46
WTCS Standings after the race
- 1. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) – 3341.45pts
- 2. Beth Potter (GBR) – 3309.38pts
- 3. Emma Lombardi (FRA) – 2946.16pts
- 4. Taylor Spivey (USA) – 2836.90pts
- 5. Summer Rappaport (USA) – 2357.47pts