Going down to the wire – GTB and Spivey look ahead to SLT NEOM finale

Georgia Taylor-Brown produced an impressive performance in Toulouse to move level with Taylor Spivey on points in the overall SLT Championship Series standings, whilst Sophie Coldwell delivered a brilliant race of her own to round off the podium.

We caught up with each of them to hear their thoughts on the course, the crowds and their plans ahead of the Grand Finale in NEOM.

‘Incredible crowds’ wowed field

Whilst each and every athlete found the crowd support unbelievable in the south of France, both Coldwell and GTB thought that the atmosphere in Toulouse made it the best edition of the 2022 SLT series yet.

Georgia Taylor Brown run Toulouse 2022 photo credit SLT
[Photo credit: SLT]

Coldwell described the crowds as “incredible”, and added that the venue produced “the toughest course of the series”. GTB agreed, stating: “It was the hardest course, but my favourite. It’s got a bit of everything, I liked the hill because it broke it up a little bit and it’s really technical, but even though it was technical, it felt safe.”

Coldwell, one of the fastest swimmers in the field, mentioned that even though it was a sunny day on Sunday, the fact that we’re now into October meant the water temperature was testing for the athletes. She said that “the water was so cold” and “when you dive in it almost takes your breath away”, however this didn’t stop her from loving the race.

Small mistakes cost Spivey

Although her second place finish in Toulouse was a tremendous performance, with the points leaving her joint first with Taylor-Brown on top of the series standings, Spivey was left to rue some costly errors that all add up in the fast and furious environment of Super League racing.

When asked about her thoughts following the race, Spivey underlined where she went wrong in Toulouse: “I made a lot of mistakes, especially getting on the bike, both in the first round and the last round”.

A small fall in transition may keep her out of the WTCS this weekend in Cagliari too, with Spivey adding: “I’ll see how my knee is after a fall in the last run mounting my bike before making that decision after the pain and the swelling goes away a bit.”

Taylor Spivey Toulouse run photo credit Darren Wheeler That Cameraman SLT
[Photo credit: Darren Wheeler That Cameraman / SLT]

When asked about the final showdown in NEOM, Spivey agreed that it will be hard to split herself and GTB, stating: “Georgia and I are both really strong across the Enduro format, so I think for both of us it comes down to performing on the day and not making any little mistakes.”

In Toulouse, Spivey missed the first of her two short chutes, admitting: “I didn’t know I had a short chute until our team manager yelled at me – there’s so much noise and so much going on that I didn’t know I had it!”

Hopefully come NEOM both Spivey and GTB will be on the top of their game to provide a fitting showdown to a great Championship Series.

Neom heat will provide a different challenge

Whilst the athletes were blessed with clear skies and sunshine in Toulouse this weekend, the temperatures were nowhere near the ones that the field are likely to face out in Saudi Arabia. In NEOM, the impact of the heat and humidity, especially towards the end of the Enduro, could be telling.

Rhinos school visit Toulouse photo credit Darren Wheeler That Cameraman SLT
[Photo credit: Darren Wheeler – That Cameraman/ Super League]

On the topic of NEOM, GTB was frank in her assessment of the conditions, describing the racing plan simply: “It’s just about survival”. With such a busy schedule in this second part of the season, she admitted: “We don’t really have any time to do any acclimatisation, so it’ll just be staying hydrated before the race and doing everything after the race to recover well.”

Spivey was of a similar opinion and is also set to race in Cagliari this weekend, before heading over to Portugal to join her coach Paulo Sousa and his squad. Whilst the two weeks in the Portuguese sun may set her up well for NEOM, Spivey mentioned that it’s also scheduled into the calendar with one eye on the WTCS Grand Final in Abu Dhabi.

Regarding her plans for October, Spivey explained: “In the two weeks after Cagliari I’ll go to Portugal with my training group to do some heat prep, not just for NEOM but also for the Grand Final in the World Series, so hopefully that will do something in the way of acclimatising.”

Up next: NEOM

In Saudi Arabia, a whole new dimension of Super League triathlon awaits the athletes. Whilst Toulouse is now a series favourite because of its amazing course, incredible crowd support and fervent atmosphere, NEOM is likely to offer a different setting. The race will offer a chance to showcase the sport of triathlon in the Middle East, with the conditions in the Kingdom likely to once again add to the unpredictability of Super League racing.

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