Win or lose (and this year it has mostly been the former for the Norwegian), Kristian Blummenfelt impacts more races than anyone else. So powerful is his cycling ability and mentality, you feel as though he is on a mission to challenge anyone who thinks they can breakaway on the bike (from him) and win.
The result of that – for me at least, and it has been the case for some time now – is that the first major measure I look at during a race is not who is leading the swim, who is in the lead pack, is there a break etc. It’s, “did you exit the swim ahead, or behind Kristian Blummenfelt?”
Ahead, and – if you have the legs to follow him – you gain access to the world’s greatest domestique (!) to help overcome any swim deficit. If you are behind and you miss the Blu Train… expect a very difficult next 90 minutes.
And that, perhaps, is the primary reason why Great Britain’s Alex Yee wasn’t able to challenge for world championship gold on Saturday in Edmonton, despite producing the fastest run by a long way. Blummenfelt swam 18:36, Alex 18:53. Those 17 seconds would prove impossible to recover from.
Van Riel goes all-in
While perhaps unlikely, ahead of Saturday’s race Belgium’s Marten Van Riel (who was fourth in Tokyo), had an outside chance of taking the 2021 world championship title, but it would need a very strong race combined with finishing several places ahead of both Kristian and Alex.
Van Riel is a training partner of fellow Red Bull athlete, Vincent Luis, who despite injuries leaving him off of his very best this year, has been swimming incredibly. Luis had said pre-race that if there opportunity was there, he would go full gas on the bike, if it would help Van Riel, and when he emerged third from the two lap swim, the opportunity presented itself.
Joined by a willing Mark Devay (HUN), the trio gained 12 seconds on the swim and attacked from the start. They built a decent lead of around 30 seconds, but could never manage to extend any further with (no surprise!), the Olympic champion Blummenfelt being the driving force on the bike among the chasers.
On the final lap that lead pretty much evaporated, as Kristian headed a group of almost 20 athletes who reach the dismount line barely 10 seconds after the leaders. Yet again, trying to make a break stick when Blummenfelt is not in it, is very, very difficult!
Alex Yee was in good company – Hayden Wilde, Jacob Birtwhistle, Tom Bishop among them – but having missed that chase pack after the swim, they were now more than 90 seconds back. Yee is an incredible runner, but that was too big a mountain to climb, even for him. It didn’t stop him giving 100% to attempt it though – massive respect!
A blue carpet sprint finish
The front of the run was not your typical WTCS race – Adrien Briffod (SUI), Takumi Hojo (JPN) and Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) among the athletes setting the pace at the front – but among the new(er) names, Blummenfelt, Van Riel, Bergere, Coninx, Luis and co. were there too, from the established stars.
Blummenfelt started to ramp up the pace on the final lap. And then up again, and again….but unlike Tokyo, he couldn’t drop everyone. Into the final 100 metres and the winner was still unclear, with Blummenfelt, Van Riel and Bergere reaching the blue carpet together and burning whatever few reserves they had left.
Blummenfelt – just – got to the line first, ahead of Van Riel. It was a great finish – and they would also return to the Maurice Lacroix World Triathlon Series Ranking presentation in Gold and Silver position too.
Alex Yee ran through to 11th, which was enough to ensure he completed that presentation with a bronze, another fine return on a brilliant season to date. “I just didn’t swim well enough today” he said post-race, but made no excuses and heaped praise on his fellow athletes. He really is a class act and his best is still to come.
Edmonton Results – Elite Men
World Triathlon Championship Finals Edmonton – Saturday 21st August 2021
1.5km / 40km / 10km
- Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – 1:44:14
- Marten Van Riel (BEL) – 1:44:14
- Leo Bergere (FRA) – 1:44:14
- Seth Rider (USA) – 1:44:23
- Adrien Briffod (SUI) – 1:44:24
- Dorian Coninx (FRA) – 1:44:26
- Tayler Reid (NZL) – 1:44:26
- Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) – 1:44:35
- Takumi Hojo (JPN) – 1:44:41
- Vincent Luis (FRA) – 1:44:52
- Alex Yee (GBR) – 1:44:53
30. Thomas Bishop (GBR) – 1:49:57
DNF. Grant Sheldon (GBR)
2021 Maurice Lacroix World Triathlon Championship Series Rankings (Final)
- Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – 3927 – World Champion
- Marten Van Riel (BEL) – 3594
- Alex Yee (GBR) – 3289
- Leo Bergere (FRA) – 3131
- Hayden Wilde (NZL) – 2719
15. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) – 1448
35. Thomas Bishop (GBR) – 507
58. Samuel Dickinson (GBR) – 195
78. Grant Sheldon (GBR) – 65