The city of Bergen in Norway made its World Triathlon Cup debut on Sunday. It served up two fantastic races, decided on the blue carpet with incredible finishes.
The fairy tale finish didn’t quite happen – but don’t say that I didn’t tell you that this was far from an exhibition race for Kristian Blummenfelt! Dorian Coninx may have changed the script – but it didn’t spoil the party.
Elite Women – Frantic finale
The Elite women were off first in Bergen, starting at 1435 local time. They would set a great benchmark for the men to follow later on in the day.
While the sky was blue and the sun was out, it was always going to be a wetsuit-legal swim in Norway. Lizeth Rueda Santos (MEX) had an eight second lead exiting the 750m swim, but with Olivia Mathias (GBR), Jolien Vermeylen (BEL), Sara Vilic (AUT) and Selina Klamnt (GER) among those chasing, that was unlikely to be of too much value over the upcoming bike and run.
The four-lap bike course included flat roads alongside the harbour, a short cobbled climb and some twisty corners on a descent through the city. For a short circuit, visually at least, it looked to be an interesting course for a sprint distance race.
Yuko Takahashi (JPN) had a few seconds advantage at the end of the first lap, but it wasn’t long before a group of 20+ were together and into the final circuit, with the crowds building around the transition area. Brits Kate Waugh and Olivia Mathias were among them, as was the World Junior Champion, Tilda Månsson (SWE) and wearing bib #1, Kirsten Kasper (USA).
Cathia Schär (SUI) and Yuko Takahashi were leading the group a couple of kilometres into the run, but after a slow T2, 18 year-old Tilda Månsson was eating up the cobblestones. She worked her way back into contention, passing quality athletes like Kasper and Mathias in the process. I did say in the preview not to rule her out of contention for Scandinavian success. Could the junior athlete produce her biggest result yet?
Into lap two (of two) on the run and only Vermeylen and Takahashi were seemingly able to match the Swedish athlete’s pace. Månsson was running without fear, looking relaxed and pulling clear. If Norway couldn’t win, the Bergen crowd was certainly going to get behind the young Swede. Takahashi was soon out of winning contention but Vermeylen, now with Kate Waugh, were just a couple of seconds down.
A fantastic finish ahead? You bet! Onto the blue carpet and Månsson and Vermeylen were literally shoulder-to-shoulder. The Belgian was seemingly half a stride in front, but Tilda would not be denied, fought back and took a thrilling victory.
Elite Men – Another thriller
Familiar names leading the swim were Dorian Coninx (FRA), Mark Devay (HUN) and Nicola Strada (ITA) – but the man the locals were here to see, Kristian Blummenfelt, was just 20 seconds back and surely right where he needed to be. As I suggested in my preview feature, your chances of riding away from him in his home town – even on long distance training – is next to zero, without a big head start. He didn’t give them one.
On his return from injury after that Leeds crash, Jonny Brownlee was in the unusual position of exiting the swim behind Kristian. Only two seconds back, but one lap into the bike (headed by Blummenfelt), Jonny was already 24 seconds back in the chasing group, reflecting almost certainly that limited training since WTCS Leeds.
The World, Olympic and IRONMAN World Champion was more than happy to set the pace for the lead pack up Nordness Hill, no doubt very familiar with the cobbled streets of his home city. He had Casper Stornes and Vetle Bergsvik Thorn for a Norwegian trio in a leading group of 13, but Gustav Iden was 42 seconds behind in the chasing group, alongside Brownlee.
Stornes and Blummenfelt continued to animate the lead group, and as the fourth and final lap started, their pack was down to 12 riders. The chasers were now 50 seconds in arrears, meaning that the podium was going to be decided by that leading dozen.
Spain’s Alberto Gonzalez Garcia joined Charles Pacquet (CAN) in being dropped by the pace at the front, and that meant that 11 athletes would start the run in close order. As well as the trio of Norwegians, Coninx, Tom Richard (FRA) and Seth Rider (USA) were perhaps the most distinguished athletes in podium contention.
Dorian Coninx was first onto the run, but Blummenfelt was quickly back alongside him after a slightly tardy T2. Tom Richard was the next to try and push the pace, perhaps setting up a France (Coninx / Richard) vs. Norway (Blummenfelt / Stornes / Thorn) grand finale. The pace was clearly on, but Blummenfelt was still there and showing no signs that Ironman training was impacting his sprint distance run speed.
Was Blummenfelt going to go from a long way out, his typical approach on the run? Into the second and final lap, we would soon find out. It was actually Coninx who made the first move which put his countryman out of contention, but Big Blu was still there….before he upped the pace. Could he do it?!
Into the final stages, and the Frenchman was still there and the crowd were going bonkers. As with the women’s race earlier, Coninx and Blummenfelt were practically side-by-side on the blue carpet and it was the European Championship silver medallist from Munich who took the victory by just one second in an absolutely fantastic and thrilling event.
Bergen, take a bow – that was incredible stuff!
World Triathlon Cup Bergen 2022 results
Sunday 28 August 2022 – 750m / 20.8km / 5km
- 1. Tilda Månsson (SWE) – 1:02:48
- 2. Jolien Vermeylen (BEL) – 1:02:49
- 3. Kate Waugh (GBR) – 1:02:54
- 4. Yuko Takahashi (JPN) – 1:03:00
- 5. Olivia Mathias (GBR) – 1:03:02
- 27. Sophia Green (GBR) – 1:04:27
- 1. Dorian Coninx (FRA) – 55:37
- 2. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – 55:38
- 3. Vetle Bergsvik Thorn (NOR) – 55:42
- 4. Tom Richard (FRA) – 55:56
- 5. Casper Stornes (NOR) – 56:00
- 16. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) – 57:04
- 28. Harry Leleu (GBR) – 57:41
- 33. James Chantler-Mayne (GBR) – 58:04