Britain’s Beth Potter won gold for the first time at a World Championship event when landing the opening WTCS race of the season in fine style in Abu Dhabi as the qualifying process for the Paris Olympics got under way.
The campaign began where it ended in 2022, with perfect conditions greeting a huge women’s field – with World Champion Flora Duffy the one notable big name not lining up.
And it was Scotland’s Potter who put down a huge marker as she saw off fellow Brit Sophie Coldwell in emphatic style on the run, with American star Taylor Spivey rounding out the podium in third.
Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR), wearing the No 1 bid, was only 15th – the first time since 2019 that she’s been outside the top two in a WTCS event.
Swim – Coldwell in control until penalty
The swim was all about Coldwell who was to the fore from the outset – literally!
Leading it out she strung out the big pack behind her and was out of the water first in 9:27 for the 750 metres but at exactly the moment she reached dry land it emerged she’d been hit with a 10-second penalty for going into the water too early.
She had to serve that in T1 but such was her swim display, she was still able to get in the front group on the bike with the five women who had been just behind her – Vittoria Lopes (BRZ), Summer Rappaport (USA), Lena Meißner (GER), plus Spivey and Potter..
Bike – Six of the best see off the rest
Unlike the WTCS Grand Final last November, the bike course was now back on the F1 course and the front six from the swim were quickly able to assert.
It didn’t take them long to hammer home their advantage either, opening up a lead of 24 seconds to what was a huge chase group after the first of five 4km loops.
The chase group grew to over 40 and included the Taylor-Brown, Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) and Katie Zaferes (USA), returning to the sport after the birth of her first child.
But the size of that group proved unweildy and the gap went further and further out – up to 28 seconds after lap two, then 36 seconds and 47 seconds before it shrank a fraction to 45 seconds at T2.
Would that be too much with just 5km to come?
Run – Duel in the sun
With the likes of Potter in that front group with her run prowess (she set an unofficial world record of 14:41 in 2021) the deficit was always likely to be too much for the chasers to overcome and so it proved.
The front six were initially locked together, with Lopes the first to drop back. But the other five were all in close contact until towards the end of the first of two laps when Potter kicked on an incline.
That suddenly changed the whole complexion, with big gaps appearing and Coldwell the only one to stay in range. Indeed she did more than that as she managed to get back up to Potter and it soon became apparent that pair had it between them, with Spivey a distant third.
Potter and Coldwell were neck and neck for much of the last lap until the exact point where the former had kicked on the opening loop and the tactic paid dividends as it effectively put the race to bed.
As well as Potter’s first WTCS victory, it was also a best display yet in the series for Coldwell after three bronzes, while Spivey was also delighted with her podium after a series of fourth places.
And the dominance of the break was illustrated as the top five positions were all taken by those who were part of it, with Rappaport and Meißner coming next.
Beaugrand proved best of the rest in sixth place and nine of the first 10 were made up of Britons, Americans, French and German athletes, Austria’s Verena Steinhauser the exception in ninth.
And a notable mention too for Katie Zaferes (USA) who finished 37th in her first race back since the birth of her first child.
World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi 2023 Results
Friday March 3 2023 – ELITE WOMEN
750m / 20k / 5k
- 1. Beth Potter (GBR) – 57:56
- 2. Sophie Coldwell (GBR) – 58:14
- 3. Taylor Spivey (USA) – 58:27
- 4. Summer Rappaport (USA) – 58:35
- 5. Lena Meißner (GER) – 58:39
- 6. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) – 58:39
- 7. Nina Eim (GER) – 58:45
- 8. Emma Lombardi (FRA) – 58:46
- 9. Verena Steinhauser (AUT) – 58:48
- 10. Lisa Tertsch (GER) – 58:53