Alex Yee proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is the man to beat this season, after taking down rival Hayden Wilde in the last straight of the run to win a thrilling battle at WTCS Cagliari in Sardinia.
First the British superstar had to overcome a blip right at the start as he fell to his knees on the beach before rising to play catchup.
Yee and Wilde, who seemed to be joined by the hip after exiting the water side by side and spending the majority of the bike ride together, were inseparable throughout the first three laps of the run, before Yee eventually got the better of the Kiwi in a sprint to the line.
Defending world champion Leo Bergere of France got back on a podium with third, as Les Bleus swept 3-4-5 with Pierre Le Corre and Dorian Coninx enjoying strong races.
Swim – Dévay leads the way
Over the course of a choppy sea swim off the coast of Sardinia, the men’s race didn’t follow the same script as the women’s competition just hours earlier, with the majority of the field coming out of the water within touching distance.
Over the first lap, Frenchman Dorian Coninx led the way, with the South African duo of Henri Schoeman and Jamie Riddle hot on his heels coming out for the Australian exit at halfway. Hungarian athlete Márk Dévay, a former World Aquathlon champion, was also up there, as was WTCS leader heading into today, Vasco Vilaca.
By the end of the swim, things where more of the same at the front, with Dévay keeping things honest as he lead out of the water, with Riddle, Schoeman, Coninx, Vilaca and a number of others close by. Most importantly, Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde, two of the pre-race favourites, were just +0:15 down out of the water and in perfect position.
Further back, Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt was just over half a minute behind at the back of the second group, with compatriot Gustav Iden ten seconds further back at +0:47 and Richard Murray of the Netherlands the last out of the water a minute down after Spaniard Mario Mola withdrew.
Bike – Blummenfelt left stranded
Out of transition, there was a mad scramble to make the front pack, as two dozen athletes, including Wilde, made it into the front pack, with the second group featuring the likes of Blummenfelt. The chase pack, sensing danger, worked hard over the first lap to close the gap, but was unable to, with the gap then quickly blowing out.
After three laps, the gap was well over half a minute, with Wilde drilling the pace at the front of the lead group, as the chase group struggled to make back any time despite featuring the firepower of the likes of Blummenfelt and Swiss Simon Westermann, who on multiple occasions tried to drag the chasers along.
By halfway, the gap was up to +0:50 with the front pack showing no signs of slowing, as Belgian Martin Van Riel, returning from a long period out with injury, returned to the front of a WTCS bike pack for the first time in close to a year.
Off the bike, the gap back to Blummenfelt and the rest of the chase pack was +1:15, with the front pack, thanks to the hard work of the likes of Van Riel and Wilde, enjoying a comfortable buffer coming into transition.
Run – Yee takes it
Out the gates, German’s Jonas Schomburg, also quick off the mark, led through transition, as the 29 year old opened up a small gap of around +0:05 over Wilde and Yee early on.
By the end of the first lap, the two pre race favourites had duly reeled in Schomburg, with the French duo of Pierre Le Corre and Leo Bergere working their way up from the main pack to put themselves in podium contention.
Through the hallway mark, Yee and Wilde were side-by-side, with Le Corre, Schomburg and Bergere also locked in step around 15 seconds back, with an enthralling battle for the win and third on the cards.
With a lap to go, it was too close to call between Yee and Wilde, as Coninx, who had become disconnected at the start of the run, looked to be making his way up to Bergere and Le Corre, with the French trio in the hunt for the final spot on the podium with two kilometres of running left.
After a cat and mouse final lap, with both Wilde and Yee putting in some insane surges, Yee opened up a gap on the Kiwi coming through transition, as he managed to hold off a last gasp sprint by Wilde on the blue carpet to win after an incredible battle.
Last year’s world champion Bergere held on for third, as Coninx finished fourth and Le Corre rounded out the Top five for Les Bleus, as Schomburg finished a career best sixth after leading on the run early on.
Coninx now holds the WTCS leaders trophy – but make no mistake, Yee and Wilde are the men setting the standards in short course racing currently. More battles like this during the remainder of the season will be very welcome.
WTCS Cagliari 2023 Results
Saturday May 27 2023 – ELITE MEN
1.5km / 38k / 10k
- 1. Alex Yee (GBR) – 1:36:28
- 2. Hayden Wilde (NZL) – 1:36:33
- 3. Leo Bergere (FRA) – 1:37:04
- 4. Dorian Coninx (FRA) – 1:37:15
- 5. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) – 1:37:21
- 6. Jonas Schomburg (GER) – 1:37:39
- 7. Csongor Lehmann (HUN) – 1:37:52
- 8. Vasco Vilaca (POR) – 1:37:58
- 9. Kenji Nener (JPN) – 1:38:00
- 10. Lasse Lührs (GER) – 1:38:04
WTCS Standings after Cagliari (Race 3)
- 1. Dorian Coninx (FRA) – 2132
- 2. Vasco Vilaca (POR) – 2129
- 3. Leo Bergere (FRA) – 2096
- 4. Hayden Wilde (NZL) – 1947
- 5. Alex Yee (GBR) – 1750