In one of the most thrilling sprint finishes of the season, Frenchman Pierre Le Corre took down defending World Champion Leo Bergere and newly crowned World Super Sprint Champion Hayden Wilde to grab his first ever WTCS win.
After an intense 55 minutes of racing, it all came down to the final stretch on the blue carpet, as Le Corre prevailed against his countryman to cap off an incredible race, which saw the French duo bridge up and take the race to Wilde after the Kiwi had broken away.
Finishing in third, one place ahead of Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca, the previous WTCS Series leader, Wilde put himself in the hot seat for the world title but couldn’t hold off the French team after a great run of form.
Swim – McQueen and Moya lead
In some chilly conditions on Roker Beach, the wetsuit legal swim played a part in a bunched swim, with Chilean Diego Moya and American Chase McQueen leading out of the water ahead of the rest of the field, with a small +0:04 gap into transition.
World Champion Bergere was +0:07 down out of the water and in good company, with Great Britain’s Max Stapley and Frenchman Tom Richard out alongside him. Further back, pre-race favourite Wilde was +0:15 down alongside Norwegians Casper Stornes and Vetle Thorn.
The whole of the field were out within half a minute of the front, with veterans Richard Murray and World Duathlon Champion Mario Mola, who have both struggled in the water so far this season, out of the swim within +0:20 of the front.
Bike – Bergere breaks away
After a quick and decisive transition, a front group of 13 managed to open up a small ten second lead over the chase pack, which was being shepherded by Wilde and Tyler Smith on the tight and twisty course in Sunderland.
Pushing the pace at the front, the breakaway was whittled down to just 11 riders by the start of the third lap, with the gap back to the front pack remaining at ten seconds, as world champion Bergere was seemingly becoming frustrated at the lack of cohesion between the leaders.
Into the final lap, the lead group had disbanded and were swallowed up by the front pack, with Bergere, Kiwi Tayler Reid and Ricardo Batista of Portugal splitting off the front and trying to build back the buffer that had been reduced almost in its entirety over the fourth lap.
After drilling the last lap, the leading trio came into transition with a ten second lead and a clean shot at transition. As Batista lost his bike rack, Bergere was the first out of transition, with the Frenchman followed out by a big group spearheaded by Wilde.
Run – Le Corre wins incredible battle
Quick as a flash, Wilde was out of transition, catching Bergere, past the Frenchman and into the lead, all in a matter of seconds, with the Kiwi looking unbeatable from the very start of the run leg. Down in second, Bergere was being chased by countryman Pierre Le Corre, with Spaniard Sergio Baxter Cabrera on his heels.
However, by the end of the first lap, Bergere, remarkably, had made his way back up to the shoulder of Wilde, with Le Corre joining the duo to leave it all to play for over the last lap. Behind, WTCS leader Vasco Vilaca was leading the chasers in fourth.
Doubling up on Wilde, the French duo tested the Kiwi on the second lap, surging up the hill and really trying to test the World Super Sprint Champion, with the race looking increasingly likely to come down to a thrilling finish in front of a great crowd in Sunderland.
Attacking in the closing stages, both Bergere and Le Corre had moves covered, before the French pair extinguished a long burst by Wilde, as the Kiwi tried to break the pair. Opening up a gap on the downhill, Bergere and Le Corre broke Wilde, before going head-to-head on the blue carpet, with Le Corre taking it on the line with an incredible sprint.
Wilde took third, as Vilaca finished fourth and lost the series lead to the Kiwi. In fifth place, Murray, who has struggled with health issues over the past few seasons, recorded his best result in a long time as he pipped former teammate Henri Schoeman and next best Frenchman Tom Richard.
WTCS Sunderland results
Saturday July 29, 2023
Elite Men – Sprint Distance
- 1. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) – 54:06
- 2. Leo Bergere (FRA) – 54:06
- 3. Hayden Wilde (NZL) – 54:21
- 4. Vasco Vilaca (POR) – 54:25
- 5. Richard Murray (NED) – 54:27
WTCS Standings after Sunderland (which is race six out of seven)