What a weekend. The AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Series Leeds delivered. In style.
An amazing setting, perfect weather and everything from total novice through to the very best athletes in the world. Big time, mass participation racing is back (with some restrictions…), and it was an absolute please to be part of it.
I’ve was up in Leeds from Thursday, working at the event as on-site announcer / commentator, something I’ve had the honour of doing at every ITU World Triathlon Championship Series / World Triathlon Series / World Triathlon Championship series (!) since the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series presented by Tata Steel’ in 2010.
On Saturday, the AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Para Series presented by Volvo threw its hat into the ring for the “that’s a flipping long formal title to continually reference” competition, but most importantly, it was the first time in the UK for the top tier World Triathlon Para Series, since its formation. I really hope it is not the last.
Highly competitive races, some dominant winning performances, leaders changing in the last few hundred metres and sprint finishes leaving athletes carried away by the medical team – we had it all.
Dave Ellis plus Guide Luke Pollard (PTVI) and Lauren Steadman (PTS5), joined The Nerterlands’ Jetze Plat (PTWC) in the ‘dominant’ category, while Claire Cashmore was very much in the sprint finish division, to hold off the 2016 Paralympic Champion, Grace Norman, to make it a one-two in the Women’s PTS5. That trio have traded victories in recent years – their race at the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be one to watch with interest.
Silver too for Michael Taylor (PTS4), who continues to make a late run for Paralympic selection, with a second consecutive Silver medal after his second place three weeks ago in Yokohama. Now up to fifth in the Paralympic Rankings (top nine is, I believe, the requirement from a GB perspective), and seemingly with a very live medal chance based on current form, I think he’ll need to keep his diary clear for late August.
Bronze too for Alison Peasgood and Guide Nikki Bartlett (PTVI). While third currently in the Para Tri World Rankings, lack of racing and missing the 2019 World Championship through injury/illness (and the points available from it) means that she is still only 11th in the Paralympic Qualification Rankings. That might require a trip to either (or both) of Besancon, France of A Coruna, Spain, over the next two weeks for the final two World Triathlon Para Cup events. I’ll leave to Jonathan Riall and his British Triathlon Para Triathlon team to work out. Either way, I expect the Rio 2016 Silver medallist to find her way to Tokyo.
Here’s the full report from British Triathlon.
Double gold for Great Britain as part of five-medal haul in Leeds
Lauren Steadman and Dave Ellis took gold for Great Britain, while Claire Cashmore, Michael Taylor and Alison Peasgood all podiumed at AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Para Series Leeds Presented by Volvo.
Elite action lit up AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Leeds with the first World Triathlon Para Series race to take place on British soil.
Elite paratriathletes set off in Roundhay Park for the very first time, shining bright in the excellent British sunshine as Yorkshire welcomed European, World, and Paralympic champions to battle it out ahead of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo later this year. Athletes competed over the sprint distance through the park before crossing the finish in front of Mansion House.
Ellis (men’s PTVI) was the first athlete to cross the line having opened up a lead in the swim with guide Luke Pollard which, following a strong bike leg, saw him open up an unassailable lead to run to victory at the top of Roundhay Park.
Ellis said after the race: “It was great to be back in front of a home crowd, my family haven’t seen me race for a couple of years either so was really nice to do a race that they can come and watch and get some support from a home crowd as well.
“It was a good race, we’ve been training well the past year or two but you always want to test yourself against the best competitors in the world which I got the chance to do today.”
Steadman came out on top in the women’s PTS5 category which saw the Rio silver medallist in a field alongside the 2016 Paralympic winner, Grace Norman (USA), and fellow Brit, 2019 world champion, Claire Cashmore.
Steadman took the victory after showing her strength across all three disciplines, creating a gap to Norman and Cashmore that they couldn’t overcome. The pair battled it out for silver, with Cashmore sprinting ahead of the American down the finish chute to make it a British one-two.
Commenting on her victory, Steadman said: “I needed the race because I needed to see how my training was, how it’s gone verses the girls. We’re one, two, three in the world and I know they’ve been training really hard so it was good to see where the engine’s at.
“I was trying to have a happy race and I really enjoyed it. There was people cheering and it was so lovely to hear your name being cheered out, so that gave me a bit of an extra push.
“It was a great race, the girls did amazing and I’m glad I wasn’t in that sprint finish because it looked really painful.”
Elsewhere in the racing, Taylor (PTS4) made it two silver medals in two World Triathlon Para Series races in 2021, backing up his second place in Yokohama with another in Leeds.
It was a strong performance from the Brit as Frenchman, Alexis Hanquinquant took gold in the sun of Roundhay Park.
Reflecting on his silver, Taylor said: “It was really good, the weather and the crowds, it was so nice to have crowds again. It’s been a really good day, I really enjoyed it, a really good event.
“I went out quite fast because the French guy in my category [Hanquinquant] is a really good swimmer so I was trying to see if I could drop him but he wasn’t having it, he was on my feet straight away and overtook me. I would have liked to have been out ahead of him on the swim to see if I could be close on the bike but he’s really good and I’m happy with second.”
In the women’s PTVI race, the two British athletes, Alison Peasgood guided by Nikki Bartlett and Melissa Reid guided by Hazel Smith, finished third and fourth, respectively.
Josh Landmann made his debut on the World Triathlon Para Series, coming across the line in eighth place as Dutch athletes Jetze Platt and Geert Schipper took gold and silver.
Andy Salmon, British Triathlon CEO, said: “Welcoming the World Triathlon Para Series to AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Leeds for the very first time is a proud moment. Providing elite British paratriathletes the chance to race against the world’s best on home soil has expanded the festival of triathlon to further celebrate great experiences through swim, bike, run.
“Thanks to the support of Leeds City Council, UK Sport, World Triathlon and presenting partner Volvo, this event was expertly delivered despite the difficult circumstances. Congratulations to all of the athletes that took part today and well done to all the athletes who made history at this first edition race.”
Danielle Goodall, Advocacy & Sponsorship Lead, Volvo Car UK, said: “It has been an honour to be a part of the AJ Bell World Triathlon and Para Series in Leeds this weekend continuing our partnership with British Triathlon. Volvo shares many values with triathlon, including placing equality, accessibility and connecting people with nature at the heart of everything we do.
“Across swim, bike and run, we continue to show our support of a discipline that embraces nature through the art of competition in an inclusive environment. We have been particularly proud to become the official Presenting Partner of the AJ Bell World Triathlon Para Series this year – the first para series event to ever take place on UK soil.
“Triathlon continues to reach thousands of people and champions our shared care for the environment and enabling people, of all abilities, to participate in sport outdoors. It has been a great privilege to support such a momentous occasion. A huge thanks to British Triathlon for organising such an enjoyable and safe weekend for our athletes, ambassadors, participants and spectators.”
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education said: “Leeds has a strong, world-class tradition as a sporting city and we were so proud to host the World Triathlon Para Series today in our beautiful Roundhay Park. A huge congratulations to the winner and a big thank you to everyone involved in ensuring the day ran smoothly and safely. I’m looking forward to even more action tomorrow.”
If you’re interested in giving paratriathlon a go, please click: here https://www.britishtriathlon.org/gb-teams/performance/paratriathlon/talent.