Gillian Backhouse of Australia combined a women’s second-fastest swim, women’s-best bike split and a 9th-best run to dominate the elite women at the inaugural Karlovy Vary World Cup. In her first ITU win since 2014, Backhouse finished the Olympic distance race in 2:03:29 which gave her a 1:02 margin of victory over home country favorite Vendula Frintova of the Czech Republic and 127 over Summer Cook of the U.S.
“I am really happy to be back into top level racing,” Backhouse told ITU media. “In a course like this you don’t get much advantage with drafting and going by yourself you can take the best line, and so I did. it was my race plan: swim hard, bike hard, and see what happens on the run.”
Gustav Iden of Norway, who at age 21 is following in the footsteps of fellow Norwegian and top ITU contender Kristian Blummenfelt, won his first World Cup with a strong, catch-up bike split working with two other Norwegian competitors, and a very quick run.
“I am extremely happy," Iden told ITU media. “We did such a great team effort on the bike. It means quite a lot to me to be on a World Cup podium. I was in a training camp the past few weeks and I told my team mates that this one was the one race for me to win. The course is really hard, but I like it. I saw it last year and thought that this is my kind of course and I wanted to do this race, so here I am.”
Summer Cook of the U.S. and Backhouse led 27 elite women starters with 18:36 and 18:37 swim splits in Rulova Lake which gave the duo a 45 seconds lead into T1. When Cook struggled removing her wetsuit, Backhouse took the lead and rode solo for the entire 40 kilometer ride through the historic city center. Her race-best 1:06:24 bike split, which was 1:25 better than the next fastest effort, gave her a 2:34 lead starting the run.
“In a course like this you don’t get much advantage with drafting and going by yourself you can take the best line,” Backhouse told ITU media. “And so I did. It was my race plan: swim hard, bike hard, and see what happens on the run.”
With a large lead Backhouse could afford a conservative pace on the run and her 9th-best 36:52 split ultimately proved sufficient.
Frintova and Cook quickly opened a gap with the rest of the chasing group within a few meters out of transition. Closing the gap by 15 seconds per lap, Frintova was cheered on by the local crowds but her excellent 35:53 run was only good for the silver, her first World Cup podium since New Plymouth in 2015.
Frintova said: “I am really happy, because I haven´t be on a World Cup podium for a few years, It really is amazing to do it here in front of the home crowds.”
Cook, followed her victory three weeks ago in the Yucatan World Cup, said: “It was a very tough course, and I had a very tough morning. I went for a ride and the derailleur on my bike broke. I thought I wouldn’t be able to race, but fortunately the race mechanic was able to fix it. I had a good swim, but I was so cold I struggled to get my wetsuit off. The course was really hard and I was pretty scared, but I learned today that no matter how hard the course is, I just have to go there and do it.”
Iden made up for a 1:01 deficit after the swim, working with fellow Norwegians Casper Stornes and Endre Espedal, plus Stefan Zachaus of Luxembourg and Tayler Reid of New Zealand to push on the bike leg to arrive at T2 with a manageable 30 second deficit on a leading group of five including Jonathan Schomburg, Alessandro Fabian and Jumpei Furuya.
At the end of the first of four 2.5-kilometer run laps, Iden passed everyone but Fabian. On the third lap, Iden ran past Fabian at the 6 km mark and never looked back. After a 2nd-fastest 31:48 run, Iden finished in 1:49:06 with a 33 seconds margin of victory over Fabian (32:53 run) and 1:16 on 3rd place Tayler Reid of New Zealand (33:34 run).
Fabian, coming back strong after a post-Olympic break, said, “Last year I had a hard year, after the Olympic cycle, but at the end this is a great result for me, not only for the second place, but for myself. I want to think of myself and not only on results.”
Reid was ecstatic after his World Cup podium. “I didn’t give my dad a Father’s Day present, so here you are, dad,” he told ITU media after the race. “I am overwhelmed. I was fourth with 2 kilometers to go and I thought that I really want this bad, so I kept pushing. I passed [Richard] Varga and the last 1km was hell for me.”
Karlovy Vary World Cup
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
September 3, 2017
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Gillian Backhouse (AUS) 2:03:29
2. Vendula Frintova (CZE) 2:04:31
3. Summer Cook (USA) 2:04:56
4. Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL) 2”05:27
5. Emma Jackson (AUS) 2:05:27
6. Felicity Sheedy-Ryan (AUS) 2:05:31
7. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) 2:06:05
8. Sandra Dodet (FRA) 2:06:07
9. Zsófia Kovács (HUN) 2:06:11
10. Julie Derron (SUI) 2:06:11
1. Gustav Iden (NOR) 1:49:06
2. Alessandro Fabian (ITA) 1:49:39
3. Tayler Reid (NZL) 1:50:22
4. Jonas Schomburg (ITU) 1:50:29
5. Maxime Hueber-Moosbrugger (FRA) 1:50:30
6. Jonathan Zipf (GER) 1:50:33
7. Richard Varga (SVK) 1:50:41
8. Wian Sullwald (RSA) 1:50:59
9. Massimo de Ponti (ITA) 1:51:00
10. Casper Stornes ((NOR) 1:51:07
17. Eric Lagerstrom (USA) 1:51:39
40. Alex Wilimovsky (USA) 1:55:39