On a cold and rainy day in the Netherlands, quite the opposite of the boiling hot conditions that led to Jonny Brownlee’s last lap heat exhaustion last year at Cozumel, Vincent Luis of France took the day’s race and Mario Mola defended his season-long World Championship points victory with a third place finish at the WTS Grand Final in Rotterdam.
Luis mustered a sizzling 29:59 run to finish in 1:51:26 which gave him a 2 seconds margin of victory over Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway and 10 seconds over Mario Mola of Spain. Just a week after his dominating victory at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga, Javier Gomez of Spain had enough left in the tank to take 4th place, 15 seconds back of the winner. One year after his dramatic wobble to a second place finish at Cozumel and in the World championship race, Jonathan Brownlee took 5th place, 11 seconds back of Gomez.
With his third place finish, Mola won $80,000 for the WTS World Championship series title, defending his 2016 victory. With unparalleled endurance after his 70.3 race last weekend, Gomez took 4th on the day and earned the runner-up spot on the WTS series. After his impressive 2nd place in the Grand Final, Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway jumped from 5th to 3rd in the season-long WTS World Championship points race.
After his stretch of four straight WTS wins in a row at Gold Coast, Yokohama, Hamburg and Edmonton, Mola only needed a 5th for the Championship. But was he nervous when he saw the wet and slippery conditions on the bike? “Sure I was nervous but you need nerves to perform. I knew I was in a good situation but it is never easy. I had my best swim of the season, which helped me join the front pack on the bike. Then it was easy to ride well.”
Luis exulted with his unexpected victory. “I did not expect that,” he told ITU media. ”I have had ups and downs, a lot of downs, this year. I can't believe I finished with a win. I have had a lot of frustrations with injuries the past year. I went on a break, then had to work harder than the others to get back on form.”
At age 23, Blummenfelt is the rising star of the WTS circuit, earning silver for the day and bronze for the World Championship series.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling to get on the podium overall,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, I was not sure how I would do for overall.”
Richard Varga of Slovakia led the swim in 18:35, which gave him a 4 seconds lead on Dmitry Polyanskiy of Russia, 7 seconds on Aaron Royle of Australia, 8 seconds on Jonathan Brownlee of Great Britain, 8 seconds on Igor Polyanskiy of Russia, 11 seconds on Pierre le Corre of France, 13 seconds on Javier Gomez of Spain, 16 seconds on Vincent Luis of France and Fernando Alarza of Spain, 18 and 19 seconds on Ben Kanute and Eric Lagerstrom of the U.S., 23 seconds on 2016 Grand Final winner Henri Schoeman of South Africa, 24 seconds on Thomas Bishop of Great Britain, 26 seconds on WTS points leader Mario Mola of Spain, 32 seconds on Richard Murray of South Africa, and 40 seconds on Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway.
On a wet and cool day in Rotterdam, on a flat course with many sharp corners and some sections on modest cobblestones, the men took off and formed a lead group of 28. After the first of seven laps, Jonny Brownlee led Russell White of Ireland and Vincent Luis on equal time, Kanute, Le Corre and Varga were 1 second down, and then Gomez, Martin Van Riel of Belgium, Royle, and Wian Sullwald of South Africa 3 seconds back. After that, key contenders in the lead pack included Blummenfelt, Murray, Mola, Schoeman, Joao Pereira of Portugal, Bishop, and Alarza all within 19 seconds.
With every man taking great care not to slip or fall on the treacherously slippery course, only Schoeman fell out of contention with a flat tire.
At the end of the 7 lap parade, Blummenfelt led the pack into T2 with a 1 second lead on Brownlee, Andreas Schilling of Denmark, Luis, and Martin van Riel of Belgium. Two seconds down were Russell White of Ireland and Marco van der Stel of Netherlands. Three seconds back were Bishop and Kanute. Four seconds arrears were key rivals for the championship Mola and Murray, then 5 seconds back was Gomez. Could the 5-time ITU World champion muster a run for the podium one week after his 1:10 half marathon finish for the gold at the Ironman 70.3 Worlds?
On the first 2.5 kilometer lap of the run, Luis led a pack of six men within 3 seconds including Brownlee, Blummenfelt, Gomez, Mola and Pereira, with Murray and Andreas Schilling looming 5 seconds back. Falling back and unlikely to find their ways to the front were Le Corre, Alarza, Bishop, and Aaron Royle 10 to 21 seconds arrears.
Halfway through the 10k run, Mola went to the front and the lead group was thinned out to five men – Mola, Luis, Gomez, Brownlee, and Blummenfelt all within 1 second. Within range of a negative split push, Murray loomed 8 seconds back. At this point, Mola seemed to have a lock on his second straight WTS World Championship as he only needed to finish top 5 to cinch the season-long title. The main chase group was 39 seconds down and included Alarza, Pereira, Le Corre, Schilling, Bishop, Van Riel, Hernandez, and Royle .
Midway through lap 3, Mola made a mild surge to grab a 5 meters lead, then was pulled back by Luis, Gomez, Blummenfelt, and Brownlee at the end of lap 3, as their flying feet splashed up water on the blue carpet. Murray continued alone, 17 seconds behind the front pack.
After 8 kilometers, Brownlee dropped back of the lead pack. With 1.5 kilometers to go, Blummenfelt, knowing he doesn’t have a blue carpet sprint, took a short turn at the front with a grimace, trying to create a gap.
With 1 kilometer to go, the man with the best sprint, Luis, leapfrogged into the lead, then Blummenfelt retook the advantage as Gomez remained on their heels. Mola, with Championship in hand, dropped back a few meters.
With 400 meters to go, Luis and Blummenfelt sprinted 20 meters ahead of Gomez and Mola. With 200 meters to go, Luis fired away to the Grand Final victory, Blummenfelt held second and Mola took the bronze on the day and gold for the season. Gomez took 4th, Brownlee 5th and Murray 6th.
World Triathlon Series Grand Final
September 16, 2017
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Vincent Luis (FRA) 1:51:25 - $30,000
2. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 1:51:27
3. Mario Mola (ESP) 1:51:35
4. Javier Gomez (ESP) 1:51:40
5. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) 1:51:51
6. Richard Murray (RSA) 1:52:05
7. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) 1:52:30
8. Joao Pereira (POR) 1:52:31
9. Andreas Schilling (DEN) 1:52:32
10. Thomas Bishop (GBR) 1:52:33
17. Eric Lagerstrom (USA) 1:54:11
2017 WTS Series Points Rankings
1. Mario Mola (ESP) 4728 - $80,000
2. Javier Gomez (ESP) 4311
3. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 4281
4. Richard Murray (RSA) 4010
5. Fernando Alarza (ESP) 3722
6. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) 3685
7. Thomas Bishop (GBR) 3141
8. Vincent Luis (ESP) 3083
9. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) 2894
10. Ryan Sissons (NZL) 2799