The mostly young Swiss team, led by anchor Lukas Salvisberg, outkicked the highly favored Australia I squad to win the Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Team World Championships Sunday in West Des Moines, Iowa. The four person team of Magali di Marco, Ruedi Wild, Daniela Ryf and Lukas Salvisberg finished the sprint format contest in 1:20:56, nine seconds ahead of Australia I and 35 seconds ahead of Canada I.
The U.S. squad of Laura Bennett, Jarrod Shoemaker, Sarah Haskins and Matt Reed finished fourth, 22 seconds behind third place Canada I.
Seventeen four-person teams representing 10 countries fought it out in the new mixed relay format which the International Triathlon Union is campaigning to add to the Olympic Games. The format consists of teams of four athletes, two men and two women, each completing a full sprint triathlon of a 250-meter swim, 6.6-kilometer bike and 1.6-kilometer run before tagging the next athlete. The sequence is woman-man-woman-man and first team across the line is the winner.
As might be expected in a super sprint format, the competition was intense and results favored – with some exceptions -- the young and the fast twitch over some proven Olympic and World Champions.
In the opening leg, the women stayed close together until Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand I and yesterday’s $200,000 Hy-Vee winner Emma Moffat of Australia I made a surge that gave their teams a slight lead. Kris Gemmell of New Zealand I hit the water first, but Australia I’s Courtney Atkinson swam like a torpedo and left the water with an 11-second lead, then extended that lead on the bike. By the end of Lap 2, Canada’s Brent McMahon passed Gemmell to take over second place.
On the third lap, Olympic champion Emma Snowsill increased Australia’s lead on the swim, but then succumbed to a monster bike leg by Daniela Ryf of Switzerland, who passed everyone. However, Snowsill then used her incomparable run to pull even with the young Swiss star as the dueling duo handed off in a dead heat to Aussie Brad Kahlefeldt and young Swiss Lukas Salvisberg. By their final run leg, Snowsill and Ryf had put an insurmountable hurt on third place Canada’s Kathy Tremblay and fourth place USA’s Sarah Haskins.
Kahlefeldt and Salvisberg remained in tandem as they kept their lead on the chasers leading to the 1.6-kilometer run finale. Salvisberg unleashed a killer kick with 300 meters to go, and Kahlefeldt found himself unable to answer.
“Brad [Kahlefeldt] was playing with me on the bike and run so I decided just to work really hard and keep the pace hard,” Salvisberg told ITU media. “He kept surging but I put my head down and gave it everything. I didn’t know I had such a good sprint.”
“Daniela [Ryf] was incredible, but I’m disappointed I couldn’t stay with her on the bike and I feel I might have cost us the race,” Snowsill, the Olympic champion, told ITU media.
As in golf, an intensely individual sport whose stars embrace the team concept with pride in the Ryder Cup, triathlon’s best seem to love the camaraderie of the team championship format. In addition, the elites seem to like the change of pace involved with a multiple sprint contest that shares the bang-bang excitement of Australia’s highly popular old Formula One series. Whether the IOC shares triathlon’s enthusiasm will be the acid test.
Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Team World Championships
West Des Moines, Iowa
June 28, 2009
Mixed team relay 4x [.25k S/6.6k B/ 1.6km R]
1. Switzerland -- 1:20:56
Magali di Marco-Ruedi Wild-Daniela Ryf-Lukas Salvisberg
2. Australia I -- 1:21:05
Emma Moffatt-Courtney Atkinson-Emma Snowsill-Brad Kahlefeldt
3. Canada I – 1:21:31
Lauren Groves-Brent McMahon-Kathy Tremblay-Simon Whitfield
4. USA – 1:21:53
Laura Bennett-Jarrod Shoemaker-Sarah Haskins-Matt Reed
5. Canada II – 1:22:31
Paula Findlay-Kyle Jones-Marianne Hogan-Andrew McCartney
6. New Zealand – 1:23:03
Andrea Hewitt-Kris Gemmell-Samantha Warriner-Bevan Docherty
7. Russia – 1:23:37
Olga Dimitrieva-Ivan Vasiliev-Anastasia Polyanskaya-Artem Parienko
8. Ukraine – 1:23:43
Yuliya Sapunova-Andrey Gluschenko-Olasya Pristayko-Daniil Sapunov
9. New Zealand II – 1:24:07
Kate McIlroy-Clark Ellice-Rebecca Spence-Ryan Sissons
10. Japan – 1:24:38
Mariko Adachi-Ryosuke Yamamoto-Ai Ueda-Yuichi Hosoda
A gallery of 45 images of the ITU Team World Championships event can be seen on Clarke Rodgers' website sportzfoto.com