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Cook led the swim in 8:48, one second in front of countrywoman Taylor Spivey and 18 seconds in front of eventual top rival Ai Ueda of Japan. Cook overcame a slow transition to arrive second after the bike, then ran away from Ai Ueda of Japan on the final downhill to finish in 57:44 with a six seconds margin of victory over Ueda and 36 seconds over 3rd place finisher Claire Michel of Belgium.
“At about the halfway point [of the run] we established the same pattern as last year,” Cook told ITU media after her race-best 16:36 5k run split. Ueda clocked a second-best run of 16:49 on her way to silver.
“I love racing Ai,” Cook said. “You always know you’re going to have a battle to the finish line. I didn’t know how many gears she had left but knew I didn’t want to get into a sprint with her, so I had to open up a big gap on the downhill and luckily it worked.”
The 1-2 finish was a repeat of Cook’s victory over Ueda at this race last year.
The victory was Cook’s second World Cup win of the year and Ueda’s silver was her first World Cup podium since Cape Town in February.
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Raphael won his first ever World Cup gold in a see-saw last lap battle with Rostislav Pevtsov of Azerbaijan. The tall Raphael opened a slight lead coming down the final downhill, then held off Pevtsov’s surge on the flat leading to the finish line. Raphael ran 15:11 to finish in 52:00 with a 2 seconds margin of victory over Pevtsov, who closed fast with a race-best 15:07 run, and 9 seconds in front of 3rd place finisher Marten Van Riel of Belgium.
“This is a dream come true for me to get a first World Cup gold,” Raphael told ITU media after the race. “I had a good swim and although the bike was harder, the run went really well. After the second lap my legs still felt good so I was able to go on and get the win.”