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Points leader Murray put it best when he said, “big gear, no fear” before the Round 3 swim start. With the overall standings determined by the points accumulated each day, Murray’s 40 points for his Day 1 and Day 2 wins made him the prohibitive favorite – he only needed to finish 7th or better to clinch the title. With a 4th and a 3rd place finish on Days 1 and 2, Mola needed to win Day 3 and hope that Murray had bad luck in the final round.
As usual, Richard Varga led the final round swim, followed closely by Igor Polyanskiy, Jake Birtwhistle, and Henri Schoeman with Murray, Ryan Bailie and Javier Gomez mid pack and Kristian Blummenfelt and Mario Mola at the back.
On the first of five times riding up steep Mango Tree Hill, Birtwhistle took the first lead, followed closely by Murray and Schoeman. Soon thereafter, the deck was shuffled and reshuffled as Polyanskiy charged to the front and took a 35 meter lead, with Murray and Varga leading the chase. Next Varga and Birtwhistle took the front, followed by Schoeman. On lap three Ryan Fisher charged into the lead, then Blummenfelt.
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After a closely packed arrival in T2, Birtwhistle, Mola and Murray surged to the front at the start of the run. Midway through the 2k run, Mola took the lead and Birtwhistle stuck close. Murray, after redlining to wins on Days 1 and 2, seemed to have lost some energy and fell back slightly in third place. Nearing the finish, Birtwhistle had the most left in the tank and surged to a 30 meter margin of victory over Mola and another 20 meters on Murray. Murray easily earned the 56 points (1st-1st-3rd) for the first overall $100,000 check. Birtwhistle’s finish line sprint cinched 3rd place overall (9th-2nd-1st) and a $30,000 check, falling one point short of Mola’s 49 points (4th-3rd-2nd) and the second overall check of $50,000.