The World Triathlon Olympic Distance World Championship Grand Final was supposed to be a two-man duel between two super runners - Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway and Alex Yee of Great Britain. But after Yee lost his way with below-par swim and bike splits, the sprint to the line turned into a traffic jam between well knowns and unknowns that might have benefited from a photo-finish camera to sort them all out.
Entering the realm of the stars were strangers to big race headlines such as Seth Rider of the U.S., Adrien Briffod of Switzerland, Takumi Hojo of Japan - all looking great in the mix with the likes of Blummenfelt, Marten Van Riel of Belgium, rising French stars like Leo Bergere and Dorian Coninx, and a little bit out of his old starring roles, Vincent Luis of France.
Woefully off form and apparently out of contention was co-favorite Alex Yee of Great Britain. Lagging 52 seconds behind in 25th place out of the swim, Yee yielded even more time on the bike leg – 1:31 behind the leaders in 22nd place. On the final lap, running all alone like a man out for a workout (only blazingly fast), Yee was running like a man possessed with nowhere to go.
When he finally crossed the line, Yee came within one second of two-time defending World Champion Vincent Luis of France. Only Yee and Luis were fighting for 10th place, with Luis taking the honor. It was a massive effort as Yee had made up 51 seconds on that final stretch and posted a by-far race-best 30:04 closing run – 41 seconds better than the third-best effort by race-winner Blummenfelt.
With a lap to go, Adrien Briffod of Switzerland led a pack of eight men squished together within 3 seconds – Marten Van Riel, Blummenfelt, Bergere, Takumi Hojo, Antonio Serrat Seoane, Seth Rider and Tayler Reid of New Zealand. as well as Frenchmen Vincent Luis in 9th and Dorian Coninx in 10th, a few meters behind.
Soon the pack of 10 was thinned out to six, including Blummenfelt, Van Riel, Briffod, Bergere, Rider and Hayden Wilde. With just a few hundred meters left, the Norwegian tapped the very last drops of energy fueling his powerful body, as Van Riel and Bergere, the only survivors with enough thimblefuls of energy to fight back.
At the last gasp, Blummenfelt reached the line in 1:44:14. Van Riel was timed in the very same tick of the clock, but fell an eyeblink back in second place. Bergere was next, 2 seconds back in third place. Rider of the United States took 4th, 10 seconds back. Briffod, who led the pack for much of the last lap, took 5th, one second behind Rider.
A world behind the two-time defending champion took 10th, one second ahead of the fleet footed but tardy Mr. Yee.
Just hours after Flora Duffy became the first triathlete and first woman to win Olympic gold and the World Championship in the same year, Kristian Blummenfelt followed in her footsteps and became the second triathlete and first man to earn Olympic gold and win the World Triathlon World Championship in the same year.
2021 World Triathlon Olympic Distance World Championship Grand Final
21 August, 2021
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) S 18:36 T1 00:54 B 53:37 T2 00:23 R 30:45 TOT 1:44:14
2. Marten Van Riel (BEL) S 18:07 T1 00:54 B 53:58 T2 00:23 R 30:53 TOT 1:44:.14
3. Leo Bergere (FRA) S 18:39 T1 00:52 B 53:38 T2 00:25 R 30:44 TOT 1:44:15
4. Seth Rider (USA) S 18:30 T1 00:54 B 53:44 T2 0:22 R 30:55 TOT 1:44:23
5. Adrien Briffod (SUI) S 18:39 T1 00:52 B 53:37 T2 00:21 R 30:57 TOT 1:44:24
6. Dorian Coninx (FRA) S 18:22 T1 00:52 B 53:55 T2 00:22 R 30:56 TOT 1:44:26
7. Tayler Reid (NZL) S 18:20 T1 00:51 B 53L57 T2 00:21 R 30:59 TOT 1:44:26
8. Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) S 18:43 T1 00:50 B 53:36 T2 00:21 R 31:06 TOT 1:44:35
9. Takumi Hojo (JPN) S 18:24 T1 1:06 Y2 B 53:38 T2 00:21 R 31:14 TOT 1:44:41
10. Vincent Luis (FRA) S 18:01 T1 00:55 B 54:04 B Y2 00:25 R 31:29 TOT 1:44:52
World Triathlon 2021 Olympic Distance World Championship Season Rankings
1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 3927
2. Marten Van Riel (BEL) 35:94
3. Alex Yee (GBR) 3289
4. Leo Bergere (FRA) 3131
5. Hayden Wilde (NZL) 2719
6. Vincent Luis (FRA) 2614
7. Dorian Coninx (FRA) 2525
8. Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) 2371
9. Seth Rider (USA) 1812
10. Morgan Pearson (USA) 1781