Making a statement that he is once again a strong early favorite for the Tokyo Olympics, Jonny Brownlee of Great Britain outran everyone, including the likes of Mario Mola and Kristian Blummenfelt, to win a hard-fought sprint distance contest by 4 seconds at the Arzachena World Cup.
Near the front of the field with an 8:32 swim in wind-whipped water, Brownlee went flying with the leaders up the big bike climb. Brownlee then sprinted to the lead starting the run and dueled with Swiss Adrien Briffod until breaking away in the final 300 meters. Brownlee finished in 54:48 with a 4 seconds margin on Briffod and 23 seconds on third place Mario Mola of Spain.
“It was complicated on the bike because of the wind, and we were a large group,” Jonny told ITU media. ”That’s not what I expected. In the run I felt really good. I know it’s easy to say that when you win, but I felt in control. I saw [Jonny’s brother, two-time Olympic gold medalist] Alistair with about 1km to go and he said ‘When you go, make sure you mean it’ - and I made sure I did.”
Marlene Gomez-Islinger of Germany timed her final surge perfectly to win her first World Cup with a women’s-best 16:59 run that brought her to the line in 1:00:51 with a 4 seconds margin over runner-up Julie Derron of Switzerland and 18 seconds over third-place finisher Verena Steinhauser of Italy.
Switzerland’s Derron led into T2 and on the run, but was caught and passed by Gomez-Islinger with a few hundred meters to go. Verena Steinhauser of Italy charged hard on the run to finish 3rd.
“I tried to run very conservatively and had enough energy towards the end to do a good sprint finish,” Gomez-Islinger told ITU media. “The girls gave me a hard time on the hill but I’m proud of myself for what I did today and I put together a perfect race.”
Mark Devay of Hungary led to the first buoy on the 750-meter swim course, followed closely by Richard Varga of Slovakia, S eth Rider of the U.S., and Gianluca Pozzatti of Italy, while Alistair Brownlee, desperately seeking Olympic qualifying points in a last-ditch effort to make the team for Tokyo, was 10 seconds back. Among there pre-race favorites, Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway – winner of two straight recent Olympic distance races – was 20 seconds back, Mario Mola of Spain was 28 seconds arrears, and Gustav Iden of Norway was at the back of the front pack ascending the steep 1.5k hill.
Jonny Brownlee attacked the hills and went to the front on the far side of the hill, attempting a break along with Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) and Emil Holm (DEN) on lap one. Leading the chasers was Alistair Brownlee and Tom Bishop of Great Britain.
By the end of the ride, Casper Stornes of Norway led into T2 with a small margin on Jonas Breinlinger of Germany, and the rest of a pack of 22 including Ben Kanute of the U.S. and Mario Mola of Spain.
Starting the run, Jonny Brownlee led the way with Blummenfelt right on his shoulder, chased by Briffod and Matthew McElroy of the U.S. Halfway through the 5k run, Briffod and the younger Brownlee pulled away. Former World Champion Mola pulled away from Serrat Seoane and McElroy into third but too far back to challenge the leading duo.
Seoane held on for fourth from McElroy, then Roberto Sanchez Mantecon taking sixth over from Blummenfelt, falling to a simply human 7th place after two race wins.
“This was a great race for me,” Briffod told ITU media. “The last time I raced in Sardinia I won the Cagliari World Cup, so I really like this place. I raced good in Yokohama and now one step forward, which is great to show my National Federation that I can podium. I tried to go for the win today but Jonny was faster. We knew that we had Mario Mola behind, so on the flat I tried to push the pace, then Jonny pushed as well but I couldn’t follow him.”
“I’m glad to be back, in good fitness and being able to push ‘til the end,” said Mola. “In the swim I didn’t know where I was for the first buoy. It was really hard the bike in the first hill, then I found the legs. With a month and a half before the Olympics it’s great to be one step closer.”
After the 750-meter swim, Vittoria Lopes of Brazil, Zsannett Bragmayer of Hungary, and Helena Carvalho of Portugal led to the first buoy, then Lotte Miller of Norway, and Lena Meissner of Germany followed closely at the finish. Gomez-Islinger, Therese Feursinger of Austria, and Lizeth Santos of Mexico were 20 seconds back.
Steinhauser, Carvalho and Audrey Merle of France led at the first trip up hill, but were quickly caught and swallowed up in a 12-women pack. By the bell, Steinhauser, Barbara Riveros of Chile, and Derron, Lopes and World Cup rookie Emma Lombardi of France Emerging from T2 to the run, Derron led, followed by Bragmayer, Merle. On the first lap, Gomez-Islinger began her run 10 seconds back. At the 4km mark, Gomez-Islinger began her push and passed Derron as the grandstand came into view.
After a race-best 16:59 run, Gomez-Islinger finished in 1:00:51 with a 4 seconds margin on Derron and 18 seconds on Steinhauser. Audrey Merle hung on for 4th, Bragmayer took 5th and Emma Lombardi of France took 6th on her World Cup debut.
“I had a quick transition, went for it and never looked back,” Derron told ITU media. “I knew the girls from behind were coming strong so I just kept pushing. It will be a dream of mine I hope today is a big step for being selected for Tokyo.”
“This race is always hard, even harder than last year,” Steinhauser told ITU media. “There was a little bit of wind on the bike and the girls were so good. I kept pushing and pushing on the hill. I had some difficulties in T2 and lost some time, but I am so happy. To perform so well in Arzachena gives me confidence for Leeds next week.”
Arzachena World Cup
Cannigione Arzachena, Italy,
May 29, 2021
S 750m / B 20k / R 5k
1. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) S 8:32 T1 00:43 B 30:23 T2 00:21 R 14:49 TOT 54:48
2. Adrien Briffod (SUI) S 8:43 T1 00:45 B 30:12 T2 00:21 R 14:51 TOT 54:52
3. Mario Mola (ESP) S 8:55 T1 00:43 B 30:02 T2 00:24 R 14:56 TOT 54:59
4. Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) S 8:48 T1 00:47 B 340:06 T2 00:24 R 15:06 TOT 55:08
5. Matthew McElroy (USA) S 8:52 T1 00:47 B 29:59 T2 00:23 R 15:11 TOT 55:11
6. Roberto Sanchez Mantecon (ESP) S 8:58 T1 0:45 B 29:54 T2 00:22 R 15:21 TOT 55:19
7. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) S 8:48 T1 00:44 B 30:07 T2 00:22 R 15:25 TOT 55:25
8. Arthur Berland (FRA) S 8:52 T1 00:44 B 30:00 T2 00:21 R 15:31 TOT 55:28
9. Florin Salvisberg (SUI) S 8:46 T1 00:48 B 30:06 T2 00:23 R 15:29 TOT 55:30
10. Gabriel Sandör (SWE) S 9:00 T1 00:50 B 29:49 T2 00:24 R 15:30 TOT 55:31
21. Kevin McDowell (USA) S 8:45 T1 00:45 B 00:45 B 30:07 T2 00:26 R 16:03 TOT 56:05
25. Seth Rider (USA) S8:32 T1 00:46 B 30:20 T2 00:21 R 16:03 TOT 546:36
35. Ben Kanute (USA) S 8:47 T1 00:48 B 30:05 T2 00:25 R 17:38 TOT 57:43
47. Darr Smith (USA) S 8:43 T1 00:50 B 33:41 T2 00:28 R 16:43 TOT 1:00:23
1. Marlene Gomez-Islinger (GER) S 9:20 T1 00:48 B 33:19 T2 00:26 R 16:59 TOT 1:00:51
2. Julie Derron (SUI) S 9:41 T1 00:46 B 32:58 T2 00:21 R 17:09 TOT 1:00:55
3. Verena Steinhauser (ITA) S 9:13 T1 00:50 B 33:23 T2 00:24 R 17:21 TOT 1:01:09
4. Audrey Merle (FRA) S 9:11 T1 00:49 B 33:27 T2 00:25 R 17:27 TOT 1:01:17
5. Zsanett Bragmayer (HUN) S 9:04 T1 00:48 B 33:35 T2 00:24 R 17:33 TOT 1:01:22
6. Emma Lombardi (FRA) S 9:05 T1 00:49 B 33:34 T2 00:26 R 17:38 TOT 1:01:30
7. Barbara Riveros (CHL) S 9:28 T1 00:49 B 33:10 T2 00:25 R 18:01 TOT 1:01:52
8. Lisa Tertsch (GER) S 9:44 T1 00:56 B 33:41 T2 00:28 R 17:25 TOT 1:02:13
9. Carlotta Missaglia (ITA) S 9:26 T1 00:48 B 34:09 T2 00:22 R 17:40 TOT 1:02:22
10. Alberte Kjaer Pedersen (DEN) S 9:19 T1 00:44 B 34:36 T2 00:26 R 17:22 TOT 1:02:26
DNF Alistair Brownlee (GBR)