After 21-year-old Cassandre Beaugrand won the WTS women's gold in an upset and Vincent Luis won the men’s silver the day before at WTS Hamburg, French Triathlon came into the ITU Team Mixed Relay World Championship Sunday on a high. After a stellar performance that put France across the line in 1:20:06 and left runner-up Australia 43 seconds arrears and the 3rd place United States team 2 more seconds behind, you could argue that French triathlon has never been on greater heights. Certainly this was triathlon's contribution to a fantastic weekend for French pride as Saturday was Bastille Day and on Sunday the French team won the 2018 World Cup final for the first time since 1998.
When Beaugrand handed off to Luis for the final leg of 300 meter swim, 7 kilometers bike course and 1.7 km run, the French team held a slender lead on the U.S. team’s Kevin McDowell, 10 seconds on Great Britain’s Thomas Bishop, a few more yards on Japan’s Makoto Odakura, and 30 seconds on Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle.
After a great swim, McDowell left transition alongside Luis. Whereupon the Frenchman Luis jetted away on the bike section. Carrying on the momentum created by Aussie Ashleigh Gentle’s Leg 3 surge, Birtwhistle charged past Japan and eventually caught Great Britain’s Bishop with 2km to go on the 7km bike section.
Starting the run, Luis had a formidable 30 seconds lead on McDowell and 30 more seconds on Birtwhistle. Half a minute back of the U.S. team with 1.6 kilometers to go, Birtwhistle put his head down and accelerated like a Top Fuel dragster, catching McDowell in the final chute and winning the silver by a 2 seconds margin.
The win was France’s second at the Mixed Relay Worlds after a victory in 2015. No one was more excited than Beaugrand who broke into triathlon’s center stage with a double splash this weekend.
“I can’t believe it,” said Beaugrand, “leaving Hamburg with two gold medals is incredible.”
Vincent Luis put his world class foot speed to good effect this weekend.
“We came here with the A team and everything worked out perfectly,” Luis told ITU media. “When everything works, you just gotta be happy. The atmosphere here was also great. We are all really looking forward to race the Mixed Relay in the  Olympics, we never had a triathlon Olympic medal in France and now we have more chances.”
The Australians, who won this Championship last year, were proud of Birtwhistle’s come-from-behind rush to silver. “We learned after Nottingham [the Leeds Mixed Relay contest last month won by the U.S. team and where Australia finished 4th] that it’s not over ‘til it’s over and here it was true once again,” said Australia’s Aaron Royle. “We decided that we needed to get going after a slow start] , we made it and made it to the podium”.
Australia’s third leg performer Ashleigh Gentle said she was disappointed when her coach pulled her out of the WTS Hamburg race Saturday. “It was really hard yesterday when my coach made me pull out of the individual race,” added Ashleigh Gentle, “but it was for the benefit of the team and I think now it was worth it. We worked together really well as Team Australia and that paid off”.
“It was super tough,” U.S. WTS World championship points leader Katie Zaferes told ITU media. “Everyone had super-competitive teams, and no one knew what was gonna happen until the very end.”
“I really like this event, and racing for a team, and here everybody races at another level of competition,” added Ben Kanute of the U.S., who was on the U.S. team that won the ITU Mixed Relay World Championship in 2016. “Here we had teams up front that nobody expected, and this is great, it makes it a really exciting race.”
The International Olympic Committee announced in June that Mixed Relay Team Triathlon would be contested in the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
ITU Mixed Relay Team World Championship
July 25, 2018
4 times S 300m / B 7km / R 1.6k
1. France 1:20:06 (Leonie Perault, Dorian Coninx, Cassandre Beaugrand, Vincent Luis)
2. Australia 1:20:49 (Natalie Van Coevorden, Aaron Royle, Ashleigh Gentle, Jacob Birtwhistle)
3. United States 1:20:51(Kirsten Kasper, Ben Kanute, Katie Zaferes, Kevin McDowell)
4. Great Britain 1:21:09 (Vicky Holland, Jonny Brownlee, Jodie Stimpson, Tom Bishop)
5. Netherlands 1:21:24 (Rachel Klamer, Marco Van Der Stel, Maya Kingma, Jorik Van Egdom)