Ashleigh Gentle of Australia outsprinted Vicky Holland of Great Britain at the WTS Grand Final race, while Holland outdueled Katie Zaferes of the U.S. for the World Championship gold which goes to the winner of the WTS season-long points chase.
Gentle crossed the line in 1:52:00 which gave her a 2 seconds margin for a home country victory over Holland at the Grand Final race.
After looking over her shoulder four times in the final chute, Gentle grabbed the banner and Holland did likewise, knowing she had won the duel with Zaferes to win her first ever world crown.
“It is without doubt the best performance of my career and I still can’t believe I actually outsprinted Vicky Holland, it is something I will remember for a long time,” said Gentle.
With the 2018 WTS World Championship on the line, Holland and Zaferes battled evenly until the British star surged away from her U.S. rival near the end of the run.
At the finish, Zaferes took third place, 31 seconds behind Holland on the day. As both women entered the season finale so close in points, the WTS title would be settled in what amounted to a match race.
“I can’t actually believe it,” Holland told ITU media. “I thought at one point of the run that it was done because there was quite a big gap there. I can’t believe I brought it back in. This season as a whole has been absolutely incredible with three wins, two seconds and now the world title. It is so much more than I thought I would get out of the year!”
“I gave it my all and I tried new things and I took a risk that didn’t pay off in the end, but I am proud of myself for trying it and really going for the win,” Zaferes told ITU media. “I am never surprised - the thing about Vicky is that she is a fighter to the end and I was just trying to fight as well. For a while I felt really good, then not so good, but I tried to keep fighting right to the end and keep coming back till I finished but I couldn’t do it. I took another step in the right direction, so there is always next year.”
In the rough waters off Mitchell Park, Holland and British teammate Jessica Learmonth led the swim in 19:27 with Zaferes and U.S. teammate Kirsten Kasper just one second behind.
Leaving T1, four Britons, three Americans and Lotte Miller of Norway formed a breakaway lead pack. Making a battle of nations, Taylor Spivey and Kasper worked with Zaferes while Sophie Coldwell and Jodie Stimpson worked with Holland and Learmonth to extend their lead. By the end of the third lap of eight, the septet had a 20 seconds lead on a chase pack of nine led by Gentle, Emma Jeffcoat and Joanna Brown of Canada.
When the chasers caught up, a clogged pack of 28 entered T2 together.
After a slick transition, Holland led the field onto the run, but she was soon joined by Gentle and Zaferes and the trio quickly left the rest of the field behind.
Halfway through the run, Gentle and Zaferes put in a surge that left Holland trailing by seconds. But at the 7 kilometer mark, Holland stepped on the gas, rejoined the leaders and she and Gentle left Zaferes in their wake.
When Zaferes fell further behind, Holland knew the World Championship was hers and all that was left was a duel with Gentle for the Grand Final gold.
At the finish, Gentle had a thimbleful more energy. After a race-best 33:44 10k run, Gentle crossed the line in 1:52:00, two seconds ahead of Holland, who ran a second-best 33:51 split.
Zaferes closed with a 34:16 run split to take third place on the day and second in the WTS World Championship chase, 33 seconds behind Gentle and 31 seconds behind Holland.
Holland elaborated on her strategy in the tense battle for the World Championship.
“Sandwiched between Katie and Jess [Learmonth] is a really great place to be on the swim,” Holland told ITU media. “It was choppy out there and you really couldn’t see the buoys or where you were going so for me it was a case of just follow those two and hope that I came out in the right place. A race like this a war of attrition with the wind, so I just decided back it off and pace my own run. Half way through lap three I was back on again and I knew that they might suffer and fortunately they did. Katie has only been off the podium once this year and she is so strong across the board, swim, bike, run. It is really hard to beat someone who doesn’t have a weakness. I feel for her coming so close and being the leader the most of the way through the year but I really wanted it and I am so delighted that I won it in the end.”
WTS Grand Final
Gold Coast, Australia
September 15, 2018
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 1:52:00 S 19:56 T1 00:41 B 57:16 T2 00:26 R 33:44
2. Vicky Holland (GBR) 1:52:02 S 19:27 T1 00:44 B 57:41 T2 00:21 R 33:51
3. Katie Zaferes (USA) 1:52:33 S 19:28 T1 00:41 B 57:42 T2 00:27 R 34:16
4. Laura Lindemann (GER) 1:52:33 S 19:50 T1 00:42 B 57:23 T2 00:27 R 34:33
5. Kirsten Kasper (USA) 1:53:15 S 19:28 T1 00:42 B 57:43 T2 00;24 R 35:00
6. Melanie Santos (POR) 1:53:26 S 19:55 T1 00:42 B 57:19 T2 00:26 R 35:06
7. Taylor Spivey (USA) 1:53:28 S 19:35 T1 00:431 B 57:38 T2 00:26 R 35:10
8. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) 1:53:31 S 19:43 T1 00:42 B 57:28 T2 00:25 R 35:16
9. Leonie Periault (FRA) 1:53:33 S 19:54 T1 00:41 B 57:19 T2 00:25 R 35:16
10. Jodie Stimpson (GBR) 1:53:41 S 19:39 T1b 00:40 B 57:34 T2 00:23 R 35:26
13. Chelsea Burns (USA) 1:54:06
41. Summer Cook (USA) 1:59:32