At the 13th elite ITU Olympic distance race in Mooloolaba, Emma Jackson won her third career ITU World Cup title and her first in four years while Luke Willian stood atop the podium in just his second Olympic distance World Cup.
Jackson, a 2012 Olympian who is eager to make up for missing the 2016 Olympics, finished in 1:56:36 with a 16 seconds margin of victory over 2016 Australian Olympian Ashleigh Gentle and 1:42 over 3rd place Claudia Rivas of Mexico.
Willian, an up and coming competitor at age 20, stayed with the men’s front pack on the swim and bike before surging away on the final lap of the run to finish in 1:43:48 with an 8 seconds margin of victory over fellow Aussie Drew Box and 10 seconds over 3rd place Sam Ward of New Zealand.
Despite the home country advantage, this was the first time one nation took both Mooloolaba titles since Australia’s Emma Snowsill and Brad Kahlefeldt won in 2007.
Jackson overcame a fall running into the surf to emerge one second behind swim leader and fellow Australian Emma Jeffcoat’s 14:37 split. Crucially, that afforded Jackson a 23 seconds gap on top contender Ashleigh Gentle.
After the swim, Jeffcoat and Jackson combined with Natalie Van Coevorden of Australia, Carolina Routier of Spain, Rivas, and Natalie van der Kaay of New Zealand to break away to a 25 seconds lead on the first lap of the bike leg. At the end of the second lap, the leaders surged to a 35 seconds lead on the chasers led by Gentle. By the end of the 40km cycling leg, done in close to 1 hour and four minutes flat, the leaders hit T2 with a 1 minute lead on Gentle.
On the run, Jeffcoat and Jackson sped away from the rest of the bike front pack. Just before the 5k mark Jackson raced away from Jeffcoat and never looked back on her way to a 2nd-fastest 36:24 split. Gentle pushed hard to make up for her swim-bike deficit, but her race-best 35:44 10k run left her in the runner-up slot, 16 seconds behind Jackson. On the strength of her women’s 4th-best 38:03 run, Rivas ran past Jeffcoat to take the final spot on the podium, 1:42 behind the winner.
“I actually fell over running into the surf for the swim but I was fortunate enough to pick myself up and came out in the top two, so that was a good swim for me,” Jackson told ITU media. “We had a good group of girls who worked together on the bike and we had a gap back to Ashleigh which I was able to hold onto towards the end.”
Jackson thus became the fifth Australian woman to win the Mooloolaba World Cup, coming after Erin Densham, Emma Snowsill, Loretta Harrop and Annabel Luxford.
“I went to a few different places mentally throughout that two hours to be honest,” Gentle told ITU media. “I guess I built that run physically and mentally. I felt better as the run went on. Early stages I didn’t even think I would be on the podium so I am really happy with second.”
Matthew Roberts of Australia posted the men’s fastest swim split of 13:36 to lead a 15-man pack that emerged from the water in under 14 minutes.
A lead group of 11 that included Willian and Drew Box of Australia, Tommy Zaferes and Kevin McDowell of the U.S., Michael Lori of Canada, Sam Ward of New Zealand and Jumpei Furuya of Japan worked hard on the bike leg to move away from a chase pack led by Crisanto Grajales of Mexico. By the end of 40 kilometers of efficiently cooperative drafting, the leaders carved out a 1:40 lead on dangerous runner Grajales and the rest of the chasers.
On the run, Lori, Box, Ward, Willian and McDowell broke away. With one lap left, Lori dropped back and Willian surged away on the final hill to finish with a 2nd-best 32:00 run split and earn the first victory at Mooloolaba for an Australian man since Brad Kahlefeldt in 2011.
Willian was happy with the win, which also qualified him for a slot at the Gold Coast World Triathlon Series event next month – a selection race for the Australian team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held on the Gold Coast. “That’s been the goal for me getting to that race, and I’ve just done that,” Willian told ITU media.
Drew Box dueled even with Willian before falling back in the last kilometer to take 2nd, 8 seconds back of the winner.
“Mixed emotions actually,” Box told ITU media. “I stayed up there as long as I could. It came down to maybe the last kilometer [when] Luke got in front of me. Luke is a good mate of mine so for him to win I couldn’t be happier, and it’s another podium for me.”
Ward took his first World Cup medal, 2 second back of Box for 3rd place, and Kevin McDowell of the U.S. took 4th, 21 seconds back of Ward.
“I gave it everything I had, but I just couldn’t get that win,” said Ward. “I was stoked about getting in that front group.”
Grajales made a furious effort, closing with a race-best 31:15 run split, but that brought him no better than 5th, 43 seconds back of the winner.
Mooloolaba World Cup
March 11, 2017
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Emma Jackson (AUS) 1:56:36 - $7,500
2. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 1:56:52 - $6,000
3. Claudia Rivas (MEX) 1:58:18 - $4,500
4. Emma Jeffcoat (AUS) 1:58:39 - $3,000
5. Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL) 1:59:16 - $2,100
6. Carolina Routier (ESP) 1:59:17 - $1,800
7. Zsofía Kovács (HUN) 1:59:38 - $1,500
8. Jaz Hedgeland (AUS) 2:00:09 - $900
9. Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS) 2:00:42 - $675
10. Tamsyn Moana-Veale (AUS) 2:01:11 - $525
1. Luke Willian (AUS) 1:42:48 - $7,500
2. Drew Box (AUS) 1:43:56 - $6,000
3. Sam Ward (NZL) 1:43:58 - $4,500
4. Kevin McDowell (USA) 1:44:19 - $3,000
5. Crisanto Grajales (MEX) 1:44:31 - $2,100
6. Michael Lori (CAN) 1:45:05 - $1,800
7. Jumpei Furuya (JPN) 1:45:15 - $1,500
8. Declan Wilson (AUS) 1:45:50 - $900
9. Caleb Noble (AUS) 1:45:56 - $675
10. Tommy Zaferes (USA) 1:46:01- $525