Even Mario Mola is not perfect, as he proved by two second place finishes at Abu Dhabi and Leeds this season on the WTS circuit. But the 2016 and 2017 WTS World Champion painted a near perfect race Sunday in Montreal as he roared back from a 1:03 deficit after the bike leg with a sizzling 29:52 10k run on a tough, hilly course to pass five men and finish in 1:47:46 with a 15 seconds margin of victory over runner-up Kristian Blummenfelt.
Illustrating his superiority, Mola’s run was 39 seconds better than the next best effort by 3rd place finisher Jacob Birtwhistle of Australia, who came from behind to edge Richard Murray by 8 seconds for the final spot on the podium. Mola’s run was also 1:13 better than runner-up Blummenfelt, whom he passed with 1100 meters to go.
The victory placed Mola almost out of reach of his nearest pursuer in the WTS points chase which rewards the season long winner with an $83,500 bonus and the priceless satisfaction of a third straight World Title. After WTS wins at Yokohama, Hamburg, Edmonton and Montreal and second places at Abu Dhabi and Leeds, Mola has accumulated 4925 points, 824 points better than Jacob Birtwhistle, whose runner-up status in the WTS chase comes after a 5th at Abu Dhabi, 2nd at Yokohama, 5th at Hamburg, 3rd at Edmonton and 3rd at Montreal.
With the WTS Grand Final in 19 days’ time, Birtwhistle would have to take the 1200 points awarded to the winner of that race and Mola would have to have a catastrophic DNF or finish well out of the top 10 to lose his lock on a 3rd straight WTS World Championship.
Henri Schoeman of South Africa led the swim with a 17:10 split that was 4 seconds better than Seth Rider of the U.S., 15 seconds quicker than the 9th best effort of Blummenfelt, 20 seconds better than the 17th best split of Mola, 27 seconds faster than the 27th–best swim of Birtwhistle and 34 seconds better than Richard Murray of South Africa.
For a long time on the ride, the field was crammed into a 40-competitor lead pack. But at lap 8 of 9, Casper Stornes and Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway, Charles Paquet of Canada and Andreas Schilling of Denmark broke away and took a lead of 1:02 on a chase group including Birtwhistle, Mola, Tyler Mislawchuk of Canada, and 1:06 over 13th place Murray.
Starting the run, Blummenfelt tore away to a big lead on Schilling and Stornes while Paquet fell off the back. Serious runners Mola, Murray and Birtwhistle left all other chasers behind and worked together to whittle Blummenfelt’s lead from 1:03 to 40 seconds at the end of the first lap. Mola, light and lithe, was the best equipped to speed over the steep, 60-meter hill to be climbed four times. On the 4.3 kilometer mark of Lap 2, Mola made an effortless pass on Stornes and cut his deficit to the Blummenfelt to 29 seconds.
At 6.7 kilometers of the run, Mola was running 2nd, 15 seconds down. At the bell signifying the start of the final 2.5 kilometer lap, Mola loomed 9 seconds behind Blummenfelt, with Murray 31 seconds down in 3rd place, Schilling 43 seconds down in 4th and Birtwhistle 46 seconds behind in 5th.
Birtwhistle started the last lap with a pass on Schilling then went to work on Murray. With 1100 meters to go, Mola motored past the never-say-die Blummenfelt, who was giving his all to breakthrough after four WTS runner-up finishes. But by then Mola had his foot flat out on the accelerator and was not to be challenged.
While Blummenfelt held on grimly to the runner-up position, Birtwhistle was flying and zoomed past Murray with a few hundred meters to go.
After a 29:52 run, made more impressive because it came after a challenging bike leg and a run with four serious climbs, Mola broke the tape in 1:47:46 with a 15 seconds margin on Blummenfelt and 42 seconds on Birtwhistle who edged Murray by 8 seconds.
August 26, 2018
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Mario Mola (ESP) 1:47:46
2. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 1:48:01
3. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) 1:48:28
4. Richard Murray (RSA) 1:48:36
5. Andreas Schilling (DEN) 1:48:57
6. Henri Schoeman (RSA) 1:49:10
7. Joao Pereira (POR) 1:49:25
8. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) 1:49:26
9. Bence Bicsák (HUN) 1:49:28
10. Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) 1:49:31
2018 WTS Rankings
1. Mario Mola (ESP) 4925
2. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) 4101
3. Vincent Luis (FRA) 3810
4. Richard Murray (RSA) 3722
5. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 3021
6. Fernando Alarza (ESP) 2947
7. Henri Schoeman (RSA) 2592
8. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) 2574
9. Andreas Schilling (DEN) 2378
10. Marten Van Riel (BEL) 2290