Two-time defending WTS World Champion Mario Mola of Spain took off like a rocket on the run, creating a 41 seconds margin over runner-up Jacob Birtwhistle of Australia while finishing in a swift 1:44:59 on a fast, flat course at Yokohama.
Mola set the stage with a strong-for-Mola 15th-best swim that left him just 10 seconds back of swim leader Richard Varga.
Mola thus easily slipped into the front third of a 44-man bike pack so he could cruise into T2 having expended little energy with a 7th place bike leg finish just 2 seconds back of bike leader Jonas Schomburg of Germany. Free of the usual traffic jam entanglements, Mola jetted immediately to the front of the run, creating a 60 meter lead in the first 500 meters and a 100 meter lead on fellow Spaniard Fernando Alarza at the end of the first 2.5 kilometer lap of the run.
Mola calmly and smoothly increased his lead to 24 seconds on Alarza after lap 2, 37 seconds on Alarza after lap 3, and won by 41 seconds, closing with a race-best 29:52 run split for an overall time of 1:44:59. On the final lap, Jacob Birtwhistle of Australia hit the afterburners to pass for the silver, wiping out a 4 seconds deficit to Alarza, and finish with an 11 seconds advantage on the bronze medalist.
“I was pretty spent,” Birtwhistle told ITU media. “This was my first Olympic distance race since November. I didn’t really know what to expect since I have been training solo the last couple months. It’s great to be back on a start list again and to finish it up. I have started to become an expert at the sprint finish at the end.”
Thanks to his 2nd place finish at WTS Abu Dhabi, his 4th place finish at WTS Bermuda, and 1,000-point win at Yokohama, Mola has accumulated 2,716 points which gives him an 896 point lead over Alarza and 1,059 point lead on 3rd place Birtwhistle in the season-long points chase.
This was Mola’s 12th WTS career win and his third straight victory at Yokohama.
“I am really happy,” Mola told ITU Media. “Obviously, it hasn’t been the easiest three weeks. Seeing (Mola’s girlfriend) Carol (Routier) fighting after the accident, it was unbelievable. Everyone around me was making me feel very strong in order to be close to her, so this obviously goes to Carol,” said Mola speaking of his girlfriend who was involved in bike accident after being hit by a car.
Henri Schoeman of South Africa, who stood second in the WTS points before the race, did not finish and fell to 4th in the standings.
Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway, last year’s WTS World Championship second place finisher, was leading several laps on the bike before he crashed into a barrier on a crowded S-turn and DNF’d, falling from 7th to 15th in the point standings. With the Bermuda winner Casper Stornes of Norway not starting and fellow Norwegian Gustav Iden suffering a DNF, the Norwegian elation after their 1-2-3 sweep at Bermuda fell back to earth.
May 12, 2018
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
Elite Men Results
1. Mario Mola (ESP) 1:44:59
2. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) 1:45:40
3. Fernando Alarza (ESP) 1:45:51
4. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) 1:46:10
5. Bence Bicsák (HUN) 1:46:11
6. Rostislav Pevtsov (AZE) 1:46:13
7. Ryan Bailie (AUS) 1:46:15
8. Sam Ward (NZL) 1:46:18
9. Luke Willian (AUS) 1:46:22
10. Vincent Luis (FRA) 1:46:23
14. Morgan Pearson (USA) 1:46:44
17. Matthew McElroy (USA) 1:46:57
44. Kevin McDowell (USA) 1:50:49
DNF Eli Hemming (USA)