Richard Murray of South Africa finally earned his first WTS victory after overcoming a 52 seconds deficit after the swim, riding safely near the front of a huge pack on the bike and secured with a race-best 30:57 run that brought him to the finish in 1:45:52 with a 9 seconds margin of victory over Mario Mola of Spain and 22 seconds over 3rd place finisher Vincent Luis of France.
“During the swim today I actually thought I should retire from triathlon,” Murray told ITU media after the race. “I was way behind the pack in the swim - it was really tough. But during the bike I started feeling better and by the run I felt pretty good.”
“I had a beginner’s mistake today,” added Mola. “I Jumped on my bike and when I hit the pedal it hit the floor so I had to get down and fix it. Luckily I had a very good swim so I was able to get in the second pack. From then, I just kept working and today the effort paid off.”
Despite the loss, Mola lengthened his already large lead in the season long WTS points standings which, if he maintains his top finishes, would give him a third straight ITU Olympic distance World Championship.
After Leeds, Mola leads with 3641 points in four events, 1438 points ahead of current runner-up Vincent Luis of France, 1642 ahead of current third place competitor Pierre Le Corre of France, and 1726 ahead of 4th place Henri Schoeman of South Africa.
Richard Varga of Slovakia led the swim in 17:11, which gave him a 3 seconds lead on Tayler Reid of Canada and Pierre Le Corre of France, 5 seconds on Vincent Luis of France and Ben Kanute of the U.S., 10 seconds on Henri Schoeman of South Africa, 11 seconds on Jonny Brownlee of Great Britain, 15 seconds on two-time WTS Champion Mario Mola of Spain, 18 to 22 seconds on Eli Hemming, Morgan Pearson and Kevin McDowell of the U.S., 27 seconds on Jacob Birtwhistle of Australia, 51 seconds on Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway, and 52 seconds on Richard Murray of South Africa.
Jonny Brownlee and Henri Schoeman took to the front of a pack of 13 men that broke away on the first lap. At the end of the first lap, Le Corre led, followed by Reid, Varga, Kanute, Luis, Jonny Brownlee, Schoeman, Coninx, Francesc Godoy Contreras, Mola, and Jonas Schomburg.
A second pack in places 13 through 43 followed 35 seconds later, including Andreas Schilling of Denmark, Birtwhistle, Blummenfelt, Mola, and Murray of South Africa.
Halfway through the bike leg, the chase pack caught on to the back of the 11-man front pack.
The leaders, including Martin Van Riel of Belgium, Le Corre, Schoeman, Luis, Brownlee, Kanute and Schomburg, were now just 3 seconds ahead of the chasers. The chasers from 12th through 37th place, from 6 seconds to 13 seconds back, included dangerous runners Blummenfelt, Mola, Murray, and Birtwhistle.
By lap 6, the front consisted of a massive clot of 30 riders riding three and four abreast – waiting for the run to decide the matter.
Murray led the field out of T2, followed closely by Blummenfelt and Mola. Brownlee, looking tired, ran out of T2 in 34th place. On the first lap, Brownlee was clutching his stomach, clearly suffering digestive problems. At the end of the first lap Brownlee dropped out.
In the first kilometer of the run, Murray charged away to a 25 meter lead over Mola, Murray’s stride looking bouncy and aggressive. After lap 1, Murray held an 11 seconds lead on a trio including Mola, Luis and Le Corre. Eight to 12 more seconds back and not out of hope were Thomas Bishop of Great Britain, Schoeman, Martin Van Riel, Aaron Royle, and Kristian Blummenfelt.
After Lap 2, Murray increased his lead to 18 seconds over Mola, Le Corre and Luis, who opened a 26 seconds gap on chasers including Van Riel, Bishop, Royle and Schoeman. Halfway through Lap 3, Mola opened a 10 meter gap on Luis while Le Corre fell 20 meters further back.
At the end of Lap 3, Mola appeared to making up ground on Murray and cut his deficit to 13 seconds while Luis trailed by 17 seconds and Le Corre followed 5 more seconds arrears.
With one kilometer to go, Mola inched closer, 8 seconds back, whereupon Murray fought back and surged. With 400 meters to go, Mola could see he was fated for the runner-up slot, and had to be consoled by his increasing lead in the WTS points chase.
Leeds, Great Britain
June 10, 2018
S 1.5 k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Richard Murray (RSA) 1:45:52
2. Mario Mola (ESP) 1:46:01
3. Vincent Luis (FRA) 1:46:14
4. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) 1:46:27
5. Marten Van Riel (BEL) 1:47:03
6. Thomas Bishop (GBR) 1:47:07
7. Joao Silva (POR) 1:47:12
8. Sam Ward (NZL) 1:47:16
9. Simon Viain (FRA) 1:47:16
9. 10. Ryan Bailie (AUS) 1:47:26
20. Eli Hemming (USA)
34. Mathew McElroy (USA) 1:52:28
DNF Ben Kanute (USA), Kevin McDowell (USA)