After two straight ITU Junior World Championship golds, rising U.S. star Taylor Knibb didn't lose a step as she aged up and won the ITU Under 23 Women’s World Championship held at Australia's Gold Coast.
Knibb, who entered the spotlight at age 19 when she finished second to Flora Duffy at the 2017 edition of WTS Edmonton, rose to the occasion once again. On Thursday Knibb blew away the field with a sizzling 57:21 bike split that gave her a 2:48 lead on young recent French sensation Cassandre Beaugrand, who exploded on the scene this summer at age 21 with an upset win at WTS Hamburg.
While Beaugrand cut into Knibb’s lead with a race-best 35:03 10k run, Knibb’s third-best 36:13 effort brought her to the line in 1:53:47 with a 1:35 margin of victory over the Frenchwoman and 2:52 over 3rd-place finisher Anjelica Olmo of Italy.
“I still can’t really believe it,” Knibb told ITU media. “I rode well, I think, I just tried to be smart. My coach [Neal Henderson, Flora Duffy’s former coach] had a very detailed plan going into the wind but then to maintain speed coming back. This is very much a lot of people’s work. It has been a long season but I am happy to end it on a high.”
Knibb, who began the season fighting minor injuries, started to gradual find her way with a 19th at the Antwerp World Cup, then a 16th at WTS Edmonton. A few weeks ago, she broke into the lead briefly on the bike before fading to 9th at the finish at WTS Edmonton.
Finally, Knibb validated her shining promise, putting together her best swim, bike and run package of the year.
Beaugrand, who earned the number one with her excellent season, emerged from the swim one second behind swim leader Sophie Alden of Great Britain and three seconds ahead of Knibb. While Beaugrand led the field out if T1, Knibb and U.S. teammate Tamara Gorman and Jaz Hedgeland of Australia tucked in close behind starting the ride.
Quickly, Knibb turned on the afterburners and opened a 25 seconds lead after the first lap. By the end of her 57:21 ride - 2:26 better than the next-best effort by Anjelica Olmo of Italy and 2:53 better than Beaugrand - Knibb had a seemingly unassailable lead.
On the first of four laps of the 10k run, Knibb looked vulnerable as Beaugrand chopped 44 seconds off the U.S. competitor’s advantage. But on lap two, seemingly tapped out after her redline effort, Beaugrand could only cut 6 seconds. Running an even paced effort, Knibb crossed the line with 95 seconds on Beaugrand.
“Coming off the bike I didn’t know how the legs would feel but I guess it is not how they feel it is what they let you do,” Knibb told ITU media. “I just focused on my arm carriage and that really helped me get through the run. On the bike you can’t really play on a planned tactic, it was about seeing how it goes. Getting away so early because I had a good swim, it was a dream scenario.”
ITU Under 23 World Championship
Gold Coast, Australia
September 13, 2018
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
Under 23 Results
1. Taylor Knibb (USA) 1:53:47 S 19:06 T1 00:43 B 57:21 T2 00:27 R 36:13
2. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) 1:55:22 S 19:03 T1 00:41 B 1:00:14 T2 00:22 R 35:03
3. Anjelica Olmo (ITA) 1:56:39 S 19:30 T1 00:40 B 59:47 Y2 00:24 R 36:19
4. Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL) 1:57:02 S 19:13 T1 00:39 B 1:00:05 T2 00:25 R 36:41
5. Erica Ackerlund (USA) 1:57:18 S 19:09 T1 00:41 B 1:00:08 T2 00:27 R 36:55
18. Tamara Gorman (USA) 2:00:12 S 19:06 T1 00:43 B 1:00:10 Y2 00:32 R 39:43