After losing the 2018 WTS World Championship women’s points chase to Vicky Holland in the final race by one place and 25 seconds, Katie Zaferes of the U.S. started the 2019 season with a bang.
Arriving at the front of a closely packed lead group at T2, Zaferes rocketed away from the start of the 5 kilometer final leg and capped her victory with a race-best 16:09 run to finish in 55:31 with a 26 seconds margin of victory over fellow American Taylor Spivey and 35 seconds over 3rd place finisher Jessica Learmonth of Great Britain.
Topping off the 1-2-4 domination by the U.S. women, Taylor Knibb missed the podium by 3 seconds but took 4th place, 28 seconds ahead of 5th place Non Stanford of Great Britain.
Zaferes showed she was on form to start this season strong with her big money win at the Super League 2018-2019 season championship last month.
“I’m so excited,” Zaferes told ITU media. “This is a brilliant start to the year and I just want to keep getting better. Last year, losing by so little, has really driven me on for this campaign.”
“That race couldn’t have gone better for me,” said Spivey, who closed with a 16:33 run. “When I knew we could get a breakaway [on the run] and make it stick - it was hard to tell how it was panning out on the first two laps. Then we slowly saw the gap increasing which was really reassuring. The US women are so strong right now, qualifying for Tokyo will be tough. But this is a great way to start the qualification process.”
“Taylor kept pushing and I was just hanging on,” said Learmonth. “I knew she was a young buck so I just wanted to press on before getting into a sprint with her. We were working hard on the bike and finally we had a breakaway that worked well.”
Zaferes took the measure of three women who have played top roles last season and at the start of 2019. Cassandre Beaugrand of France, who topped Zaferes in a sprint finish at the Super League final race last month, finished 7th at Abu Dhabi. Vicky Holland, the 2018 WTS World Champion, finished 8th, and Ashleigh Gentle of Australia, who won the WTS Grand Final race last year, finished 10th.
Learmonth led the 750-meter swim with a 9:06 split that gave her a 2 seconds margin on Zaferes and U.S. teammate Summer Rappaport, and 3 seconds on Spivey. Five seconds back were Emma Jeffcoat of Australia and Carolina Routier of Spain with Lotte Miller of Norway 7th with a six seconds deficit. Knibb exited the water in 12th position, 9 seconds back. Great Britain’s Holland was 24th, 17 seconds back.
By the end of the 20 kilometer bike leg, Knibb, Miller, Maya Kingma of Netherlands, Emma Jeffcoat of Australia, Learmonth, Spivey and Zaferes opened a one minute gap on the chasers who included Laura Lindemann of Germany, Holland, India Lee of Great Britain, and Stanford.
Halfway through the run, Zaferes and Spivey edged away from the rest while Learmonth and Knibb were engaged in a battle for the final spot on the podium. At the finish, Learmonth edged Knibb, while Stanford, on the wings of a 2nd-fastest 16:11 run, took 5th place.
WTS Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, UAE
March 8, 2019
S 750m / B 20k / R 5k
1. Katie Zaferes (USA) 55:31 S 9:08 T1 00:55 B 28:55 T2 00:25 R 16:09
2. Taylor Spivey (USA) 55:57 S 9:09 T1 00:56 B 28:53 T2 00:28 R 16:33T1
3. Jessica Learmonth (GBR) 56:06 S 9:06 T1 00:59 B 28:52 T2 00:26 R 16:44
4. Taylor Knibb (USA) 56:09 S 9:15 T1 00:57 B 28:47 T2 00:27 R 16:44
5. Non Stanford (GBR) 56:37 S 9:26 T1 00:56 B 29:41 T2 00:25 R 16:11
6. Lotte Miller (NOR) 56:42 S 9:12 T1 00:57 B 28:49 T2 00:26 R 17:20
7. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) 56:45 S 9:25 T1 00:55 B 29:48 T2 00:25 R 16:15
8. Vicky Holland (GBR) 56:50 S 9:23 T1 00:55 B 29:45 T2 00:24 R 16:25
9. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) 56:53 S 9:34 T1 1:02 B 29:28 T2 00:27 R 16:25
10. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 56:57 S 9:39 T1 00:55 B 29:31 T2 00:25 R 16:28
16. Chelsea Burns (USA) 57:21 S 9:19 T1 00:57 B 29:55 T2 00:35 R 16:37
35. Summer Rappaport (USA) 59:17 S 9:08 T1 00:57 B 30:49 T2 00:30 R 17:55