Some of the biggest wins of Helen Jenkins career have come off the back of bike breakaways, and on Australia’s Gold Coast on Saturday her uncanny knack of knowing when to push helped her return to the top of the World Triathlon Series podium for the first time since 2012.
After a strong swim, Jenkins, Flora Duffy (BER) and Andrea Hewitt (NZL), made a break just after the halfway mark of the 40km bikel eg. They then made the most of a technical bike course to take an impressive 90-second lead into the second transition.
From there, Jenkins pulled away at the front of the run to take the WTS win in a time of 1 hour 56minutes and three seconds, and also the lead in the CT rankings. It was a similar race tactic to the one that delivered her a World Championship in Vancouver in 2008, and Jenkins paid respect to the others who worked with her in the lead.
“I can’t quite believe it,” said Jenkins on her Gold Coast victory. “I did not have the best swim today and then on the bike, because it was so technical it was just as hard even if you were at the front, so I sat in and me, Flora and Andrea were able to get a gap.
“I have so much respect for those girls, they were smashing it today. And I got to the run and just went for it. But the whole time I was waiting for Gwen, you can never underestimate how quick Gwen’s running is.”
Jenkins win also broke Gwen Jorgensen‘s record of 12 straight World Triathlon Series win. But the American didn’t let that happen easily, despite starting from T2 almost two minutes behind the leaders, she still ran herself on the podium. In a thrillling sprint with Hewitt down the finish line, Jorgensen steamed ahead in the final few metres to claim silver, ahead of Hewitt in bronze.
Jorgensen said of her come-from-behind finish, “Helen was really strong today and she was the better athlete. Her, Andrea and Flora were riding really strong and yeah they just had a great race. I was just trying to run as fast as I could, a lot goes through your head and it is hot out there.”
“They were running amazing and they just had a great race. It didn’t even look like I was gaining any ground on Helen, she was just going for it. It is great to be back racing against Helen, she was gone for a bit, so it was great to see her race well.”
Under hot and humid conditions on the Gold Coast, Spain’s Carolina Routier led again through the swim, setting a cracking pace that helped to split the field from the first long lap of 1000 metres.
Routier, alongside Kirsten Kasper (USA), Nicky Samuels (NZL) and Katie Zafares (USA) led a group of just over 20 out of transition, that also included favourites like Jorgensen, Jenkins and Aussie Emma Moffatt.
The group eventually dwindled down to tally 18-strong, with Flora Duffy (BER) and Jenkins taking turns forging the pack and pushing the pace.
The chase group entered the first transition about 20 seconds behind the leaders, with contenders Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) and Jodie Stimpson (GBR) leading the charge. By the end of the first bike lap the gap to the leaders was 46 seconds, and on the technical bike course the gap continued to grow.
With Flora Duffy, Erin Densham (AUS) and Jenkins continuing to take turns to push a furious pace on the lead pack, the gap extended to 55 seconds on the next lap and only continued to widen as the leg carried on.
With one failed attempt early in the cycle, halfway through the bike a second attempt at a breakaway was finally successful for Duffy as she, along with Hewitt and Jenkins pushed away as a threesome and were able to gain a continuous lead over the chase that extended to a ninety-second advantage heading out onto the run.
As the leading three ladies hit the running pavement, Jenkins wasted no time in blasting away to get out on front. Showing no signs of slowing down, the Brit held onto her phenomenal stride and was able to carry herself right into the finish line. The victory gave Jenkins her first WTS win since she took home the gold medal in San Diego in 2012.
With the gold secured, the battle for the remaining two podiums spots came down to three women. While the leading cyclists of Duffy and Hewitt were able to give themselves an advantage at the start of the run, Jorgensen came off the bike with guns blazing. Down by almost two minutes, she used her strongest discipline to earn some ground and close the gap little by little each lap.
It wasn’t until the final lap where the excitement intensified when Jorgensen caught up to Duffy and Hewitt. A sprint finish on the blue carpet ultimately determined the podium as Jorgensen was able to edge out Hewitt by a nose and take the silver. Hewitt was left with the bronze and Duffy finished in fourth.
Hewitt commented on her first WTS podium of the season, “I rode as hard as I could. I saw that some of the girls were struggling on some of the corners so when we got the break we just kept riding right up until the end. I felt a little wobbly on the run, but I tried to keep pushing, I was with Flora and then Gwen came up at the end.
“I tried a bit earlier in the sprint, but there was just the technical bit at the end. It was just a tough race. This is my first Olympic distance of the year and I braced myself on the run, I could judge on the U turns where Gwen was and where Flora was. It just came down to the blue carpet at the finish.”
Australia’s Moffatt did enough in her seventh-finish to secure herself the first Australian Olympic women’s spot for Rio de Janeiro this summer.