A huge final chapter to the 2023 World Triathlon Championship Series played out in Pontevedra on Saturday afternoon as Dorian Coninx of France proved the coolest head on a day of drama in the world title chase.
Fifth-placed in the rankings going in to the race and with many eyes on those above for the biggest prize of the year, Coninx was part of a French trio that dominated the swim, bike and run before the 29-year-old found the reserves for one last push. Flanked by Tim Hellwig (GER) and Pierre le Corre (FRA), Coninx dipped to the line for gold and the title of 2023 World Triathlon Champion.
“I thought it was impossible,” admitted Coninx afterwards. “I just wanted to focus on my race and do a good race to end a nice season, but it’s way better than expected! We really wanted to push on the bike and it’s been the same thing in the races all season so we wanted to try something new as a team and it worked pretty well. Hayden (Wilde) and Alex (Yee) really dominated the season, but I knew I could do a good race. I wasn’t expecting to win, I just pushed as hard as I can. It’s crazy.”
After serving a 15-second penalty for dropping his swim hat on the pontoon, Hayden Wilde’s chances of the win faded dramatically, his 9th place finish leaving him second in the overall Series.
Leading the rankings into the race, Alex Yee couldn’t get onto the second pack and drifted further out of contention with every one of the eight bike laps, eventually finishing in 29th. Fourth for Leo Bergere saw him finish with the Series bronze.
Hauser sets early pace in swim
The top-ranked athletes took to the left of the podium for the tiger line to the first buoy, Henri Schoeman far right with Antonio Serrat Seoane, Jonathan Brownlee and Morgan Pearson. It was Matthew Hauser pulling away first, though, Jonas Schomburg and Pierre Le Corre the closest to holding the Australian’s pace.
Wilde and Yee were together some 20 seconds back at this stage, Bergere 10s and Vilaca 17s, but the two ranking leaders slipped to 50 seconds off the pace by the time they emerged and headed up the long run to transition.
Dropped hat costs Wilde dearly
But Wilde had dropped his cap on the pontoon heading out of the water and didn’t go back for it, a 15-second penalty awaiting him on the run lap of his choosing.
There were 23 athletes riding together by the third lap, Marten Van Riel pushing the pace and Brownlee and Pearson off the back, Vilaca tucked in the middle, Wilde’s group 30 seconds back and Yee’s just over a minute at that stage.
Yee group loses time
With every passing lap, Yee was losing time, the title slipping through his fingers and even as compatriots Max Stapley and Barclay Izzard looked to help bring some pace to the ailing group, they were over two minutes back into T2.
Vilaca was perfectly placed at the front of the pack into transition and was racked, in the shoes and out right on Matt Hauser’s tail, Bergere and Pearson ominously placed as a dramatic 10km began to play out.
Pearson detonates early run
It was Hungary’s Csongor Lehmann to the front with Hauser, Schomburg and Pearson, Schoeman looking great up front too with Vilaca sitting in, Wilde +44s after one lap, Yee 2m05 when Pearson made his move.
The American rolled the dice on lap two and pulled away, breaking up the pack, Bergere and Vilaca working hard to hold on in second and third.
But the Portuguese talent couldn’t hold on. After serving his 15s penalty, Wilde came back reborn, hunting down and closing the gap like a man on a mission, pulling up to his title rival knowing that he needed a miracle run to be in with a shot. Meanwhile Le Corre, Coninx and Bergere still locked together as they had been all afternoon, Hellwig and Lasse Luhrs right with them.
Coninx keeps cool and wins title
With the final lap coming into sight, Pearson blew up and dropped back and suddenly it was an all-French and German affair up front. Luhrs then Bergere fell were dropped, and it was Coninx, Le Corre and Hellwig hitting the blue carpet as one, before Coninx delivered the final surge to come away with a famous gold and the 2023 World Championship title, Hellwig and Le Corre completing the podium.