World Triathlon Championship Series Cagliari must be a lucky one for British silver Olympic medallist Georgia Taylor-Brown. After not being able to finish on the top positions in the first events of the season, the Brit claimed the victory in Cagliari in style, making it two out of two for her in the Italian beach town. Along with her on the podium was Frenchwoman Emma Lombardi, also second in Cagliari in 2022, while the bronze medal was for USA’s Taylor Spivey, who claimed the Series leadership with her performance this Saturday.
The swim in Cagliari is always a challenging one, with undulating terrain as soon as the athletes touch the water, and it proved to be decisive for some athletes, especially the ones that choose the right side of the beach for the start. By the time the pack hit the beach after the first loop, Vittoria Lopes (BRA) and Summer Rappaport (USA) had elongated the field substantially, and while some of the favourites for the race were still trying to hang on with the leaders, Rio 2016 Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen (USA) was struggling at the back.
At the end of the 1500 swim, it was still Rappaport leading the group, taking with her Lopes, Emma Lombardi (FRA), Maya Kingma (NED), Taylor Spivey (USA) and Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR). Behind them, the long line of athletes heading to the transition included the likes of Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), Beth Potter (GBR), Katie Zaferes (USA) or Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal (MEX), but neither of them was able to make it to the front group, and on the chase they went.
The first lap of the 10 planned for the bike course in Cagliari was just to get the front group of six athletes organised, and what started on a 18 seconds difference with the chasers evolved into a solid lead, with Kingma, Spivey, Rappaport, Lombardi, Lopes and Taylor-Brown taking turns up front. Behind them, it was Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS), Zsanett Bragmayer (HUN) and Katie Zaferes leading the chase, but it was not easy to get a large group to work together on this technical course, so the difference keep growing while the likes of Beaugrand and Tapia Vidal sit on the back of the chase group, trying to save some legs for the 10k run.
The pace on the front group was brutal, though, enough to lap athletes from the 5th lap of the race, including Jorgensen, Leonie Periault (FRA) or two times Junior world champion Tilda Mansson (SWE). By the time the leading six hit the second transition, they had 1 minute and 22 seconds lead over the chasers, and the game was on from the first seconds they had their running shoes on.
Right after transition, Taylor-Brown decided to go for it and only Lombardi was able to follow her. They quickly dropped Summer Rappaport, who stayed in third place, and Spivey in fourth, but behind them the path was also frantic. Half way through the 10k run, Taylor-Brown and Lombardi were still shoulder to shoulder, but behind them Rappaport faded and was caught first by Spivey, then by Cassandre Beaugrand and Jeanne Lehair (LUX), both of them flying with the eyes set on the podium places.
After almost 10k running together, it was with only 300m to go when Taylor-Brown took the decisive move and dropped Lombardi to claim her first victory of the season crossing the finish line solo and in tears. With her win in Cagliari Team GB gets a full strike on the first three races of the season, with Potter claiming gold in Abu Dhabi, Sophie Coldwell in Yokohama and now Taylor-Brown in Cagliari.
“It is a massive relief to be back on the podium. It is nice to be back”, said Taylor-Brown. “Since Au Dhabi, where I had a terrible swim, I have been focusing on my swim. In Yokohama I gave everything that I had but I still didn’t make the front pack, so this time I was extra focused and extra determined to be up there on the first lap. I was quite shocked after Yokohama, I am so used to be on the front pack on the swim that it was shocking missing that the first races this year, but I am so happy to be back. And then the run with Emma was just great, she is a fantastic athlete, we were on a similar position next year and she is so nice and we kept pushing each other, so it was great”, she explained.
Behind Georgia on the finish line was Lombardi, repeating the same spot she got in Cagliari last year, and also by finishing in the top five places securing a spot on the Paris Test Event this summer. “I am beyond happy, it feels so great to be back on the podium, as I was here also in Cagliari last year”, said Lombardi. “Last year it was amazing, and this one did not dissapoint. We did a great job today the six on us on the bike, we all did our part, and hen I tried to follow Georgia as much as possible but in the last lap it was a bit too much”.
The bronze medal on the day was for Taylor Spivey, a bronze that also puts her on the Series leadership after her third place in Abu Dhabi and a fourth in Yokohama. “I had a feeling Cassandre was coming for me during the last kilometers of the run, so I had to dig deep. For a moment I thought I couldn’t hold her off but I didn’t want to finish in fourth place again. I don’t know how I made it, I had COVID right after Yokohama and I didn’t know where I was, but is really special to finish as I did today and be on this position”, she said.
Beaugrand finished in the fourth place, with Lehair claiming a career-best 5th place and Potter behind her in 6th. Rappaport, Tertsch, Eim, Tapia Vidal, Steinhauser and Zaferes closed the top 12 on the day.