Although wet conditions plagued the women’s race on Sunday, that didn’t stop a strong Japanese team from sweeping the podium in front of a home crowd. Olympian Ai Ueda blasted through the three-lap run course to claim her first World Cup title since 2010, followed by rising star Yuka Sato and Juri Ide.
“This is my eighth time challenging the triathlon here and being able to win this time, I think I might have been able to give a lot of people courage and inspiration, and I’m very happy to be able to do that,” Ueda said.
Sato wasted no time putting her strong swim skills on display as she headed up the field on the first swim lap, followed by Italy’s Gaia Peron and Emma Jackson (AUS). Peron took over on the second lap, and together the pair enjoyed a small break as they headed to transition.
However, their lead was short lived with slick roads forcing Peron and Sato to slow, allowing Ide to bring the chase group within seconds of the leaders on the first lap. The powerful Japanese women, including Ide, Sato, Ueda and Yuko Takahashi then worked together to push the pace of the lead group early in the bike.
Despite suffering a crash midway through the bike, Ide made a massive effort to keep herself in podium contingency, rejoining the group within a lap. The Japanese led the bell lap, while the group lengthened out to hit the run within 10 seconds of each other.
A quick transition saw Takahashi head out first, quickly followed by Sato and Adachi. But it was Ueda who showed what a class runner she is, rocketing to a 17-second break after 2.5km.
Ueda held strong throughout the run, continuing to surge further and further out front. She sailed down the finish chute with nobody in sight for claim her first win in Ishigaki in two hours, five minutes and 47 seconds.
Sato followed her teammate over the line next in 2:06:23 for her highest World Cup finish ever, while Ide took bronze in 2:06:52.
“Because I was able to go for it right from the swimming, I feel like I was able to have a good result,” Sato said. “Obviously with the bridge and ups and downs, it’s a very tough course. But because I was able to put myself into the running at the end I think I was able (to finish well).”