Beth Potter delivered another golden day for Great Britain this Saturday at the 2023 Groupe Coplay World Triathlon Championship Series Montreal, claiming a significant victory for Team GB, whose women’s have won all the Series races so far this season. The Brit managed to outsprint in the final meters Frenchwoman Leonie Periault, back in form after a disappointing start of the year, while the bronze medal was for USA’s Summer Rappaport, able to display a great run after a great bike course.
The sun was shining bright the whole week in Montreal, but by the time the 55 female athletes were lining up on the Old Port pontoon in Montreal, rain drops were falling, bringing a completely different scenario for everyone. But the race started to unfold actually 48 hours before the start, when Taylor Knibb (USA) was late to the athlete’s briefing as she decided to race on the USA Cycling Time-Trial National Championships on Thursday morning -where she finished 4th, just two seconds off the podium-, meaning that she would have to serve a 10 seconds penalty on T1. The information spread out through the whole field quickly, and while the American had a clear race plan on her mind, the rest of the athletes were trying to seize the opportunity to open a break that would minimise Knibb’s chances of breaking away on the bike.
But let’s move forward to the heartbeat that marked the start of the WTCS Montreal race. The Brit squad - Georgia Taylor-Brown, Sophie Coldwell and Kate Waugh decided to take position on the right side of the pontoon, while Taylor Spivey, Taylor Knibb and Summer Rappaport went to the left. Right in the middle of the field, Katie Zaferes (USA), who got in the race at the last minute from the wait list.
And it was Brasil’s Vittoria Lopes the one who got first out of the 750 swim point-to-point, but with Knibb right behind her, and on the long run to the first transition, the American just went full gas, her swimsuit on her waist, looking anxiously behind her and trying to get some seconds that will allow her to stay with the front group despite the penalty.
Knibb made it to her bike on the lead, and froze for 10 seconds while behind her Rappaport, Coldwell, Zaferes, Waugh, Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal (MEX) and Taylor-Brown were trying to get organised in the first meters of the bike, but the penalty was not long enough for Knibb to loose that group. She managed to catch the group at the end, and it clearly looked like the 20km bike ride will be a large pack carefully managing the turns to avoid crashes.
And so it was for the first two laps, but on lap three Knibb just moved to the front, started pushing without looking back and only Rappaport was able to follow her. The duo open a small gap of just a few seconds, but behind them the group was too big to get organised, and they just used that to their advantage, keeping a lead that extended at some point to almost 15 seconds.
The leading duo made it to the second transition together, with Rappaport displaying a fast transition and starting the run on the lead, Knibb a few meters behind, and only three seconds back Zsanett Bragmayer (HUN) and a group of fast runners that included Leonie Periault (FRA), Katie Zaferes, Beth Potter (GBR), Jeanne Lehair (LUX), Georgia Taylor-Brown and Cathia Schar (SUI).
Lehair, an incredible talented runner, quickly took the lead of the small group and went on the chase of Rappaport, and took Periault and Potter with her to chase first Knibb and then join Rappaport on the lead of the race. She might have gone too early, though, and with 2 kilometers to go the Luxemburg medal hopeful faded a little bit, to leave Rappaport, potter and Periault on the lead. Behind them, Zaferes, Taylor-Brown and Knibb were trying to stay ahead of Spivey and Bragmayer, taking turns to push the pace as fast as they could, but not hard enough to catch the leaders.
With the leading trio running shoulder to shoulder, it was Potter who decided to give it a last push and sprinted right when they were heading to the blue carpet, all smiles to claim her second victory of the season and her career, one that continues with the full Team GB gold strike this season so far. “I didn’t have a great swim today but I just made sure I stayed cool and calm and worked hard on the first two laps of the bike and got back on. I wasn’t actually sure where she (Taylor Knibb) was and I was thinking if she’s in front of me, I am in trouble. She was in front of me and I still managed to get there so that’s a big confidence boost,” said the Brit after her victory.
Second on the sprint finish was Leonie Periault, a great result for the French woman after a rather disappointing start of the season. “I am just very happy for my race. The last month has been really difficult for me. To take the second today, it’s amazing. I am very happy. Now my focus is the Paris Test Event,” she explained.
Bronze on the day was Rappaport, also extremely happy with her overall race this Saturday. “I am thrilled. It’s been a really difficult couple of years, I thought about quitting probably more days than not but I think everybody likes seeing someone who is consistent, but I think sport is more about having the struggles and standing back up and keeping on fighting. I think that’s why most athletes do it and I am not going to quit on myself because of hard times.I was pretty proud of myself today. I switched training groups, I am training now with Ian O’Brien now and Taylor (Knibb) is one of my training partners. I have been working really hard in training so it was really good to put it together. I was surprised when it was just the two of us and I thought, I know what I’ve got to do. I am very happy I didn’t quit and hopefully I will be back even more now,” she said.
Fourth today was Jeanne Lehair, the current European Champion, one step closer to the podium today and one of the more consistent athletes in the last months, after her 5th place in Cagliari and 4th in Montreal, while Katie Zaferes claimed the fifth place, one that means a lot to the American on her return to the top of the field after her maternity.
Taylor Knibb, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Zsanett Bragmayer and Taylor Spivey followed on the finish line, with Colombia’s Maria Carolina Velasquez Soto rounding the top 10, a career best for the young South American athlete.