A signature run for New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde was enough to grant the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist the victory at the World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama, on a morning that saw a dramatic sprint finish for the rest of the positions on the podium. And it was Australia’s Matthew Hauser the one that found the final speed to claim his second WTCS podium, while Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca managed to keep the third place, enough to make him the new Series leader.
It was Vasco Vilaca the one wearing the number 1 swimcap today in Yokohama, with another 59 men lining up along with him on the pontoon for the second race of the WTCS Series in 2023, this time with slightly better weather conditions than the women. The water was still just below 20 degrees, but all of them decided to wear a wetsuit for the 1500m on two laps in the Yokohama Bay, and it was Hungary’s Mark Devay the fastest on the day on the water.
He managed to push hard enough on the swim to strecht the field behind him, with Dylan McCullough (NZL), Jonas Schomburg (GER), Hauser, Kenji Nener (JPN), Leo Bergere (FRA) and Dorian Coninx (FRA) trying to open a bit of space, but a long line of athletes followed them onto transition, including the likes of Marten Van Riel (BEL) or Hayden Wilde (NZL), who had one of the best swims of the last months. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), on the other hand, didn’t have his best day on the swim, and was almost 30 seconds down on the swim, but even in a worst situation was his teammate Gustav Iden, second to last out of the water.
It was clear that it would be a large train of athletes managing the 40km on the bike, and from the first moment Wilde, Bergere and Coninx took their position up front, trying to stay away of trouble, even though the clouds were a bit less thick than during the women’s race. Blummenfelt led a group of six, including Jelle Geens (BEL), and pushed really hard in the first three laps to catch the main group, leaving Iden way back, trying hopelessly to catch up.
By the fourth lap, Blummenfelt and Geens had caught with the large lead group, more than 45 men, and were escalating positions to even lead at some points on the bike, knowing that with the rain and such a massive group, it will be key to get a good position to enter transition.
The group lost some individuals lap after lap, but still made it to T2 with over 25 men all together, but Leo Bergere and Hayden Wilde had a flawless transition, and were quickly on the lead. Behind the duo, Vilaca had cramps that almost forced him to stop but managed to keep going, along with Adrien Brifford (SUI), Henri Schoeman (RSA), Coninx, Hauser, Nener, Geens and Blummenfelt. Before any of them could even react, Hayden put the hammer down and left Leo behind him, flying under the rain in Yokohama.
Bergere also suffered some cramps and was caught half way through by Coninx and Vilaca, with Hauser trying to catch them. As the km passed by, Hayden looked relaxed, heading into the blue carpet knowing that the victory was his, all smiles clapping hands of the spectators before grabbing the tape. “I was really going for this one. In Abu Dhabi, I had a mechanical and I didn’t get to show what I had so today I wanted to come out here and give it some. This year, I just wanted to go for it, go for a good time and that’s how it happened”, he said. “I couldn’t believe the swim I had. Everyone was getting it out and I was like, I am in the line, it was fantastic. I got into a really nice position and got on the front with Leo (Bergere) and co. so it was good. I really wanted to go quick and I was on pace quite nicely. I wanted to push a little bit more but I know in two weeks I’ve got Cagliari against Alex (Yee) so just waned to ease it a bit because I didn’t want to be too cooked for that”, he explained.
The silver medal came with a fabolous sprint by Matt hauser, who managed to pass Vilaca, Bergere and Coninx in the blue carpet to grab the silver in Yokohama. “It’s what self belief gets you mate. Honestly, I didn’t expect too much for this race coming out of this race two weeks out of Abu Dhabi. It’s a great credit to my team in Queensland and the Gold Coast and got it done here. It would have stung if I got another fourth place here so had to get on that dice”, he said.
Vilaca managed to stay ahead of the two frenchmen and crossed the line in third place, enough to grant him the Series leadership. “Well the season is going pretty well. Going intp the race with number one was super exciting and having the number one cap for me was pretty big. I lost the cap in the swim and I was looking forward to hanging that up on my wall when I got home. So I thought I still need to be Series leader so I can get a number one cap for the next race. Besides that, the race went pretty well. I got a big cramp on my left quad by the end of the T2 and I really lost the group and having 10km ahead of me, I kept believing. It was mentally kind of a boost, I thought it could only get better from here. Passing people it mentally helps”, he said.
Chocolate medal on the day for the French team, who got Coninx in fourth and Bergere in fith place, both of them guaranteeing their presence on the Paris Test Event. Behind them, Adrien Brifford finished in 6th, followed by Geens, Blummenfelt, Csongor Lehmann (HUN) and Schoeman closing the top 10 on the day.