Round three of the 2023 World Triathlon Championship Series had sub-plots aplenty as the action returned to the Italian island of Sardinia for the second time on 27 May and WTCS Cagliari delivered another brilliant day of Olympic-distance racing.
Signalling the start of the second Paris 2024 qualification period, USA’s own Olympic legends Gwen Jorgensen and Katie Zaferes shared a Series start line for the first time since Cozumel 2016, while prime title contenders Hayden Wilde and Alex Yee did so for the first time this season.
The beach start caused a few headaches, including for both Yee and Jorgensen, with the long shallows making it awkward to find any early rhythm. There was a familiar look to the small women’s front pack bike, it was 24-deep in the men’s (excluding the likes of Kristian Blummenfelt and Jelle Geens), and both runs were dominated by two athletes, France’s Emma Lombardi back on the podium in style.
You can watch the racing back on demand over at TriathlonLive.tv, and here are five of the big talking points from the action.
The eye-wateringly fast 10km times of 28:31 and 28:35 for Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde have got tongues wagging and distance theories flying. Whichever way you cut it, the Brit being able to put an extra 47 seconds into last year’s speedy gold-winning run split was a remarkable achievement, as was Wilde’s near-perfect plan to make him have to. Is Yee vs Wilde the new Gomez vs Brownlee?
GTB – Georgia’s Totally Back
Of course she never went away, two bad swims are nothing to go by, but Georgia Taylor-Brown’s post-race interview (2h09m here) after winning a second successive Sardinia gold hinted at just how low she had felt after WTCS Abu Dhabi (P15) and WTCS Yokohama (P7). Fast forward to Cagliari, and coming out of the water just 10 seconds off swim stars Vittoria Lopes and Summer Rappaport is nothing to someone with GTB’s bike power and that familiar front pack was hers once again (she took five seconds out of Rappaport’s lead in transition alone). It’s amazing what a difference a race makes – third in the Series standings, title challenge back on.
DNFs – Cagliari isn’t for everyone
A quick scan of the names that didn’t finish from the weekend reads like a who’s who of top-tier racing over the past decade. Richard Murray, Mario Mola, Gwen Jorgensen, Morgan Pearson, Leonie Periault and Jelle Geens all proved just how tough it is at the top tier of triathlon in 2023, and will be ready to prove that it was a mere blip when they hit the start in Montreal on 24 June.
Coninx hits the top, Luis leg-up to Paris?
The French team’s Mr Consistency. Leo Bergere? No. Well, yes, of course, but even he hasn’t managed to secure the three top 5 finishes in 2023 that have helped Dorian Coninx up to the heady heights of World number one in the rankings three races into the campaign. No podium? No problem. But if he is to mount a serious challenge for the world title you feel he will have to cook up the kind of performance that saw him win his first Series gold with a gutsy display at WTCS Bermuda back in 2019. Fifth place for Pierre Le Corre guaranteed him a start at the Paris Test Event, while the injury that kept Vincent Luis off the Sardinia start could see him need a wildcard entry for that massive Olympic preview.
Eim on a dime
Two weeks ago we flagged Luxembourg’s Jeanne Lehair as one to watch in Cagliari and she duly delivered the second fastest run of the day and a career-best fifth place finish. The only woman to outrun Lehair back in Yokohama was Germany’s Nina Eim, and she posted another quick final segment and an excellent top 10 finish on Saturday to put herself into seventh in the Series rankings. Is this the 24-year-old’s breakthrough season in the making?
The fourth stop on the Series takes us to WTCS Montreal on Saturday 24 June, with the Mixed Relay the following day.
tagsgwen jorgensen georgia taylor-brown katie zaferes kristian blummenfelt hayden wilde alex yee wtcs cagliari nina eim