By Chelsea White
Proving that they are not just strong triathletes, but strong duathletes as well, USA’s Renee Tomlin and France’s Vincent Luis dominated their way to victory at the 2018 Sarasota-Bradenton ITU World Cup.
After the race format was changed to a Duathlon, the elites showcased their talents out of the water in the second edition of the event and only World Cup race held in the United States.
Tomlin’s win was an entertaining victory as she won in a sprint finish in the final moments, where then compatriot Kirsten Kasper came second and Vendula Frintova (CZE) took bronze in the women’s race.
While on the men’s side, Luis made a rare World Cup appearance and broadcast his strength to win his first World Cup of his career in what was also his first World Cup competition in over four years. Joining him on the podium was his training partner Jelle Geens (BEL) who finished second and Portugal’s Joao Pereira who came third.
Under sunny conditions, the women lined up to begin the day of racing by toeing a different type of World Cup line. Starting with running shoes on instead of swim caps, the field kicked off the sprint-distance Duathlon.
The race began with a 2.5-kilometre lap into the first transition. While many of the athletes on the start list had not competed in this type of race format before, their energy was evident as nearly the whole field remained together during the first leg.
Surviving the busy T1, the women embarked on the short bike course of only 18.3 kilometres. After one lap, a larger-sized lead group formed tallying just under 30 women in total and was led by USA’s Taylor Spivey. She continued her push out front, with the help of compatriot Chelsea Burns and Canadian Joanna Brown keeping the pace. However, all the top players were right in the mix as no the only woman to attempt a breakaway was Alice Betto of Italy and unfortunately it was deemed unsuccessful.
The group never dwindled down and they entered the second transition the same way they entered the first, crowded.
Kirsten Kasper caught the edge through the chaos and made it first through transition and onto the second run leg.
On the first lap of the final run leg, the pack that had cycled together was cut in half and the leading run group made it down to about 12 women including Kasper, Vendula, Miriam Casillas Garcia (ESP), Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR), Brown, Spivey, Tomlin and Lisa Perterer (AUT).
That group did not change for the majority of the bell lap, until the final kilometres. Down to the carpet, Tomlin then found the last push to seize the tape and earn her first World Cup win of the year. The gold was her fourth World Cup victory of her career.
Sprinting just behind her was compatriot Kasper to claim the silver and Frintova to take the bronze.
The men followed suit right behind the women, ready to tackle the afternoon heat and the run-bike-run Duathlon style. Layers of ten athletes lined up and sprinted away as the starting horn blew. With the speed, talent and eagerness of the field, the 2.5-kilometre lap was over in record time and the full roster stormed into the first transition area.
Heading out onto the bike the first lap saw no difference in the massiveness from the first run leg as a long train of cyclists formed. It was on the second lap that Bob Haller (LUX) and Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) attempted a breakaway and managed to get away with a sizeable gap. However, despite the valiant effort, the lead did not last and on the bell lap of the bike, the giant pack of men caught back up to the duo and caused them all to enter the second transition together.
Mimicking the women’s race, the second transition for the men was also hectic and crowded.
In the first lap of the final run leg, the field had finally thinned out and the leaders started to form. Luis gunned ahead and started to create some space between himself and his competitors. On his heels was USA’s Jason West who tried to stay with the top-ranked Frenchman.
Behind them was a small chase pack of four men including Pereira, Geens, Daniel Hoy (NZL) and William Huffman(USA).
Ultimately Luis showcased himself as the strongest man of the day and broke away to run solo and finish off by grabbing the victory tape. While it was his first World Cup race since 2014, the win did become his first-career World Cup victory.
In an exciting sprint finish for the silver medal, Geens and Pereira battled it out right until they crossed the line. Geens beat out Pereira just by a nose to come in second and collect his second World Cup podium of the year. While Pereira then claimed the bronze and first World Cup podium since 2016.