The Grand Final of the 2018 ITU World Series was expected to be a coronation for Spain’s Mario Mola and a fight to the finish between Katie Zaferes of the U.S. and Vicky Holland (GBR) for the women’s seasonal title. And that’s exactly how it played out.
Zaferes and Holland had their eyes on each other throughout the race, knowing that whoever finished ahead of the other was going to be the season champion. They were close out of the water, on the bike and into the run phase.
The two contenders were joined by Australian Ashleigh Gentle in a breakaway and the trio would all finish on the podium. Zaferes and Gentle stayed in front through the first 5 km, but then it was Holland who pressed the pace with 3 km left and dropped Zaferes on the final lap. Gentle sprinted for the win, but the seasonal crown went to Holland, 5,540-5,488.
“I can’t actually believe it,” said Holland afterwards. “I thought at one point of the run that it was done because there was quite a big gap there. I can’t believe I brought it back in. This season as a whole has been absolutely incredible with three wins, two seconds and now the world title. It is so much more than I thought I would get out of the year!”
Said Zaferes, who moved up from third last season to second, “I gave it my all and I tried new things and I took a risk that didn’t pay off in the end, but I am proud of myself for trying it and really going for the win. I am never surprised; the thing about Vicky is that she is a fighter to the end and I was just trying to fight as well. For a while I felt really good, then not so good, but I tried to keep fighting right to the end and keep coming back till I finished but I couldn’t do it. I took another step in the right direction, so there is always next year.”
Mola didn’t win either, but finished second to France’s Vincent Luis – a training partner – and won his third straight seasonal title. The two were part of a leading pack of five on the run, but Luis scooted to the lead on the final lap, dropped Mola and Richard Murray (RSA) and cruised home for a 13-second win. While Mola won the season’s title, Luis got up for second and was the only one other than Mola to compile more than 5,000 points.
“I have a lot of feelings,” said Mola. “It has been a great season and finishing with a second place behind my training partner – it was a great race. I’ll try to make it four in a row next year and it’s in my hands to come back next year and be better.”
Mola won not only his third straight World Series title, but his sixth straight year with a top-three finish and the sixth year in a row that a Spaniard has won the title. Summaries:
ITU World Series Grand Final
Gold Coast (AUS) ~ 15-16 September 2018
(Full results here)
Men: 1. Vincent Luis (FRA), 1:44:34; 2. Mario Mola (ESP), 1:44:48; 3. Richard Murray (RSA), 1:44:56; 4. Pierre Le Corre (FRA), 1:45:01; 5. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), 1:45:04; 6. Henri Schoeman (RSA), 1:45:06; 7. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS), 1:45:46; 8. Jonny Brownlee (GBR), 1:45:51; 9. Marten van Riel (BEL), 1:45:56; 10. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN), 1:45:57. Also in the top 25: 16. Eli Hemming (USA), 1:46:38.
Final 2018 Standings: 1. Mario Mola (ESP), 6,081; 2. Vincent Luis (FRA), 5,060; 3. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS), 4,884; 4. Richard Murray (RSA), 4,792; 5. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), 3.936; 6. Fernando Alarza (ESP), 3,520; 7. Henri Schoeman (RSA), 3,438; 8. Pierre Le Corre (FRA), 3,215; 9. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN), 3,194; 10. Marten van Riel (BEL), 2,960.
Women: 1. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS), 1:52:00; 2. Vicky Holland (GBR), 1:52:02; 3. Katie Zaferes (USA), 1:52:33; 4. Laura Lindemann (GER), 1:52:53; 5. Kirsten Kasper (USA), 1:53:15; 6. Melanie Santos (POR), 1:53:26; 7. Taylor Spivey (USA), 1:53:28; 8. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR), 1:53:31; 9. Leonie Periault (FRA), 1:53:33; 10. Jodie Stimpson (GBR), 1:53:41. Also in the top 25: 13. Chelsea Burns (USA), 1:54:06.
Final 2018 Standings: 1. Vicky Holland (GBR), 5,540; 2. Katie Zaferes (USA), 5,488; 3. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR), 4,183; 4. Kirsten Kasper (USA), 3,887; 5. Jessica Learmonth (GBR), 3,810; 6. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS), 3,750; 7. Jodie Stimpson (GBR), 3,658; 8. Taylor Spivey (USA), 3,603; 9. Laura Lindemann (GER), 3,423; 10. Rachel Klamer (NED), 3,306. Also in the top 25: 22. Chelsea Burns (USA), 1,943; … 25. Summer Cook (USA), 1,767.