Both of the leaders in the ITU World Series standings knew just what they had to do to collect their first career titles in the Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland. France’s Vincent Luis had to finish fifth or higher and he would win, no matter what anyone else did. American Katie Zaferes had to finish in the top 12.
Zaferes was especially impressive, winning her race over the Olympic distance of 1.5 km swimming, 40 km cycling and the 10 km run in 2:02:45, four seconds ahead of season-long chaser Jessica Leamonth of Great Britain (2:02:49).
“I don’t even know if its hit me yet, I had a lot of emotions and doubts coming in to this race but I’m just really happy right now,” said Zaferes. “I worked really hard to get in the mental frame, I knew physically I was in the right frame, so I didn’t let it get to me too much. I’m just out there enjoying it and enjoying the process, and to do it on this course is amazing.”
Having been felled by bike crashes in two races this season, Zaferes was only seventh out of the water, with Britain’s Learmonth and Vittoria Lopes (BRA) leading the first group into the transition. But working in a chase pack with former World Champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, Zaferes had the second-fastest bike phase of the entire field and there were five together heading into the run: Duffy, Lopes, Learmonth, Taylor-Brown and Zaferes.
Needed only a 12th-place finish, the seasonal title was essentially assured for the American, but as one of the best runners in the sport, she also sensed the opportunity for her fifth win of the season. Lopes and Duffy dropped back on the third lap and the top three moved on. Taylor-Brown lost contact on the fourth lap and then Zaferes – an All-Big East steepler at Syracuse – attacked with 200 m to go and Learmonth had to settle for second in the race and on the season.
The men’s race had more drama, as it became clear that Mario Mola (ESP) was going to try to break Luis and claim his fourth seasonal title in a row.
Luis was third out of the water, behind Igor Polyanskiy (RUS) and Spain’s Javier Gomez Noya. The bike phase showed Mola trying to break away, but no one could gain a significant advantage and a mass of 23 athletes started the run essentially together.
Spain’s Fernando Alarza headed into the run first, but Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt made strong move with 8 km left and had the lead with three laps to go. Mola made his move for the win and Luis could not hold on, now running third, but with the end close at hand. Counting the places, Luis was passed by Alarza and Norway’s Gustav Iden, but finished fifth and collected his first world title while Blummenfelt won his first World Series race, 16 seconds ahead of Mola.
“That was a really tough race, I can’t believe it,” said Luis. “The final 3 km seemed like 10 km for me, but the crowd was amazing, my parents were here and I just dug in really deep for them.
“I just knew I needed to follow Mario as close as I could but I got dropped so just did my best to stay in touch and do what I needed to. You can’t buy a world title; beating guys like Mario and Javii… it is great to have my name with theirs.”
Luis won with a seasonal total of 5,095 points to 4,939 for Mola, who came back from some bad races in the middle of the season to almost win a fourth consecutive title. Zaferes, with five wins, ended up crushing the field with 6,175 points to 5,326 for Learmonth and 5,191 for Taylor-Brown. The American depth was impressive, with Taylor Spivey finishing fourth on the season and Summer Rappaport in fifth. Summaries:
ITU World Series Grand Final
Lausanne (SUI) ~ 29 August-1 September 2019
(Full results here)
Men: 1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), 1:50:47; 2. Mario Mola (ESP), 1:51:03; 3. Fernando Alarza (ESP), 1:51:18; 4. Gustav Iden (NOR), 1:51:34; 5. Vincent Luis (FRA), 1:51:53; 6. Javier Gomez Noya (ESP), 1:52:14; 7. Casper Stornes (NOR), 1:52:20; 8. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), 1:52:32; 9. Marten van Riel (BEL), 1:52:53; 10. Alois Knabl (AUT), 1:52:53. Also in the top 25: 11. Morgan Pearson (USA), 1:52:56.
Final Standings: 1. Vincent Luis (FRA), 5,095; 2. Mario Mola (ESP), 4,939; 3. Javier Gomez Noya (ESP), 4.533; 4. Fernando Alarza (ESP), 4,395; 5. Marten van Riel (BEL), 3,659; 6. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS), 3,433; 7. Henri Schoeman (RSA), 3,148; 8. Leo Bergere (FRA0, 3,042; 9. Gustav Iden (NOR), 3,028; 10. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), 2,892. Also in the top 25: 23. Morgan Pearson (USA), 1,699; 24. Matthew McElroy (USA), 1,497.
Women: 1. Katie Zaferes (USA), 2:02:45; 2. Jessica Learmonth (GBR), 2:02:49; 3. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR), 2:03:03; 4. Rachel Klamer (NED), 2:03:44; 5. Flora Duffy (BER), 2:04:26; 6. Laura Lindemann (GER), 2:04:41; 7. Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA), 2:04:51; 8. Alice Betto (ITA), 2:05:11; 9. Taylor Spivey (USA), 2:05:40; 10. Nicole Spirig (SUI), 2:05:53. Also in the top 25: 14. Taylor Knibb (USA), 2:07:10; … 16. Summer Rappaport (USA), 2:07:44; … 21. Tamara Gorman (USA), 2:09:02.
Final Standings: 1. Katie Zaferes (USA), 6,175; 2. Jessica Learmonth (GBR), 5,326; 3. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR), 5,191; 4. Taylor Spivey (USA), 4,651; 5. Summer Rappaport (USA), 3,589; 6. Rachel Klamer (NED), 3,586; 7. Non Stanford (GBR), 3,435; 8. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), 2,548; 9. Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA), 2,456; 10. Laura Lindemann (GER), 2,427. Also in the top 25: 15. Taylor Knibb (USA), 2,231; … 24. Chelsea Burns (USA), 1,616.