For the third time in history, the U.S. women completed a clean sweep of the ITU World Triathlon Series podium with Summer Cook, Sarah Groff and Katie Zaferes going 1-2-3 at World Triathlon Edmonton. It was the first time Cook made it to the WTS podium, which she did with a smoking and strategic run.
Read the recap from Triathlon.org below:
“For me a lot of today was just finding the mental willpower to keep myself in the race and put myself in the position to have a strong result,” Cook said. “I dnf’d last year with hypothermia. I knew I had to come in today extra prepared for the conditions. I didn’t think I had a chance at all on the last curve on the last lap and then I started to believe that I had a chance.”
The American team shined from start to finish in Edmonton on Sunday, with five of the top 10 women out of the swim coming from the U.S. team. While it was Jessica Learmonth (GBR) who took an early lead on the one-lap, 750m swim, with Flora Duffy (BER) tucked right behind her, the group largely hailed from the U.S. with Tylor Spivey, Kirsten Kasper, Cook, True and Zaferes in the mix.
Together with Mari Rabie (RSA), Lucy Hall (GBR) and Carolina Routier (ESP), a nine-deep pack jumped on their bikes early and hammered out a pace that saw them score a healthy 30-second advantage after the first of four bike laps on the 20km sprint course.
Midway through the bike, the chase, which included Great Britain pre-race favorites Vicky Holland, Non Stanford and Jodie Stimpson, chipped four seconds off the gap to pull within 26 seconds. However, the work on the second lap went unnoticed as the leaders gained it back on the next lap for a 31-second advantage onto the bell lap.
A slow transition saw Duffy suffer a five-second deficit out of T2 while Kasper capitalized on the opportunity to run out in the top position. But it was her teammate True that gunned it early on the three-lap 5km run. Desperate to turn her 2015 Edmonton silver into gold, Duffy did early work to catch up to the American women.
They ran as a trio for one of the laps before True took off, dropping Duffy and the rest of the competition. However, a surge from Cook, who had struggled to stay in the lead group on the bike, saw her run the field down late in the run.
As she passed Zaferes, then Duffy, she had only to pick off True, which she did in the final 500 meters. True held strong in second to redeem a disappointing performance at the Olympics, where she was forced to withdrawal.
“I knew I had some fitness. It was a question of whether or not my body was going to be able to handle racing,” True said. “As an athlete you never want to start a race not knowing if you can get through it. I was pleased I could get through and more pleased that I could show a bit of fitness. I’ve had a pretty difficult year and it was nice to have a result that I’m pretty proud of.”
Behind her, Zaferes found some final speed to run down Duffy for bronze, meaning Duffy just missed the podium, keeping all of the medal hardware in Team USA’s name. Apart from the US having swept the podium twice before, only Australia has swept the WTS podium previously.
Fourth was enough for Duffy to hang onto her position as the leader in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings, but sets the stage for a tough battle on who will be the 2016 ITU World Champion in Cozumel at the Grand Final in two weeks.
“I think there will be a little bit of math done to see what needs to be done in Cozumel,” Duffy said. “I would love to win the Series, it’s been really cool to have strong numbers all year. But realistically, I never expected it. So whatever happens in Cozumel, it’s been a fantastic year.”