Last Weekend Now: Long Live the Queen of Bermuda, Plus A New and Old 70.3
The longest World Triathlon season in world history made its penultimate stop in Bermuda; South Africa has a new 70.3, and we take a quick race-cation to Cabo.
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Last Weekend Now is your weekly commentary on what’s happening in pro triathlon, brought to you by Brad Culp. (Ed note: So yell at him if you don’t like the comments.)
Luis Back on Top in Bermuda
Remember Vincent Luis? The guy who owned the WTCS before COVID and looked like an absolute lock to win 2020 Olympic gold? Turns out he’s still really good at triathlon and won his first WTCS since September 2020—which was 12 years ago. The 2019 and 2020 world champ hasn’t exactly laid low over the past two seasons (he finished second at WTCS Abu Dhabi last year) but it had been 792 days since he’d stood atop the podium of the top series, and that probably feels like a long time if you’re a two-time world champ.
In a stark reminder that more interesting courses make for more interesting races, Luis won as part of a swim breakaway that managed to stay away for the entire bike. That is extraordinarily rare in World Triathlon racing, and it’s a glimpse of how the French hope to win a gold medal on home soil in less than two years.
Eight breakaway athletes on the bike proved to be just the right-sized pack, turning a lead of 20 seconds at T1 into 50 seconds at T2. Even fleet-footed Alex Yee—who has won three WTCS races this season and is sprinting away with the world title—couldn’t make up that much ground. As he did when he was basically unstoppable in 2019 and 2020, Luis waited until about 1K to go before putting in a surge, which easily dropped Spaniards Antonio Serrat Seone and Roberto Sanchez Mantecon.
If the Paris 2024 Olympic course had any hills on the bike, this is a recipe that could work very well for the French. Of course, after having a really hard course at Athens 2004, World Triathlon decided that the Olympic Triathlon shouldn’t be so dang hard, so the Paris course will be pancake-flat with a bunch of U-turns to ensure that a group of 40 gets off the bike together and the run will be all that really matters.
That’s really good news for the likes of Jelle Geens and Yee, who ran their way up to fourth and fifth, respectively. It also could play into the hands of defending Olympic champ Kristian Blummenfelt, who returned to WTCS racing to finish sixth. That’s insane for someone who has been solely focused on Ironman for the past 15 months. Gustav Iden finished ninth, just nine seconds behind his teammate.
All in all, 10 men ran faster than Luis and yet no one could catch him. That almost never happens in World Triathlon racing. Make bike courses hard again.
Long Live the Queen
There is an actual movement on social media and in real life to put Flora Duffy’s face on Bermudan currency. If she manages to repeat as Olympic champion in 2024, it’ll probably happen. That’s how big of a deal Duffy is on the tiny island where she was born.
She also has a hill on the bike course named after her, and she used it to break away from every woman in the field not named Maya Kingma. Duffy looked to be soloing away to victory—like she did in Bermuda in 2018—but Kingma soloed her way up to the Queen, and the pair continued to grow their all the way to T2. Even Taylor Knibb couldn’t catch them, but she didn’t manage to drop the entire chase pack in her first WTCS since Yokohama in May.
Duffy dispatched Kingma within the first few strides of the run and got to enjoy 10 kilometers of Bermudans reminding her how much better she is than everybody else. For her bike effort, Knibb ended the day second, which is ridiculously impressive for an athlete who spent the entire summer focused on putting in one of the finest 70.3 performances we’ve ever seen. Super League superstar Beth Potter posted the second-best run of the day to finish third.
The 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series—which has been going on for 30 years—will finally come to an end on November 26 in Abu Dhabi.
RELATED: Bermuda Celebrates Flora Duffy’s Historic Gold Medal
Pallant-Browne and Weiss Win new South African 70.3
Triathlon continues to boom in South Africa and the mighty M-Dot appears to have the market cornered in the other Down Under. Ironman now has five races in SA, with Mossel Bay making is debut over the weekend.
Fresh on the heels of her third-place finish at the 70.3 world champs in St. George, EPB make easy work of a weak field, winning by nine minutes on a course that must’ve been hard because she ran 1:23 and she never runs that slow.
It’s six wins on the season for Pallant-Browne, who specializes in this distance harder than just about anyone else. Since turning pro in 2016, she’s won 23 races—22 of them at the 70.3 distance. Even six Ws won’t have her crack the top 10 of the PTO World Rankings, however. She’s currently 14th and probably won’t get much of a boost from working a lackluster field.
Speaking of which, South Africa’s Magda Nieuwoodt finished second and Norway’s Julie Aspesletten rounded out the podium. That proves that Norway also has female professional triathletes and that’s very scary for their mixed relay prospects in the future.
In the men’s race, local favorite and two-time XTERRA world champ Bradley Weiss capped off an otherwise mediocre season with his first win, running down countryman Matt Trautman to take the fourth 70.3 win of his career. I’m getting pretty good at guessing how many points an athlete will get for his or her PTO rankings, and this win should net Weiss roughly 82—which is the same as he got for finishing 17th in Kona but nowhere near the 92 he got for finishing fourth at Roth.
If PTO is going to overhaul the ranking system a bit, they should start with chilling out on the points for Roth. If not, pros looking to inflate their world ranking really need to target that race, as well as the PTO Tour events, which come with a 5% bonus. I think Weiss should also get a 5% bonus for winning a race on the run in Pumas. I’m 99% sure that’s the first time that has ever happened in triathlon.
McBride and Engelhardt take Los Cabos 70.3
At 44 years young, Rachel McBride is having the best season of her pro tri career, which didn’t begin until the age of 33. McBride won their second 70.3 of 2022, despite runner-up Kylie Simpson running five minutes faster. It turns out swimming 10 minutes faster than your biggest competition is a great way to win a race. Second-year pro Mollie Hebda of the U.S. finished third for the first podium of her young career.
Switzerland’s Adriano Engelhardt also scored the first podium finish of his two-year-old pro career, and likewise it was a strong swim that made the difference. He was more than three minutes faster than runner-up Trevor Foley of the U.S. in the water, and ultimately broke the tape two minutes ahead. Tomas Andres Rodriguez Hernandez carried all four of his names across the line in third.