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Last Weekend Now is your Monday rundown of what’s happening in pro triathlon, brought to you with commentary by Brad Culp. (Ed note: So yell at him if you don’t like the comments.)
Welcome to another all-Euro version of Last Weekend Now. We had round two of the four-week Super League season in Munich, an actual iron-distance world championship race in Holland, and one of the greatest to ever do it getting it done on the French Riviera. Here’s all you need to know about the weekend of pro tri racing.
Learmonth and Luis dominate in Munich
As I mentioned in last week’s column, I am officially the world’s #1 SLT Sharks fan. Because of that, I decided I should figure out who is actually on my team this week. To be honest, I’m a little disappointed. Had I actually taken the time to research the teams before proclaiming my allegiance to the Sharks, I likely would’ve chosen differently. How did the Eagles end up with three of the five British Olympians on their squad? How is that fair?
OK, I’ll quickly wrap up the team standings, because, if you’re like me, you don’t actually care. The mighty Eagles are way in front with 182 points for the season. The feisty Scorpions are in second with 139 points, but my Sharks are hot on their tails, just 10 points behind. Bringing up the rear are the Cheetahs and lastly the Rhinos, who have half as many points as the Eagles. I have no idea what that means but it can’t be good.
Go Sharks. Get it together. Fins up.
Now the big reason the Eagles are flying high is that they have Jess Learmonth, and she is way better than everyone else at this Super League stuff. The Munich race was an “Equalizer” format, which started with a 2.4K individual time trial that determined the pursuit-start gaps for the real race (which was an enduro-style race of swim-bike-run, swim-bike-run… it makes a lot more sense if you watch it, I promise).
Learmonth was second in the TT, just behind leader Emilie Morier (FRA). It was enough for her to exit the water of the first swim in first, earning her the short chute for the finish (which is a really big deal in Super League). In the end, she was so far ahead that she didn’t need the shorter route, but she took it anyway and kept her unbeaten Super League streak alive. In the least surprising news of the weekend, it was a podium sweep for the British women, with double Olympic medalist Georgia Taylor-Brown finishing second and non-Olympian-but-5K-world-record-holder Beth Potter in third.
In the men’s race we had 24-year-old American Seth Rider finishing first in the TT with a gap of 10 seconds on Super League standout Vincent Luis of France. However, Luis had no problem erasing that deficit on the first swim, as he exited the water in first to earn the short chute.
As with Learmonth, Luis is almost impossible to beat at this format when he has a shorter route to the tape. He broke away with Johnny Brownlee, who looked like he might be the stronger runner of the two, but the short chute put Luis at the line five seconds ahead. Double Olympic medalist Alex Yee rounded out the podium 11 seconds later, making it five Brits for the six spots on the podium.
Next up for Super League and my beloved Sharks is next weekend on the isle of Jersey, followed by the finale in Malibu on September 25, when the series makes its U.S. debut.
Fast times in Holland
I hate to say the ITU Long Distance World Championship isn’t a true world championship, but the ITU Long Distance World Championship isn’t a true world championship. As a good rule of thumb, if past winners include Jordan Rapp, it probably doesn’t have the depth of talent of a race like Kona. But because it’s been 14 years since the last race in Kona, I’ll settle for any iron-distance world championship I can get at this point.
While the field lacked the star power that we’ll see at next weekend’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship, it didn’t lack an eye-popping performance, thanks to Denmark’s Kristian Hogenhaug. Hogenhaug combined a 4:03 bike split with a 2:41 marathon to win by nearly two minutes over Sweden’s Jesper Svennsson. Rounding out the podium was Brazil’s Reinaldo Colucci, who is in his eighteenth season of professional racing.
The women’s race also saw some absurdly fast times, with Dutchwoman Sarissa De Vries finishing in 8:32:04 on home soil to claim her first “world title.” That was two minutes better than Frenchwoman Manon Genet, who was one of four women to run under three hours. Michelle Vesterby rounded out the podium with a Danish iron-distance record, but it was fourth-place finisher Elisabetta Curridori of Italy with the most impressive split of the weekend with an incredible 2:52:32 marathon. Dio mio.
Bouncing back from Tokyo at Ironman 70.3 Nice
A pair of athletes who were disappointed with their performances at the Tokyo Olympics took out their frustrations on France, with the legendary Nicola Spirig (SUI) and the other Norwegian guy Casper Stornes dominating the grueling bike course to win convincingly.
Stornes is following in the footsteps of Norwegian Olympic teammates Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden in trying his hand at long course, and the bad news for the rest of the world is that he’s also pretty damn good. The 24-year-old, who finished 11th in Tokyo, won by seven minutes on the heels of dominating bike performance and a 1:06 half-marathon. While he won’t be in St. George for the 70.3 World Championship next weekend, we could have three Norwegians vying for the 70.3 world title in 2022.
Spirig is another would-be contender we won’t be seeing in St. George, but the three-time mom and two-time Olympic medalist is a lock to win just about any 70.3 that’s close to home in Switzerland. Spirig led start to finish to win by more than two minutes, and at this point we have to wonder if the 2012 Olympic champion has her sights set on her sixth Olympic Games at Paris 2024.