Last Weekend Now: Two Sprint Finishes in Norway and Soggy Racing in the Austrian Alps
The first World Cup on Norwegian soil plays host to two exciting battles, Emma Pallant-Browne adds another win to her resume in Austria, and more.
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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.)
The first major triathlon in the epicenter of Norwegian triathlon did not disappoint, even if the massive crowd was a bit let down to see the Olympic champion finish second (oh, spoiler alert, sorry). Meanwhile, 1,200 miles south, a handful of the top middle-distance athletes in Europe headed to the Austrian Alps to take on perhaps the most handsome course on the entire 70.3 circuit.
Two Thrilling Sprint Finishes (and Some Light Shoving) at the First Bergen World Cup
I’m 99% sure this was the best World Cup since World Cups became the forgotten younger sibling of World Triathlon’s top two race series 13 years ago (the World Triathlon Series being the slicker older brother). But as far as destinations go, the World Cup series has the more exotic venues (they had one in Kazakhstan), and this one really piqued the interest of some of the top talent in the world. This start list looked more like a WTS event—at least on the men’s side—as everyone wanted a chance to beat the Olympic champ in his hometown.
RELATED: Is Bergen, Norway the Most Important Place in Triathlon You’ve Never Heard Of?
Frenchman Dorian Coninx was the only one able to do so, surging away from Blummenfelt in the final 100 meters. The course in Bergen was nearly perfect, even though I’m not a fan of the Super League-style 180-turn before the final hundred meters. It seems unnecessary. In both the men’s and women’s races, we had perfect sprint finishes lining up, and that 180 just cluttered things up for no reason. Let’s see these guys at their highest speed in front of huge crowds (like we had in Bergen). There’s a reason NASCAR doesn’t have their cars do a 180 with a quarter-mile to go.
It’s Coninx’ biggest win since his WTS title back in Montreal last year (where they raced the crazy eliminator format). And it’s the latest in a string of victories for French men in short- and middle-distance racing. Norway gets all the attention because of gold medals and world titles, but the depth of the French men’s team is remarkable—almost on par with the British women. Almost.
Four seconds behind the sprint for the win, Blummenfelt’s teammate, Vetle Thorn, took third for the biggest result of his young career. Only 23, he’s already been racing at the elite level for six years, and is the next in a long-line of talent coming out of Bergen. He’s also one of those rare ridiculously tall people who has exceptionally smooth and fast running form. Speaking of which…
Sweden has a budding female superstar in 18-year-old Tilda Månsson, who was the youngest and tallest woman racing in southwestern Norway on Sunday. In case you don’t follow the World Triathlon Junior athletes (because there are only six of us that do), Månsson has been a serial killer on the circuit for the past 12 months. She’s won 10 races in the last year. (Two were relays, but whatever.) That’s insane.
She’s also the youngest World Cup winner since the legendary Vanessa Fernandes in 2003, and Månsson did it with a sprint finish that will surely live on World Triathlon b-roll for decades to come. With just ten meters to go, she dusted elbows with Belgium’s Jolien Vermeylen, who immediately fell off the pace as Månsson surged to victory.
It all could’ve been avoided without that 180 spin, but it ended with Vermeylen seemingly upset and shouting something at Månsson as she crossed the finish. I didn’t see any foul play at the finish. Sometimes a hip check is racing.
Britain’s Kate Waugh claimed the final spot on the podium, a place the 23-year-old has been a lot over the past year on the World Cup circuit. She’s also been a part of Britain’s winning relays on the WTS circuit this season, and finished 12th in Hamburg last month. I know I said the depth of the French men almost rivals that of the British women a few paragraphs back, but I didn’t actually mean that.
The real star of the show was the city of Bergen, which came out in force to support its first major triathlon. The course was perfect, mostly because it wasn’t raining. There was still plenty of carnage on the bike course that had cobblestones for nearly half of it, something we haven’t seen a lot of in triathlon. The crowd really got behind it, with a level of enthusiasm that rivaled the incredible crowds in Hamburg. Hopefully this was the warm-up before a WTS event in Norway’s second-largest city.
Pallant-Browne and Funk Win in Austrian Alps
Ironman does Austria very well. Sorry if that came off wrong. Their venues in Austria are some of the most delightful in the sport, and if you’re looking for a destination race, you really can’t go wrong in Austria.
Emma Pallant-Browne can’t go wrong at the 70.3 distance. She’s won 20 such races since turning pro in 2016. That’s a lot of racing and a lot of winning. Her record this year is five wins, two runner-ups, and two DNFs. (Including a very scary one at Challenge Miami, where she ran herself unconscious.) It’s no wonder a few felt sour about her missing out on an oversaturated European team at last weekend’s Collins Cup. She surely would’ve won her match-up, as did those who raced in her stead.
Runner-up to EPB was Australian Grace Thek, who finished fourth at last week’s World Triathlon Long Distance Championship in Slovakia. She was just over a minute behind after entering T2 on pace with Pallant-Browne. Italy’s Giorgia Priarone was third, just less than two minutes behind Thek.
Frederic Funk finished first for the fifth time in fifteen months. Say that five times fast. The German with the coolest name in the game improved upon his third-place finish at the non-Collins Cup race in Slovakia last weekend, taking the win ahead of Italy’s Gregory Barnaby on a wet and windy course in Zell.
Funk rode two minutes faster than anyone in the field and won by nearly that margin. This is the part where he’d be deemed another über-biker, but we need to retire that term for good. It’s been going on too long. It’s been used too much. And there’s too many of them. They can’t all be über.
Jan Stratman, a German would-be-über-biker, rounded out the podium in third. Three-time world champion Sebastian Kienle finished the day in sixth, less than three minutes behind the Funk.
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