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Bermuda’s Flora Duffy and Belgium’s Simon De Cuyper earned their first ITU World Cup victories in hot and humid conditions in Huatulco on Sunday. In the women’s race, Duffy used a brilliant first run lap to set up her win over silver medallist Pamela Oliveira (BRA) and bronze medallist Claudia Rivas (MEX). In the men’s race, an incredible third-lap run surge led De Cuyper to the win ahead of Ryan Sissons (NZL) and Danylo Sapunov (UKR).
Women’s Race Recap
Despite an early start time, the elite women competing in Huatulco at the third stop of the 2012 ITU World Cup circuit were confronted with debilitating heat. The high air and water temperatures, combined with a steep climb on the bike and a hilly run, provided the scene for a challenging day. While some athletes fell victim to the brutal conditions, others prevailed, making it a day of firsts. With a powerful run, Flora Duffy (BER) claimed the top spot, earning her first World Cup victory. Similarly, Pamela Oliveira (BRA) secured her first-ever World Cup medal, gaining essential Olympic points along the way. Home favourite Claudia Rivas rounded out the top three, making her the first Mexican woman to medal at a World Cup since 1993.
“I’m starting to tear up I’m so happy,” Duffy said. “It’s been a long road to get here. Today was a hard race and a hard course, but I think that’s what I needed to make me focus and really push. It totally played to my strengths today.”
The three were a part of a lead pack that proved impossible to chase down from early on. Rivas and Oliveira led the ladies out of the swim. With a quick transition, Oliveira wasted no time using her strong bike legs to conquer the monster 24% grade hill. By the first lap, the top finishers, along with Alexandra Razarenova (RUS), Line Jensen (DEN), Yuko Takahaski (JPN) and Margit Vanek (HUN) had opened up a minute and a half lead. The ladies took turns at the helm, pushing the group of seven further and further in front of a struggling chase pack. By the end of the eight-lap bike course, there was a three and a half minute time gap between the two groups.
The question then became who had enough left to finish the run. Duffy answered, splitting the fastest transition time to sprint out ahead of the group on the first run lap. It was a small, but decisive move in the race. Duffy blazed through the first lap to gain a 28-second lead. While her own pace dropped on the second lap, she still managed to increase her lead by another 20 seconds.
Behind her, Rivas, Oliveira, Razarenova, and Jensen ran shoulder-to-shoulder until the final lap. In a battle to the end, Oliveira, who spoke of improving her running at the press conference on Friday, surged slightly ahead. Rivas followed Oliveria’s pace, while Razarenova and Jensen couldn’t muster enough stamina to maintain the speed. After Duffy sailed to the win in 2 hours 13 minutes and 17 seconds, an elated Oliveira crossed over thirty seconds later at 2:13:47 for the silver. Cheered on by the locals, Rivas took third six seconds behind Oliveira. Razarenova came across the line in fourth place while Jensen rounded out the top five. Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR) was tops for ITU’s development team in 7th place, clocking the day’s fastest run. Fellow Team ITU competitor Mateja Simic (SLO) finished just behind her in the 8th spot.
Men’s Race Recap
While the high temperatures for the women were punishing, the men battled through even more intense conditions in Huatulco. With a start time close to high noon, the men dove into 28.6 degree Celsius water and ran under the sun at its strongest. Like the ebbing water at the swim start, the full moon also seemed to have a tidal effect on the men’s race, as each leg brought in a new wave of leaders. In the end, Simon De Cuyper (BEL), Ryan Sissons (NZL) and Danylo Sapunov (UKR) stood atop the podium.
In the beginning, Aurelien Raphael (FRA) exited the water in front with Richard Varga (SVK), to blaze through the first lap of the bike, which gained him a 31-second lead. However, his pace decreased over the next two laps, allowing Joshua Amberger (AUS), Ryan Bailie (AUS) and Andrew Yorke (CAN) to join him. Meanwhile, Sapunov followed a minute behind at the front of the first chase pack. De Cuyper and Sissons were even further behind, sitting in a second chase group nearly two minutes behind the leaders.
“In the first lap I felt very bad,” De Cuyper said of his run. “I thought, ‘Lets get water and cool down.’ Once I was fresh, I had some good feeling in my legs. I thought I could push and catch some of the athletes. I came back and suddenly I was in first position.”
Led by a monstrous break away from Tyler Butterfield (BER) midway through the bike, the two chase groups united to tackle the treacherous course together. Up ahead, the four leading men, steadily maintained their distance of more than 45 seconds into the final transition. Similar to the women’s race, the second transition was a pivotal point in the leader board for the men. Yorke bolted out in front of the lead group, but a hungry chase pack was out for vengeance by the time they rolled in to store their bikes. Led by Spain’s Ivan Rana, the men wasted no time hammering out a speedy pace.
Yorke, who had previously never placed in the top 20 at a World Cup, blazed through the first two laps seemingly unaffected by the dehydrating temperatures. Sapunov was also quickly covering ground, pulling within 35 seconds and two places of Yorke on just the first run lap. Trailing another 20 seconds behind were De Cuyper and Sissons, patiently waiting to make their move.
Their chance came in the third lap when De Cuyper surged to the front, surpassing 13 men including Yorke and Sapunov. Sissons, who had De Cuyper in sight, didn’t miss a beat. He quickened his pace to follow the Belgian over the finish line.