Super League Malta came to a close yesterday after three days of intense racing, which saw Katie Zaferes (USA) hold onto her top spot in the SLT Championship series leaderboard at the season’s halfway point.
Day 1: The Equalizer Swim
The action kicked off Friday with a Swim Individual Time Trial (SITT), considered the most testing of the three disciplines for the majority of triathletes. The finishing times determined the starting order for Sunday’s Equalizer stage two. Taylor Spivey (USA) rocketed through the swim, setting a blistering time of 07:04 with Yuko Takahashi (JPN) just behind the American at 07:10 (+00:06). Zaferes was unable to out-do her compatriot, so the Jersey Champion had to settle for the third spot with 07:11 (+00:07). “I was nervous going first—I like to chase and not be chased,” Spivey said of her victory. “Happy to come away with the win; I took the smartest lines on the course and got a chance to show what I was capable of.”
Day 2: The Eliminator
With just 24 hours to recover from the SITT, the athletes faced the Eliminator on Saturday, in which the pontoon placings were determined by Friday’s slot draw. The Eliminator is a test of strength, stamina, and speed where field position proves key over timing. It’s also a mental challenge, as the athletes knew that they needed to finish high enough to not be eliminated after Stages 1 and 2 while enduring three stages of the traditional swim-bike-run.
Jersey’s ‘blue swimmer’s jersey’ holder Emma Jeffcoat led out of the swim and onto the bike. Following Jeffcoat out of the water was Danielle De Francesco (AUS) and Zaferes.
With a stunning display of power and control, Zaferes moved quickly into first place on the first bike leg. She didn’t look in any danger as the rest of the field trailed in her wake, taking the Stage 1 victory. While Zaferes began her recovery, Megan Foley (USA), Elana Danilova (RUS), Sarah Alexander (USA), Klaudia Sebők (HUN), and Erin Storie (USA) were eliminated from the field.
After a 10-minute break, the remaining athletes set off from the pontoon in the second round, where Katie Zaferes once again took the victory. Desirae Ridenour (CAN), Claire Michel (BEL) and De Francesco were all eliminated, leaving just 10 athletes in the field for the final stage.
Zaferes’ domination of this day’s racing continued into the third stage as she controlled the field and took a well-deserved win. Rachel Klamer (NED) remained strong throughout and took second place, and it was Canada’s Joanna Brown rounded off the podium in third place.
Day 3: The Equalizer
This final race was a rapid swim-bike-run-swim-bike-run with no breaks and a staggered start using the time gaps established on Friday’s SITT. The field was spread across the course battling to make up time and working hard to get back on terms with the leaders.
Having won the Eliminator on Saturday, Zaferes went into Sunday’s challenge looking to take the overall spoils for the weekend. She would have to hold off an on-form Klamer, who was riding a wave of confidence having done so well in Saturday’s Eliminator.
It was the SITTs winner Spivey who led the field out with a 0:00:06 lead on Takahashi but more importantly, a 0:00:07 lead over Katie Zaferes. Klamer was 00:00:16 back from Taylor and critically only 0:00:09 off Zaferes. The format tested the athletes’ ability to think tactically and use their strength wisely as the field spread across the course.
Spivey exited the water first with the field close behind; Zaferes had closed the gap and a pack soon formed on the bike. It was Klamer who was first off the bike and onto the run, looking strong as the race unfolded. As the athletes entered the second phase of the race it was an all-American breakaway, with Zaferes, Summer Cook, and Kirsten Kasper in front, and the Dutch athlete Klamer chasing the group.
The front three swapped the lead until the final corner of the last run. Unwavering, Zaferes summoned the strength on the uphill finish to break clear and take her second victory of the weekend and her consecutive Championship Weekend. Kasper held off Cook to take the runner-up spot, making it an all-USA podium for the weekend’s final race.
Reflecting on her second win and second season series title, Zaferes said: “That was hard. Kirsten and Summer just pushed up until the end, and there were parts where I let a gap happen, and I needed to work hard to close. Up that last hill, I just gave it everything I had and hoped it was more than what they had. It was as close as it can get I think.”