Alex Yee and Maya Kingma win WTCS Leeds

Published
06/06/2021

 

Great Britain’s Alex Yee had Leeds’ Roundhay Park in the palm of his hand on Sunday afternoon, eventually coasting to a first WTCS gold after a magnificent 10km run. With the swim staying condensed and the bike pack large, the stage was set for Yee to strike out, running solo for the final three laps to the delight of the fans.

 

Behind him, Morgan Pearson (USA) had another brilliant race to finish second, bronze going to Belgium’s Marten van Riel.

 

“That was very special,” said a beaming Yee. “It is the first time that I’ve seen so many people on the street, and it was just amazing to be able to deliver in front of all of them. These results are a team effort. For me to finish fourth in Yokohama was a bit of a disappointment, but after the race I spoke with the team to see what we needed to work on and I think that this shows the progression I’ve made in the last weeks.”


It was warm and overcast as the men lined up on the Waterloo Lake pontoon, Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) wearing the number one and taking up position on the left of the start for what should have been the shortest route to the first buoy, but the group strayed off line and had to correct themselves and the first turn.

 

With the smooth stroke of Richard Varga (SVK) occupying a familiar place out front, behind him an incident between Alistair Brownlee and USA’s Chase McQueen meant that Britain’s two-time Olympic champion would eventually be disqualified, though he continued to race on. Brother Jonathan Brownlee was also going well in the water, likewise Aaron Royle (AUS) who was hoping to help Australia confirm a third Olympic men’s place on the Tokyo start list just as Tom Bishop was for GB.

 

A big group came into T1 together, Van Riel, Pearson and Alistair Brownlee out first, Jonas Schomburg (GER) again looking dangerous in the early stages, with Kenji Nener (JPN) and Csongor Lehmann (HUN) among those hoping to get onto the front pack too.

 

It was an eight-strong group that found some space out front on the first climb, Leo Bergere and Royle getting on the back and looking ready to push things forward, Salvisberg (SUI) and Varga trying to join them, Blummenfelt, Javier Gomez Noya, Bence Bicsak (HUN) and the returning Hayden Wilde (NZL) in the big group 10 seconds back spearheaded by Yee. One minute off the leaders was a third group led by Gabriel Sandor (SWE).

 

The front two packs merged into a 27-deep train on lap three, Jacob Birtwhistle and Sam Dickinson looking well-placed to mount a challenge and it was the latter rolling the dice on lap seven and pulling 20 seconds clear for two glorious laps for the crowds before being hauled back heading into T2.

 

Blummenfelt and Schomburg were right onto Dickinson out and into the opening strides of the run, Wilde and Seth Rider (USA) likewise, and it was the German who set the early pace with Antonio Serrat Seoane and Yee in hot pursuit.

 

It was Yee who caught him first with a real early statement of intent, Wilde moving into position alongside and the two looked to work together to pull clear from a group full of run talent.

 

Jonny Brownlee dropped to the back of the bunch pulled back in touch with the leaders by Pearson, van Riel and Blummenfelt on their shoulder, only for Yee to then drive onwards again, this time decisively with no collective response coming from behind him.

 

Still something of a newcomer to Championship Series racing, the 23-year-old looked totally at ease out front and only extended the gap with every lap, Van Riel hanging tough with Fernando Alarza moving into familiar territory.

 

Wilde was also clear in second for a time only to be reigned in at the 5km mark by the flying Pearson. Belgium’s Van Riel took up position in third looking in good rhythm and by now had the likes of Blummenfelt 45 seconds and Jonny Brownlee and Bergere a minute back.

 

The final kilometre then became the Alex Yee show, and the Brit lapped up the audience adulation, pumping his fists and eventually taking the tape with a roar and a 10km split of 29’46. Pearson ran his way into second with another brilliant WTCS podium, van Riel with the bronze.

 

Alarza was five seconds back in fourth, Hayden Wilde, Kristian Blummenfelt, Leo Bergere, Serrat Seoane, Jonny Brownlee and Jonas Schomburg rounding out the top ten.

“I am super happy,” said Morgan Pearson after his silver. “I came here and didn’t know what to expect. After Yokohama I took it pretty easy, I had a week just for recovery and the travel here was not easy, but to be able to finish like this here is nice. Since I started triathlon my goal was to go to the Olympics, so the fact that I already have qualified in Yokohama has put that weight off my shoulders. I felt relaxed all week, and I think this played out on my benefit.”

 

“This was a super tough race, I think everyone was suffering,” admitted Marten Van Riel. “It was just about keeping your own pace and keep going. I really loved this bike course, it is one of the hardest ones I’ve seen, but I loved it. With all the corners, it made the pack really string out, but in courses like this you can’t hide, and this is what I love.”

 

Results: Elite Men


1.    Alex Yee    GBR 01:43:27
2.    Morgan Pearson    USA 01:43:52
3.    Marten Van Riel    BEL 01:44:03
4.    Fernando Alarza    ESP 01:44:12
5.    Hayden Wilde    NZL  Flag    01:44:27

 

Magnificent Maya Kingma wins first Series gold in Leeds

The Netherlands’ Maya Kingma became the queen of the north of England on Sunday afternoon, delivering a near-perfect race to take her first ever Series win at the World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds. Just as she had in the Yokohama season-opener, Kingma was able to break away on the bike, this time with Great Britain’s Jess Learmonth and Sophie Coldwell for company, and the three just grew and grew their lead. Coldwell hung on for a memorable first medal at the top level, but the day belonged to Kingma, who now finds herself top of the world rankings two races in.

“I can’t believe it! I had a very good swim, even though I was on the other side of the pontoon. I tried not to think about what could happen, but it was just all according to my plan, just like Yokohama,” said a thrilled Maya Kingma. “We just pushed and pushed. I was so happy to be with Jess and Sophie on the bike. I felt pretty strong and at some point I thought the group behind us could chase us but then we won back time. I am just so surprised. On the run I told myself that I had to try to leave Jess behind in the last kilometre on the downhill… I tried and it worked.”


The new-look WTCS Leeds course had a few surprises in store once the familiar 1.5km swim in Waterloo Lake had been negotiated, a long climb out of transition and 40km bike course entirely in Roundhay Park, before a 10km run that ended with a fierce incline and a tough finale.

 

With the swimming skills of British long-distance specialist Lucy-Charles Barclay - on the World Triathlon start list for the first time - and Jess Learmonth setting the pace, the swim strung out quickly, Kingma and Vittoria Lopes (BRA) both well in check with those out front.

 

Sophie Coldwell and Taylor Spivey (USA) completed a front six that managed to carve out a 30-second advantage by the closing stages, while Beth Potter (GBR) and Natalie van Coevorden (AUS) emerged from the second lap with Flora Duffy (BER) for company and ready to test herself on the return to racing.

 

While Learmonth, Coldwell and Kingma were on their bikes and up the first climb efficiently, Spivey, Charles-Barclay and Lopes dropped slightly back and could only form a trio just off the front three.

 

Potter was chasing to keep up with Duffy, while a third group further back included Katie Zaferes already over a minute back with Valerie Barthelemy (BEL), Amelie Kretz (CAN) and Carolyn Hayes (IRL).

 

Duffy road solo to bridge up to the three chasers and managed to get them organised by lap three, but by that point the damage was done and the gap to the second pack was already close to a minute, 90 seconds to to Potter and Britain’s Non Stanford’s group, two minutes to the likes of Laura Lindemann (GER) and Zaferes.

 

With two laps to go and the front three working so well, the gap grew to two minutes, and while the groups behind merged, there was now over three minutes to make up on the leaders.

 

Heading down into transition for the last time, Kingma was again into the run shoes fast and out looking fresh. Behind the leaders, Duffy again chose to go it alone and start to hunt down the podium solo after Spivey and Charles-Barclay struggled in T2. Hayes was also rolling the dice, Potter and Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) going through the gears and setting up a big finish.

 

As Coldwell dropped back it became a shootout for gold between Learmonth and Kingma, neither looking like slowing their pace. Duffy was flying but running out of course, her 10km split of 33’47 nearly 20 seconds faster than Potter who ran her way into the top 10 but couldn’t quite catch Spivey and Charles-Barclay.

 

It wasn’t until the final 500m that Kingma made her decisive move and by that point, Learmonth could not respond. Taking the final climb solo, the 26-year-old was able to soak up the moment, taking the tape with joy. Learmonth’s silver was a typically gutsy display, a delighted Coldwell finishing ten seconds behind her teammate to celebrate a first WTCS medal.

 

Duffy finished fourth, Charles-Barclay managed to out-pace Spivey to fifth, Potter, Beaugrand, Lindemann and Hayes rounding out the top ten.

 

“Leeds is always good,” said Jess Learmonth. “They have changed the course this year but it is still solid. I’m just happy to be back and enjoying the crowds. A podium here in my hometown… I absolutely loved it.”

 

“I’m speechless… Other years here I felt like I had missed an opportunity, so do it today with my friends and family here was fantastic,” said Sophie Coldwell. “I just took each leg as it came. I know I’ve been delivering components separately but I struggled to put them together in the past. I’m just over the moon right now, I can’t believe it.”

 

Results: Elite Women
1.    Maya Kingma    NED     01:54:26
2.    Jessica Learmonth GBR    01:54:37
3.    Sophie Coldwell    GBR    01:54:46
4.    Flora Duffy    BER  01:55:25
5.    Lucy Charles-Barclay GBR 01:56:50