There were medals for both Georgia Taylor-Brown and Sophie Coldwell as they won silver and bronze, respectively, at a drama-filled AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds.
This was the sixth time the city has hosted the World Triathlon Championship Series but for the first time the elite races were contested over the sprint distance which delivered fast and furious action for the thousands of spectators watching within Roundhay Park.
The races weren’t without drama either, but the performances of Taylor-Brown and Coldwell gave the home crowd plenty to cheer with Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) and Hayden Wilde (NZL) securing the race victories in Leeds.
In the women’s elite race, Coldwell was never far from the front and was one of the first to exit the first transition following the 750m swim, teaming-up with Taylor Spivey (USA) and Olympic champion Flora Duffy (BER) in the early stages of the bike.
It was a leading trio that became two by the end of the second lap with Coldwell and Spivey out in front, having dropped Duffy who joined the large chasing pack, featuring Taylor-Brown, Beth Potter and Sian Rainsley.
Despite the efforts of the chase pack, to try and bridge across the gap, the advantage of Coldwell and Spivey was over 30 seconds when they reached transition two.
Coldwell and Spivey rounded the corner to start the 5km run side-by-side, before Coldwell dropped Spivey to take the solo race lead. Behind them, Beaugrand, Taylor-Brown and Potter led the chase, reducing the deficit to just a few seconds at the end of the first run lap.
Beaugrand made the move on the second-half of the run, but had to serve a penalty just before the blue carpet. Despite the hard running of Taylor-Brown and Coldwell, the penalty wouldn’t deny Beaugrand the victory as Taylor-Brown secured silver and Coldwell bronze in front of the sold-out grandstand.
Speaking after the race, silver medallist Taylor-Brown said: “It was really, really hard today. I had a really rubbish start, so I just had to make sure that didn’t get to me. I just had to think, ‘Okay we are over that now, let’s move on and just try and work hard throughout.’
“The bike didn’t really get moving but Sophie was incredible at the front, she was just pulling more and more time away. I thought ‘Oh god, that is ridiculous.’
“I’m so proud of Soph today, and it’s so nice to share the podium with another Brit. The crowd were incredible, you just hear your name all over the course and they keep pushing you all the way to the end. They definitely got us round today.”
Commenting on her second successive bronze medal in Leeds, Coldwell said: “It feels pretty epic. I don’t know why I was so nervous coming into this race. I’m so glad to be back racing and to get back on the podium, especially here. I’m over the moon, I can’t ask for anything more.
“Once we got on the bike and there was a gap, ‘I thought well I might as well commit to it now.’ So, I just gave it everything I’ve got. I probably paid a bit for it on the run but it’s one of those things that if I’d got caught in the big pack then I probably wouldn’t have got a medal. So, I thought I better commit now and hope I can get away.
“I didn’t know so many people knew my name to be honest, that was really nice. Last year there were loads of people out there but this year I reckon there was at least twice as many. The whole way round you could hear people shouting. It was just great for everyone to be back, I enjoyed it.”
Behind Beaugrand and Taylor-Brown, Potter had the third quickest run split of the day to move through the pack on the run to finish fifth. Rainsley was 15th having been in the main pack on the bike, while Kate Waugh was 29th on her Leeds debut after working hard in one of the chase groups.
The elite men’s race followed a similar pattern over the sprint distance race with a breakaway gaining advantage on the bike. After Mark Devay (HUN) led out of Waterloo Lake, it was Vincent Luis who was the first athlete out of transition and quickly joining forces with fellow Frenchman Léo Bergère to form a partnership at the front of the race.
A large chasing pack followed, and it was in the pack that saw Olympic champions Alex Yee and Jonny Brownlee both involved in a crash featuring multiple athletes, forcing them out of the race.
With the action continuing, Bergere and Luis pushed on at the front with Olympic bronze medallist Hayden Wilde (NZL) breaking away from the chasing group to give chase alone.
Luis led into transition two but didn’t stop, crashing into the barriers, a misjudgement which saw him earn a penalty and Bergère taking the race lead at the start of the 5km run.
Wilde was in hot pursuit and made the race-winning pass on the second lap, crossing the line with his signature falcon move to win his first World Triathlon Championship Series race.
Bergère was second with the battle for bronze decided by a photo finish as Germany’s Lasse Lührs edged Vasco Vilaça of Portugal in a sprint to the line.
Tom Bishop continued his streak of competing at every World Triathlon Championship Series event to be hosted in Leeds, finishing 33rd in his sixth race in the city. Grant Sheldon crossed the line 40th.
Results for both the men’s and women’s elite races can be viewed here.