Emma smiled to the end. Credit: Delly Carr / triathlon.org
It is hard to know how Emma Moffatt managed to keep a smile on her face in a frantic sprint for the line, but it was a happy â€œMoffyâ€ who grabbed a determined silver medal behind American Gwen Jorgensen, edging out British girl Jodie Stimpson at today’s third World Triathlon Series (WTS) race in Yokohama.
Despite the wet conditions, Yokohama was a happy hunting ground for the Australian women’s team with three girls in the top ten, Moffatt’s team mates Ashleigh Gentle recording her best ever WTS result with a fourth place and future star Charlotte McShane finishing strongly in 10th position.
Meanwhile in the men’s race saw another emerging Australian name, Ryan Bailie shone in the gloom of Yokohama as the best of the Australian contingent finishing 10th in a race that saw Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) run away from Javier Gomez (ESP) with Joao Silva (POR) third.
But all eyes were on the Australian women earlier in the day and as hard as Moffatt tried it was a case of â€œGwen Againâ€ as the US girl continued on her winning way, unleashing her stunning run leg on the bell lap to drop Moffatt and Jodie Stimpson (GBR) and comfortably record back to back WTS wins, following her victory in San Diego.
Second out of the water and pushing the early pace on the ride, Moffatt soon realised that a solo breakaway was not the smartest tactic on the very technical Yokohama course and was eventually sat up and was absorbed and pulled in by the eleven woman chase pack.
Moffatt found herself surrounded by the notable runners Jorgensen (USA), Aileen Reid (IRL), Stimpson (GBR), Gentle and Vendula Frintova (CZE) and knew she was in for a tough day that was made even tougher, when the rain made the later part of the ride on the streets of Yokohama quite treacherous.
Into T2 there were 18 athletes within 11 seconds of each other and Moffatt and Stimpson weren’t hanging around and the pair established a 10 second lead over Gentle and Jorgensen at the end of lap one. The main victim of the rain had been Maaike Caelers (NED) who crashed twice but in one of the most stunning performances of the short history of WTS, she rode up to the main pack and back into fifth place at the half way mark of the run.
At the bell was Jorgensen, Stimpson, Moffatt together, with Gentle 21secs adrift and Caelers miraculously only 40 seconds down. Despite Stimpson’s and Moffatt’s best effort, Jorgensen just kicked her run into another gear and headed home.
Effortless and looking perfectly in control Jorgensen cruised to her second win, while Moffatt and Stimpson slugged it out over the final 2.5km and set themselves up for a sprint finish on the blue carpet that saw Moffatt grab the second spot on the podium.
Jorgensen’s win has catapulted her to the top of the WTS points standing and she has sent a message to the European athletes who skipped Yokohama that she is going to be a real threat in the upcoming races Madrid, KitzbÃ¼hel, Hamburg and London.
â€œI wouldn’t say it was totally under control. I am glad it looked like I wasn’t panicking. Those girls were running very fast on those first two laps and early on I was just trying to focus on the basics in my race. I am very honoured to win this race,â€ Jorgensen said.
Moffatt was thankful that the rain held off for the first six laps of the bike.
â€œWe had to be very careful with the white lines on every single corner, so it was a relief to get off and go running. I was towards the back coming in off the bike, probably being a little over cautious,â€ Moffatt said.
â€œIn San Diego I was time trialling out in front, whereas here I was sitting in a bunch so my legs weren’t as fatigued; it worked in my favour in the sprint finish with Jodie.â€
â€œI never get sick of getting on the podium. It is always a privilege and hard work to get up there. So you take everyone as they come along, because you never know when the next one will be.â€
Gentle continued her progression after finishing ninth in San Diego, again showing no ill-effects from her eight-week running lay-off as she recovered from a foot injury and will be buoyed by her encouraging fourth place while McShane continued her consistent form for her 10th after finishing ninth in the season opener in Auckland to be sitting eighth in the overall standings.
Yokohama was the final race for Moffatt under coach Craig Walton. The dual triathlon world champion is switching to work with Darren Smith and his group that includes Stimpson, Reid, Anne Haug and Australian men Cameron Good, Declan Wilson and Mitchell Kibby.
â€œI am going into a new phase now with a new coach, so it was nice to finish off by getting on the podium for Craig one last time. I have had a great time with Craig. I definitely appreciate everything that Craig and I have done and he has been a great coach,â€ said Moffatt.
Walton has had two stints as the mastermind behind Moffatt’s training program, guiding her to a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games and the first of her two world titles in 2009, believes there’s a use-by date on coach-athlete partnerships.
“Moffy’s nearing the end of her career and needs a change. I’ve given as a much as I can and she feels the same. She’s got a massive base to work with, we’ve parted on good terms and she’s in a good position to put the icing on the cake,â€ said Walton.
Smith praised the work of Moffatt’s former coaches and said he hoped to squeeze the best out of Moffatt.
“It is a nice little challenge for me, and I will do my best not to screw it up because there will certainly be a lot of people watching,” Smith said.
The Australian Men
The men’s race saw Aussies Bailie, Good and Dan Wilson mix it with the best all day and were poised just outside the top ten until mid way through the 10km run when Wilson lost touch.
At the bell, Good and Bailie were in 10th and 11th respectively but in the final 2.5km, Bailie marginally got the better of Good, switching places to record a second strong top ten finish after his ninth in Auckland. Cameron Good had spent the week in bed with the flu so to come away with this result was a positive. Good seems to be finally finding himself with Darren Smith guiding him.
Unfortunately, Peter Kerr’s return to competition following an appendix operation was not what he expected. Missing the main packs on the swim, Kerr’s lack of race fitness saw him continue to lose time on the bike and run, finishing 25th.
For the second time in two World Triathlon Series races an â€œunderdoneâ€ Brownlee, this time Jonathan has shown the world why he and brother Alistair are the best triathletes going around.
Second place out of T1 and always up front on the bike, Jonathan Brownlee had a big question mark over his run fitness having been sidelined with a serious Achilles injury that threatened to derail his whole season.
But in the early kilometres of the run he quickly dispelled any thought that he wasn’t back to his best, putting the acid on Javier Gomez immediately just as his brother had done several weeks earlier in San Diego.
At half way in to the run the gap from Brownlee to Gomez was only six seconds but growing in confidence and feeling the Spaniard was suffering, Jonathan cranked it up and headed for home recording a stunning victory by 24 seconds.
Brownlee’s ability is only overshadowed by his modesty and he attributed his performance to being fresher.
â€œI have literally only trained for two weeks of running and at the start of the year I got told I wouldn’t be racing at all this season so I got a bit emotional towards the end out there. This year I thought I wouldn’t be here at all and I thought the season was over two months ago. To be back here again is weird. I don’t know where it came from but I felt pretty good.â€
â€œSometime if you have a break, it helps and it helped me massively here. Javier has been travelling around the world and I have been home in Yorkshire so I have an advantage of people in that I am a lot fresher. I think that helped me.â€
It has been a long season for Gomez that started with a win at ITU Mooloolaba and he was relieved to have found some form after an ordinary race in San Diego.
â€œIt was not great, but Jonathan was very fast on the run. I tried to hang on for the first lap but then I blew up and second place was alright,â€ he said.
A cyclist, tech geek at heart, a passion for new shiny things and a huge appetite for triathlon. I spend most of my time between managing two of the world's best triathletes and a traditional corporate life.