Australia’s Erin Densham put in one of the most impressive performances of her career, leading the swim and then crushing the field with a stellar run to win her second career ITU World Cup in Mooloolaba on Sunday.
Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig took the silver, a result which also completes her qualification for the Swiss Olympic team, while New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt finished seven seconds behind Spirig for bronze.
Densham exited the water in the lead before working with a group of nine women on the bike that went into T2 with a 90-second lead on the main chase group, and then blasted away from the group in the run. She broke the tape at 2 hours, 3 minutes and 32 seconds, punctuated by the day’s only sub-35:00 run among the women. Densham said afterwards she couldn’t keep her smile off the face from the start, after her surprise swim.
“That swim was a shock for me, I had a good start and then kind of got pushed back a bit at one of the buoys and there was a gap to the lead four and somehow I managed to bridge up, which is quite unheard of for me, just ask anyone,” Densham said. “I’ve never been out of the water in front so that was a win for me right at the start, I think I laughed at the start because I was just so shocked.”
The dominating performance has also done Densham’s Olympic selection campaign no harm, but the 2008 Beijing Olympian said it wasn’t on her mind during the race.
“I wasn’t giving them a message, I was just running my race and doing what I normally do, what I know I can do. Whether that impresses them or not I don’t know, but it’s in their frame of mind now, I just did what I had to do. I love to run fast, it’s enjoyable, it hurts but it’s enjoyable,” she said. “My last World Cup podium was a long time ago it was hard to remember I’ve had so many ups and downs in the last few years, and I know this is where I can be. I’m just really happy to actually show people that’s what I’m capable of.”
Densham’s victory started from the swim, where she was out of the water in a leading group of four that included Liz Blatchford, Laura Bennett and Hewitt.
That four were first into T1, but were joined on the first lap of seven by Emma Moffatt, Rachel Klamer, Daniela Ryf and Pamela Oliveira. Behind them were six different chase packs, that condensed into five when the first and second chase group merged on the first lap. But with the pack chase including notable runners like Lisa Norden, Gwen Jorgensen, Melanie Annaheim and Lauren Campbell, Densham said the lead group worked together to made sure they increased the gap. They did, at a rate of 10 seconds each lap and headed into T2 with a lead of almost 90 seconds.
In the first lap of four on the run, Densham and Spirig surged to the front. But when Spirig was dropped, which was before the end of the first lap, Densham never slowed. She eventually won by a comfortable 52-second margin on one of the toughest ITU courses, and her run split was the fastest by 43 seconds.
While Densham’s performance threw up questions for the Australian selectors – who have already pre-selected Moffatt, Bennett and Blatchford put themselves into Olympic calculations for the respective USA and Great Britain teams. Ryf’s sixth place will be important in the Olympic points qualification, as it could possibly give Switzerland three women’s spots on the startline in London – for now, while Klamer’s fifth will bode well for the Netherlands in terms of Olympic qualification points.
Reigining Olympic champion Emma Snowsill was a late withdrawal from the race due to illness, while Kirsten Sweetland, Jodie Stimpson, Danne Boterenbrood and Felicity Abram also did not start.
Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup – 25 March 2012
Final Results – Elite Women – 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run