Queensland’s English-based triathlete Felicity Abram remains the highest ranked Australian in the ITU world triathlon rankings after her determined fifth place finish to Great Britain’s Non Stanford in last night’s fourth round of the World Triathlon Championship in Madrid.
The 27-year-old is based in Leeds, where she trains with boyfriend and Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee and his brother, ITU World Champion, Jonathan.
Abram is taking every opportunity in a post Olympic year to lead a new and exciting group of Elite Australian women to this year’s ITU World Championship Series grand final in London in September.
After four of the eight rounds, Abram is sitting 5th with two-time Olympian and two-time ITU World Champion Emma Mofatt (who missed Madrid in favour of today’s Coral Coast 51.50 in Cairns) 7th, Ashleigh Gentle (who also sat out Madrid) 11th and Charlotte McShane (14th) the best of the Australian women.
Madrid presented a tough day in the office over the tough, gut-busting “hot and hilly” bike course in and around Casa de Campo for Abram and her Aussie team mates, Wollongong pair McShane who finished a creditable 18th while 20-year-old WTC debutant Grace Musgrove an encouraging 37th.
The fourth Australian, the third Wollongong youngster in the strong field, Natalie Van Coevorden was forced out of the race mid way through the bike, still suffering from the rib injury, suffered in the bike crash that forced her out of the last round in Yokohama.
“Madrid presented the girls with a tremendously hard course and overall I was proud of the way they raced against quality opposition,” said Triathlon Australia’s High Performance Director Bernard Savage.
“I was particularly pleased with the way Felicity rode today, knowing her strength lies in the run and also knowing what was going on around her with Anne Haug and Gwen Jorgensen fighting their way through the pack.
“She hung in really well and following up her third in Auckland, a solid performance in San Diego and recovering from the sickness which forced her out of Yokohama, she did a great job.
“McShane also hung in well on the bike knowing it was a very tough course out there and she should be happy with her result and again something to continue to build on as we get down to business over the next four months.
“I was also proud of the performance put in by Grace Musgrove in her first ever WTC race. It is a great start for her and she will only get better and stronger, learning a lot as she goes along.”
Savage was also full of praise for Van Coevorden whose painful rib injury started to take it’s toll as she grimaced in pain riding up one of the toughest hills in the Series.
“We had kept a close eye on Natalie’s preparation and she had made a strong recovery but this course was unforgiving and as hard as she tried and as much as she wanted to continue she had no alternative but to withdraw.”
Abram was 40 seconds behind in the swim and it gave New Zealand’s Nicki Samuels and American Sarah Groff the opportunity to steal a march on three chase groups on the bike “leaving Abram in the first chase group of 11 riders.
Samuels took the initiative at the start of the 40km bike ride, overtaking Groff for the lead halfway through the eight-lap ride.
After the first three laps on the bike the group was still 32 seconds down but catching the leaders after every lap with McShane working hard in the second group.
The pair tackled the tough, hilly course together in a small breakaway until the final lap when the chase group bridged up catching up with Samuels and Groff on lap six to set up the possibility of a thrilling 10km run and as the field entered transition after the bike, the first ten places were separated by just five seconds.
However, the most impressive bike ride was not from the front but from the back, where Haug had exited the water in last place in 20:35. The German finished fourth at the Madrid event last year and started closing down the field as soon as she got on her favoured section of the race.
By the halfway stage she had reached the main chase group and then started to reel in the leaders as the laps ticked by. Stanford was also nicely placed as the bike entered its closing stages, knowing her strong running ability would give her a chance of a podium finish.
It was eventual winner Stanford who started to break away on the run, building up a significant lead with three laps to go. But as Haug is apt to do, the German ran her training partner Stimpson down on the final lap for silver.
Stimpson put in a mature performance, keeping herself in the top ten throughout the race before pushing on in the run to reach the final podium position, holding off the fast-finishing ITU Rankings leader Gwen Jorgensen (USA)
But it was Stanford who stole the show under the hot Madrid sun with a blistering performance.
She made her way through the field on the 40km bike and then never looked back in the 10km run as she hammered further and further ahead. She finished in two hours, four minutes and 39 seconds.
“The plan was to go off really hard in the run which I did,” Stanford said.
“And I’m not going to lie, in the second lap of the run I thought ‘oh no, I’ve gone off far too hard’. But I managed to hold it together and I could see the gap increasing which gives you confidence and I managed to hold on. I’m not sure how but I’m absolutely pooped now.”
Haug completed a remarkable comeback after a slow swim to finish second in 2:05:05 and Stimpson (GBR) made it two podium places for Great Britain to claim bronze in a time of 2:05:14.
Jorgensen is the highest ranked woman in this season’s series, but may reflect on a swim and bike ride that ultimately cost her a place on the podium. Despite just missing out of the medals, Jorgensen remains top of the rankings.
ITU World Triathlon Madrid – 1 June 2013
Final Results – Elite Women – 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
|28||Elena Maria Petrini||ITA||2:09:57||0:19:55||1:09:38||0:38:52|
|31||Barbara Riveros Diaz||CHI||2:10:40||0:20:32||1:11:19||0:37:16|
|38||Tamara Gomez Garrido||ESP||2:15:42||0:20:20||1:13:05||0:40:41|
|40||Anna Godoy Contreras||ESP||2:19:11||0:19:35||1:15:58||0:42:03|
|DNF||Miriam Casillas GarcÃa||ESP||0:00:00||0:22:01||0:00:00||0:00:00|
|DNF||Natalie Van Coevorden||AUS||0:00:00||0:19:26||0:00:00||0:00:00|