Australia’s Erin Densham’s lead in the race for this year’s ITU Triathlon World Championship crown has been narrowed down to just 30 points after today’s second last round in Yokohama.
The fiercely determined London Olympic bronze medallist finished a gallant fifth to London silver medallist, Sweden’s Lisa Norden who fought tooth and nail to win a thriller from Germany’s Anne Haug and is hot on Densham’s hammer in the charge towards the title.
It was almost a replay of the Olympic finish, this time with six runners together until the closing stages and Norden, who lost in a head-dip to Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig in London, just edged out Haug in another dramatic finish.
Emerging Dutch star Caelers grabbed the bronze before the arrival of the brave Aussie contingent, 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffatt, Densham and our own rising star Ashleigh Gentle who were all courageous in their efforts to finish fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
Densham will go into the ITU Grand Final decider in Auckland on October 20-21 on 3611 points, 30 points ahead of Norden with Spirig, who has not entered the grand final, sitting in third on 3264 followed by New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt (3141), Haug (3140) and 2009 and 2010 World Champion Moffatt (2856) rounding out the top six.
And despite her fearless finish for fifth, Densham was quick to admit she was more than happy with a performance which came in the middle of a hard training block, knowing she will arrive into New Zealand in three weeks fully tappered.
She also knows that the winner of this year’s crown will be decided between herself and Norden, with the Auckland grand final round holding double points.
“It was a tough race and then again it wasn’t…I was actually surprised none of the girls (in the lead pack) did any work on the bike what so ever and let the other girls (in the chase pack) back in the race…that was surprising,” said Densham, who will return home to again train with Jamie Turner’s NSWIS group in Wollongong in the lead-up to Auckland.
“But I was just glad to stay in the race for as long as I did and that showed some really encouraging signs going into Auckland. I have a lot to work on and there is only a short turn around but still time to nail a few things on the head. But overall I was actually feeling a lot better than I thought I would.
“At the half-way mark in the run I was happy to stay on for as long as I could and to give whatever I had left in the end.
“And to be quite truthful I am really, really happy with that performance today and I’m actually surprised to be going into Auckland in the number one position.
“I honestly didn’t think I would be able to hang on in the run for as long as I did. I haven’t got that race fitness at the moment but I am now really looking forward to Auckland.”
Today’s race came down to a group of six on the run and as long as the group ran shoulder to shoulder it was always going to be the long-striding Norden who would be the one to beat and with 300 metres to run it was the likeable Swede who in fact made her move.
Haug was quick to respond and Moffatt, who had shared the lead with Gentle over the final kilometre was caught off guard and had little in the tank to respond.
But after crashing out early in the bike leg in London, Moffatt’s confidence is back and she put herself well and truly in the race after languishing towards the tail of the bike pack coming into the T2 changeover from bike to run.
But within 250 metres Moffatt had surged and was in the top eight and determined to leave her London demons behind as she looked to mount her own kind of pressure.
And while Densham, like Moffatt, came out of the water well positioned in the top 10, it was Gentle who caught the eye with a courageous and well constructed bike leg after coming out of the water well back.
Haug and Gentle shared the duties in the chase pack and inside four of the eight bike laps, had caught the lead pack and it was the 21-year-old Gold Coaster who was near the lead coming into the T2.
Gentle, Moffatt’s training partner, and herself a long strider and one of the best runners in women’s triathlon, then proceeded to let the leaders know she had arrived, leading the group for several kilometres “only to feel the pinch of her energy-sapping bike ride as the leaders upped the ante in the closing stages.
Densham was full of praise for her Australian team mates, with Gentle pushing hard on the run and Moffatt returning from her disappointment of London.
“Ashleigh is a real up and comer and I was happy to see her push the pace and it was so good to see Moffy back…glad to see she’s put the disappointment of London behind her,” said Densham.
Felicity Abram finished 21st overall and not far off the pace with Felicity Sheedy-Ryan backing up from her recent ITU World Duathlon Championship win to finish 25th overall.
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