By Mark Etheridge
Richard Murray was best of the bunch for South Africa at the season-ending ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam, Netherlands, at the weekend.
The two-time Olympian came down to sea level after a spell of high-altitude training in Spain and he ended up in sixth spot.
France’s Luis Vincent won in 1hr 51min 26sec, with Murray clocking 1:52.06 for the 1500-metre swim 48km bike and 10km run.
‘The WTS wasn’t a big priority for me this season, but it ended up getting more important as the season went on and I had a couple of good races,’ said Murray.
‘I had a good swim, coming out 30sec behind leaders, so was pretty happy with that. On the bike we all came together and there were about 20 of us in the front group.
‘Then on the run we had a gap, but I just didn’t have the legs. Maybe I came down from altitude a bit early, the body just felt a bit lazy. But let’s see at next week’s Super League Triathlon in Jersey.’
Murray won the inaugural Super League Triathlon event in Hamilton Island off Australia earlier this year.
Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman was next best for SA in Rotterdam, ending 52nd position (1:59:56) and 5sec ahead of former world junior champion Wian Sullald.
‘It just wasn’t my day,’ Schoeman told Team SA. ‘I was confident for a good race in the lead bunch, and with a puncture 6km from T2 I had no choice but to change wheels.
‘Once I got going, about a minute later, my body was so cold, and I couldn’t get it going again.
‘I tried really hard, but my day was over and I gave my best to the finish. I knew with a small frame of 57kg I would definitely struggle more than the rest of the field, who are 10kg+ heavier on average.
‘It’s been a very long season with ups and downs, and a top-15 was not what I was looking for. I’m really excited to end the season and prepare for the Commonwealth Games next year.’
The women’s race saw New Zealand-based Simone Ackermann ending as top South African. The East London born racer clocked 2:06:39 to end 24th as Bermuda’s Flora Duffy won in 1:58:39.
Ackermann told Team SA: ‘Going into this weekend’s race I was excited to be wearing the SA colours. It has been a bit of a rough season so far. I was looking to make this my best race yet.
‘Rotterdam was a really difficult race. It was cold, and all the very many corners on the bike took it out of my legs. It wasn’t my best run but I held my own. I’m looking forward to my last race of the season and representing SA next year.’
Next best and five places back was London-based Gillian Sanders, who says she went into the race with her health somewhat compromised.
‘It was a tough day out. I’ve been battling with a tight chest after a little cold and couldn’t breathe very well at all on the swim (water was a chilly 16deg), so had a terrible swim,’ she told Team SA.
‘It was better on the bike and I managed to ride up through quite a few girls and then just run as hard as I could. I was happy with the way I handled the bike, as it was a super-technical course.
‘It was also a race within a race for me as I needed to be ranked in the top 10 in the Commonwealth to qualify individually for Gold Coast. I finished the year ranked 23rd on the World Series and 10th in the Commonwealth, so I was really happy to fulfil the selection criteria.
‘This now gives me more time to recover from the season, take my end-of-season break and then start preparing for Gold Coast in April next year.’
Picture of Murray in action on the bike leg courtesy of Wagner Araugo/ITU Media