Commonwealth Games athletes Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman have both raced to top 10 positions at the ITU World Triathlon event in Montreal, Canada, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Murray took fourth spot in 1hr 48min 36sec and Schoeman was 34 seconds slower as in-form Spaniard Mario Mola won in 1:47:46 over the 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.
Gold Coast Commonwealth gold medallist Schoeman was again a powerhouse in the water, even stopping at one stage, apparently to see if there wasn’t a problem.
After the bike, there was a five-strong breakaway group who had a minute-long lead over the next pack where running aces Mola, Murray and Aussie Jake Birtwhistle lurked.
It was Mola who used his running prowess best as he hunted down Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt with a kilometre to run.
Murray ended up being pipped to the podium by Birtwhistle.
‘This was my second race in Montreal and I headed into it fourth on the overall standings and now I’m still fourth, only 100 points behind third so it’s pretty promising before the grand final in Gold Coast, Australia,’ Murray told Team SA.
‘I felt pretty good in Montreal. I had a great training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona so the body’s in great shape. The actual race was pretty good, although once again I didn’t have the best of swims. But I got back into contention on the bike and I was running in third spot before Jake just managed to catch me in the last few metres.
‘Gold Coast will be my last WTS race of the season. I’m doing a little altitude training in Boulder, Colorado now and then from Gold Coast, it’s off to Europe for the first of the Super League races in Jersey.’
Despite only ending sixth, Schoeman was satisfied to a degree: ‘It’s nice to be back in the game and racing after a rough three months with sickness and injury.
‘I made some errors which cost me the gap between the front-runners and left me chasing. I’m very happy with my form and the fourth fastest run. There are a couple of things that still need work and I’m excited to get home and back to work for further fine-tuning ahead of the final in Gold Coast.’
There was just one South African representative in the elite women’s race and that was two-time Olympian and Commonwealth competitor Gill Sanders.
But the London-based athlete didn’t have a day to remember and ended up being lapped on the seventh of nine bike laps, meaning instant elimination as Britain’s Vicky Holland went on to win in 1hr 59min 29sec from American Katie Zeferes (1:59:51).
Never one to look for excuses, a frustrated Sanders said: ‘I’ve just been feeling very fatigued the past two weeks or so. I suspect it may be anaemia so I have been for blood tests.’
Former multiple SA elite champion over the sprint, Olympic and long distance formats, Glen Gore watched the racing in Montreal and shared his thoughts with Team SA:
‘Henri was making his comeback to racing at the top level after missing the last two events due to illness and some minor niggles. He performs at his best when his training phase is done at home in Durban and this was to prove correct as he lined up to test his form ahead of the WTS final scheduled for Gold Coast, Australia next month. Richard had been training in the US in the lead-up to this event, along with the Dutch team since his last race performance which was Edmonton where he placed eighth.
‘Henri did not have the normal strong swimmers around him this time [the likes of Richard Varga, Jonathan Brownlee and Vincent Luis] and he easily swam away from the field early on, so much so that he actually stopped mid-swim and seemed to “wait” for them to catch up.
‘In hindsight, he might have been better off going hard on the swim – getting that gap and then waiting up the road on the bike for the breakaway group that would inevitably form just after 20km.
‘It would have been suicide for him to go hard on the bike solo from the start but a tactical wait up the road might have been better for him come the end result – these races all offer up different tactical scenarios so it’s easy to say what could have been done afterwards – not so much in the heat of the moment.
‘Richard had a great swim, as did most of the field, judging by the swim times. He and Henri were safely jammed into the lead pack on the bike leg with a breakaway of four going away from them just after 20km. The likes of Mario Mola and Murray must have fancied their chances against these escapees over a 10km trot and that is why they essentially “let” them go.
‘Coming off the bike, Richard was off after Mola while Henri was caught at the back of the bike pack on entering transition which cost him a few seconds – at this level, five seconds is almost too much. Richard looked like he would handle Mola’s speed but this guy was flying in pursuit of the leaders who were about one minute up the road at the start of the run. Richard started falling back slightly while Henri was running intelligently – biding his time and moving through the field.
‘For Richard, he almost had a third-place podium in sight with around 400m to go, only to be passed by Aussie Birtwhistle who must have the strongest sprint game in the business. Richard appeared to be at his max and there was nothing he could do to cover the surge. Henri did well to manage sixth with a run just 27 seconds slower than Richard.
‘On the women’s side, our sole representative Gill Sanders did not have a great swim – this left her basically fighting to stay in the race from the start of the bike – a bad swim at this level unfortunately normally means a bad race and she was lapped on the bike which immediately withdrew her from the race.
‘Next up is the Gold Coast final and having raced the Commonwealth Games event on the very same course, the Saffas must fancy their chances of a good result come the final ITU WTS race of the season.’
Photo: Schoeman leads the swim in Montreal, by Wagner Araujo/WTU Media