Super League Triathlon Toulouse delivered amazing performances, a home win, thrills, spills and controversy.

The second stop of the 2023 Championship Series was certainly not short of talking points and has left the Leaderboards intriguingly poised for the short break before action resumes in Malibu on September 30.

We take a look at some of the big talking points and things we learned from Toulouse.

Home favourites deliver the goods

There was much pressure on Léo Bergere to deliver in Toulouse. A lot has changed in his world since he last raced Super League back in 2019, and he is having to get used to performing under a burden of expectation ahead of the Paris Olympics.

Even among a line-up that contained Kristian Blummenfelt, Hayden Wilde and Jonny Brownlee, Bergere was the star attraction for the clamoring home fans.

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Triple Mix winner Léo Bergere celebrates with fans after the race in Toulouse

His race was not without incident – more on that below – but even allowing for that the dominant performance he delivered suggested a man who can handle the pressure and has the ability to win big events time and again. In the women’s field Leonie Periault and Emma Lombardi both bagged podium spots to round out a big day for France.

All on the line

Super League is known for full gas racing in city locations that tests athletes to the max, and it often delivers some remarkable moments, and that was true in Toulouse.

There was an unusual amount of crashes on the bike course, even for this style of racing, and also far more incident than the previous year on the same course in almost identical conditions.

Add to that the fact that the crashes almost exclusively occurred on non-technical parts of the course rather than the twists and turns and it is even more curious.

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RTP Sharks athlete Max Stapley pushing the limit on the bike at SLT Toulouse

So, what is the reason for it?

Max Stapley, who had one of the biggest crashes of the day, was honest in his post-race assessment. He simply said that with some of the best bikers in the world racing you have to push to your limit to keep in the mix, and at that speed any error results in a crash.

Kate Shines

Kate Waugh is really coming of age. She has been marked out as a big talent for some time, but over the last year or so has gone from strength to strength.

Perhaps it should be no surprise, therefore, that she secured a first Super League victory, especially in a much changed field and after Jeanne Lehair was DQ’d. What was a bigger shock was the margin of her victory. It was about as big a margin as you could ever see in Super League.

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Kate Waugh celebrates her debut Championship Series win in style

A huge moment for her, the RTP Sharks, and an interesting side note in the race for the British Olympic team. Could she still make a run for it? And can she deliver this kind of performance again and even win this Series?

Controversy strikes

Almost every Super League race throws up a controversial moment. You could have been forgiven for thinking that Toulouse’s had been and gone after Jeanne Lehair was disqualified.

Many athletes have magnetic helmet straps, and if it doesn’t clasp then you are likely to break the rules, which are made very clear pre-race, and that appears to be what happened to Lehair. As harsh as it felt, there really was no choice but for Lehair to be disqualified for the exact same offence as Chris Perham was in London.

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Santara Tech Eagles manager Tim Don comforting Jeanne Lehair after her DQ

But that incident was almost forgotten by the time the men’s race ended.

Hayden Wilde’s error in cycling through transition when he should have dismounted the bike for the final time saw him awarded a five second penalty.

Bergere was behind Wilde and ready to dismount the bike and, thinking maybe it was he who was in the wrong, failed to hop off at the line, though realised quickly what was going on and didn’t follow the New Zealander up the hill.

While Wilde was correctly given a penalty, Bergere was not. He won comfortably enough to suspect it would not have changed much, but in sport you never know.

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Wilde in transition following an error that earned the Scorpion a penalty

An appeal was lodged and the Race Jury found an officiating error but no reason for Bergere to be disqualified.

The reflection – full gas racing and the innovation Super League brings will perhaps require innovation in officiating to help the referees minimise errors.

Jonny one win from victory

Amid all the chat and controversy, Jonny Brownlee made it two second places from two races in the Series.

It’s quite a return to form for the three-time Olympic medalist in a year that has otherwise been below par by his very high standards.

Brownlee loves Super League racing, and dearly wants to add a Championship Series trophy to his cabinet.

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Two podiums in a row sees Jonathan Brownlee top of the 2023 Championship Series

He is in a remarkable position in that he knows that if he wins at the Grand Final in NEOM then he is guaranteed to take the Series title.

It is unlikely to be that smooth, and with all the big guns racing in both the women’s and men’s fields in Malibu, there will likely be plenty of athletes gunning for him and the Series come NEOM.

But to have even got to this point already is a tribute to his longevity and form.

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