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27 Mar 2021
4 min read
Arena Games 2021
27 Mar 2021
It was fast, frenetic and fascinating from the opening bell to the virtual finishing line. But it would be Britain’s Beth Potter who would be victorious at the SLT Arena Games Powered by Zwift in London, beating a formidable field over the Triple Mix format.
The race came down to the final 1km run and would be a showdown between former track Olympian Potter and Ironman star Lucy Charles-Barclay. Yet it would be Potter’s run prowess that would propel her to victory in a thrilling finale.
The second-ever Super League Triathlon Games, following 2020’s debut in Rotterdam, saw athletes faced with the Triple Mix format of a 200m swim leg, 4km bike and 1km run.
The women’s field threw up many exciting subplots, with Ironman star Lucy Charles-Barclay facing off against formidable short-course competition in the shape of 2020 ITU World Champ Georgia Taylor-Brown, and young Brit stars Sophie Coldwell and Kate Waugh.
Dark horses loomed in the form of rising British Ironman elite Ruth Astle and Beth Potter, the former 10,000m track Olympian who became a triathlon force with victory at the 2019 European Championships.
Rachel Klamer would provide the major continental European threat, with the Dutch athlete a proven SLT contender and two-time Olympian.
Under the indoor lights and heat of the iconic Aquatics Centre at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the athletes kicked off with an unconventional swim-run-bike format. The 200m swim leg was led out by Sophie Coldwell with Charles-Barclay, known as triathlon’s best swimmer, in hot pursuit. By the end of the four lengths, Charles-Barclay had edged ahead, with Coldwell (1:13secs) her closest rival and some of the field already 15secs behind.
Onto the 1km run, and Beth Potter’s Olympic track pedigree was showing as the 2019 European tri champ would hit the front and assume control. After 1,000m of treadmill action, Potter would arrive in T2 some 8secs ahead of Charles-Barclay and 10secs in front of Coldwell.
Within 400m of the 4km bike leg, Potter’s advantage was already 18secs over Charles-Barclay and Coldwell, who were using the advantage of the Zwift drafting function. The two-lap criterium city course would be largely flat, and the gaps between riders stayed largely consistent during the first 2km. By the finale, Potter’s advantage had been gradually whittled down to 10secs by Coldwell and Charles-Barclay, with Taylor-Brown and Klamer 16secs in arrears.
Once again, the second stage flipped the usual triathlon running order with a run-bike-swim showdown. Following a brief rest after Stage One, a 1km run kicked-off Stage Two and it was Potter once again leading the field ahead of Charles-Barclay, but with Klamer also in contention. By the run’s finish, Charles-Barclay had edged ahead of Potter, but now reigning ITU sprint-distance world champ Taylor-Brown was in the mix of the Triple Mix.
The 4km bike saw a main pack form of Klamer, Taylor-Brown, Charles-Barclay, Potter, Coldwell and Italy’s Alice Betto on the two-lap circuit. The status quo would be maintained to the finish, leading to a swim off to decide the Stage Two victor.
With fatigue and lactic acid levels rising, two of triathlon’s most formidable swimmers would battle for the lead. But it would be Ironman star Charles-Barclay who’d storm ahead of Coldwell, picking up 10 points with a near 7-second advantage over Coldwell and 9secs over Potter.
Stage Three began with Potter, Charles-Barclay and Coldwell all on 18 points from the first two stages. The final stage consisted of a bike-swim-run format, with the 4km bike beginning the race within a race.
Ruth Astle would control the tempo to the 2km mark, but the main pack would hoover up the deficit and the group would remain intact until the bike-to-swim transition.
Spain’s Anna Godoy would be first into the water, but Charles-Barclay would assume control by the end of the first 50m to exit the water with a minor advantage over the chasing field.
It would come down to a 1km run showdown and Charles-Barclay would lead Potter by 3secs with 800m to go. That lead would disappear with 600m to the finish as Potter stormed to the front and blew away the competition. Just 4% of Super League Triathlon viewers had Potter pegged as their expected champ, but the 29-year-old Scot would look remarkably fresh in breaking the tape first and with a 7sec advantage over Charles-Barclay. Coldwell would finish third overall.
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