Races › Arena Games
23 Aug 2020
3 min read
Jess Learmonth put in a flawless display to dominate the inaugural SLT Arena Games in Rotterdam.
Against a stellar international field of 10 athletes – including the reigning Ironman World Champion Anne Haug of Germany and Learmonth’s British compatriot Georgia Taylor-Brown – the 2018 Commonwealth Games medallist led from the get-go in the unique Triple Mix format.
Learmonth ended the race with the maximum 30 points out of 30. Her nearest challenges were Dutch favourite Rachel Klamer on 23 points and Belgium’s Valerie Barthelemy on 22. Taylor-Brown finished with 19 and Haug ended with 9.
In a unique blending of virtual and real-life racing, the Triple Mix consisted of the first stage being the classic triathlon order of swim-bike-run legs. The second stage provided bike-run-swim action, before the final stage was a run-swim-bike showdown.
The distances for each were a swim leg of 200m place in an Olympic-sized pool, a bike of 4km aboard a Tacx Neo2T smart trainer and the run being 1km on self-powered curved treadmills, all projected onto the Zwift virtual platform.
The 2020 SLT Arena Games commenced with a 200m pool swim, with Learmonth’s aquatic background instantly evident as she exited the water with a 2 second advantage over Dutch athlete Maya Kingma and Belgium’s Valerie Barthelemy.
Onto the Tacx Neo 2T smart trainer, and Learmonth was 7.5 seconds ahead by the midway stage of 2km. That would extended to a six second advantage over Barthelemy by T2, before the relentless Learmonth assumed control of her curved treadmill on the 1km run. Her winning margin was 12secs over Kingma by Stage 1’s finish.
The opening 4km bike leg of Stage 2 saw a pack of cyclists on Zwift, with little to separate the pack until T1 with Barthelemy the first cyclist to dismount from her Tacx.
Transition would be key and Klamer was instantly pushing the pace on the 1km run, before Learmonth established a lead after 400m. The only Southern Hemisphere female athlete, Australia’s Natalie Van Coevorden, was also in the mix, with Taylor-Brown surging to second by the end of the run.
Learmonth entered the swim with a 4 second advantage over the chasing field and by the final stage that was 9 seconds over Klamer, Barthelemy and Van Coevorden. Two down and one to go for Learmonth.
After a short break, the Triple Mix’s final stage started with a 1km run before a 400m swim and 4km bike. Learmonth entered with top points over the first two stages, with Klamer her nearest rival.
It was Learmonth’s to lose and yet she instantly pushed the pace at 16km/h during the start of the run as Van Coevorden and Haug followed in her avatar’s pixelated shadow.
Learmonth’s advantage was 5secs over Barthelemy by the time of the 400m swim and 10secs over her compatriot Taylor-Brown by the start of the bike. It would soon become a battle for the other podium places, with Taylor-Brown vying with Van Coevorden, Barthelemy and Klamer to take the silver medal.
The high-intensity nature of the racing and the heat of the indoor arena started to show on the faces of the competitors, with their Zwift numbers edging over 7 watts per kilogramme.
Learmonth would emerge with 30 points out of 30 having proven the winner in each of the Triple Mix formats. She proved a relentless competitor until the final metre, with Barthelemy finishing second and Klamer third.
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