Races › Championship
6 Sep 2021
4 min read
Championship ○ London
Super League Triathlon’s 2021 Championship Series kicked off in style as packed crowds lined the streets of London to cheer the return of the best athletes in the world – and we learned more about what’s in store for the rest of the season.
After two years without a Championship Series event all eyes were on whether the old stars would return to the top, if a new generation would steal their crowns and what impact SLT Teams would have on the racing.
There was a lot to digest from two action packed Triple Mix races. Here were five of the biggest takeaways from London:
The two most dominant athletes in the history of Super League returned to start the defence of their titles with questions over whether they would be dethroned.
While neither of them won – which for Luis was something he had never before experienced at Super League – they both produced performances that suggested they can be right in the mix come the final reckoning.
Luis would likely have been in a sprint finish with Hayden Wilde for the victory had the Kiwi not secured the Short Chute. Placing second in the first event leaves him second in the Championship Series leaderboard heading to Munich.
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Zaferes had raced regularly before Super League London and the thinking was she may be tired early on and then recover and get stronger as the racing goes on. If that is the case then finishing fourth leaves her well placed.
The last time Super League Triathlon had Championship Series action it was the Americans who were the dominant force for the women with Katie Zaferes, Taylor Spivey, Kirsten Kasper and Summer Rappaport all competing for the podium, and even completing a clean sweep.
In London, it was the British women who shone brightest in front of a home crowd keen to welcome them back after their heroics at the Tokyo Olympics.
Jess Learmonth and Georgia Taylor-Brown were joined on the podium by Vicky Holland while Sophie Coldwell and Beth Potter made it five British women in the top seven.
Maybe it’s stating the obvious given they won the opening event, but the manner of their victories suggest they are going to be hard to dislodge.
Learmonth ended up a very convincing winner, producing a storming performance. She has doubted her ability to hurt herself enough to shine in Super League before, but her perfect record now shows one SLT Arena Games appearance and one SLT Championship Series appearance and two wins.
As for Wilde, he’s still young of course but clearly so much stronger than two years ago. He also has a lot of experience of Super League and so understands how to race it. His push on the bike to grab the Short Chute in Stage 1 was a tactical masterclass, catching a few of his peers unaware. In the end it was the difference in getting him what was his first Super League win. His rivalry with Luis and Brownlee could be a story of the Series.
Tim Don has taken his Team Manager responsibilities very seriously. He took his team out for a bonding dinner in London two nights before the race and was in constant contact with his athletes over the weekend.
Given his almost unparalleled knowledge of triathlon and remarkable experience, the athletes were picking his brains seeking advice, and even talking tactics in the gaps between Stages.
The SLT Eagles top the leaderboard with Chris McCormack’s SLT Scorpions in second. The biggest shock is Michelle Dillon’s SLT Sharks. Written off by many they are in third after the first event, and the upcoming formats could suit a few of them a little better.
While everybody is still learning the dynamics and tactics of SLT Teams, one thing is for sure – the athletes have really bought into it and are relishing being part of a squad.
With SLT Teams points up for grabs, as well as $20,000 for the eventual winners, the jersey leaderboards were hotly contested, which made Stage 1 even more fascinating.
While some of the main contenders were keeping their powder dry to challenge for the overall victory, there were some clear tactics from others to push hard, which in turn made life trickier for the big guns.
Vittoria Lopes finished 17th overall, but tops the swim and bike leaderboard, while four of the top five men in the swim leaderboard finished outside the top ten overall.
Perhaps more fascinating was that three Short Chutes went unused as both Lopes and Matt Hauser had been eliminated before the start of Stage 3.
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