Races › Championship
5 Sep 2021
4 min read
Championship ○ London
Jess Learmonth continued her unforgettable summer at the Super League Triathlon Championship in London, taking the overall win in the fast and frenetic Triple Mix format ahead of fellow Brits Georgia Taylor-Brown and Vicky Holland.
The women’s Triple Mix came down to a Stage 3 showdown between the British stars, with Learmonth using her renowned swim prowess to create an insurmountable advantage heading into the final run of the day.
Under gloriously sunny skies and in front of packed grandstands at West India Quay in London’s historic docklands area, the world’s fastest female triathletes converged for Super League’s long-awaited return to outdoor racing.
The pioneering Triple Mix format involved three triathlon events run back-to-back, starting with a 300m swim/4km bike/1.6km run, before Stage 2’s 1.6km run/4km bike/300m swim, and Stage 3’s 4km bike/300m swim/1.6km run.
A month after winning Tokyo Olympic gold in the Team Relay, Learmonth was one of the big names in a field loaded with the world’s fastest female triathletes. This included Olympic individual medallists and Super League powerhouses Georgia Taylor-Brown, Vicky Holland and Katie Zafares (USA), as well as past Super League Arena Games winners Sophie Coldwell and Beth Potter of GB.
The event would also see the start of Super League’s fresh team format, with multinational squads of Sharks, Rhinos, Cheetahs, Scorpions and Eagles adding an extra dimension into the mix.
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Stage 1 began with 300m metres of high-intensity effort in London docks, with all the athletes choosing to swim without their full wetsuits due to the warm conditions. Britain’s Jess Learmonth pushed the pack and split the field, leading out in 2:55mins ahead of Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes and Georgia Taylor-Brown, fresh from scooping silver (Individual) and gold (Team Relay) at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The 4km bike course threw up plenty of tight and technical turns, not to mention speed bumps, cobbles and potholes for the triathletes to contend with. The four laps saw Lopes cross the mount line first after another speedy transition.
Onto the two-lap, 1.6km run leg and Taylor-Brown was instantly creating daylight between herself and Lopes and Learmonth. The Brit star would take the Stage 1 win, with Beth Potter was soon showing her run prowess and taking second place and Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Vicky Holland scoring third. Learmonth and Stanford rounded out an all-British top five for Stage 1.
The 1.6km run kicked off Stage 2, with Vicky Holland and Beth Potter continuing their fine run form from Stage 1 and instantly controlling the tempo. Zaferes was soon making her presence felt, as was French triathlete Leonie Periault (fifth at Tokyo 2020) who’d take the lead from Zaferes and cross the mount line first on the bike.
As with Stage 1’s run, Georgia Taylor-Brown was straight to the front on the 4km bike. Yet the chase pack led by Zafares closed the gap to Taylor-Brown by the bell for the final lap, with Holland, Learmonth and Periault in close pursuit. Taylor-Brown, having punctured at the Olympics, crashed unclipping her foot ahead of transition, missing the lead pack in the swim
Stage 2’s swim saw Taylor-Brown enter the water 11secs behind the lead pack, with Zafares taking advantage and leading at the front with Learmonth as both eyed the Stage 2 victory. Learmonth edged Zafares to the Stage 2 win, followed by Periault, Holland, Kingma and then Taylor-Brown.
The Pursuit format saw staggered starts for Stage 3, with a number of contenders aiming for the $20,000 winner’s cheque. Could Taylor-Brown, with evident scars from her crash, recover her composure and speed? Or would the experienced pair of Zaferes or Holland come to the fore?
Eagles teammates Learmonth and Holland would surge to the front of the all-important final bike leg, creating a significant advantage over the formidable running legs of Taylor-Brown. Taylor-Brown was chasing hard and at one stage overcooked a corner and came off the course. Learmonth entered transition just ahead of Holland, with Taylor-Brown pushing from behind.
Onto the 300m swim and Learmonth, one of triathlon’s greatest swimmers, powered to the front to create a clear advantage over Holland that would be extended to 17secs by transition.
Learmonth would lead for the entirety of the final 1.6km run, with Taylor-Brown running her way back into second and Holland holding off Zaferes in the battle for third. Coldwell rounded out the top five on a good day for the Brits on home soil. Learmonth’s Stage 3 win would see her take the overall title and her new Super League team, the Eagles, surge to the top of the standings.
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