Emotional win for Kiwi Andrea Hewitt in Santo Domingo ITU
The look on her face when Andrea Hewitt crossed the finish line was of unlimited surprise. The second she realized she had just won the 2019 ITU Santo Domingo World Cup tears came to her eyes, and she had more than enough reasons to do so. For her incredible come back to the ITU circuit after a difficult season with not much racing all over the year, for her unsuspected win after the leader until the final 100 meters had to serve a penalty, and because four years ago today was “the saddest day of her life”. USA’s Taylor Knibb managed to finish in second place despite the penalty, with Mexico’s Claudia Rivas claiming bronze.
65 women lined up under the sun in the Sans Souci beach in Santo Domingo for a race that had the run segment shortened to 5km due to the high temperatures. The beach start proved to be once more impressive, with athletes dealing with 1 meter waves to get in the warm water of the Caribbean, and it was Zsanett Bragmayer (HUN) the one who managed to get in front of the pack from the first strokes. The excellent swimmer was first out of the water in the first lap, followed by Anastasia Gorbunova (RUS).
It was in that first lap when the race started to unfold, with two of the favorite athletes, Ai Ueda (JPN) and Lisa Perterer (AUT) falling way behind the leaders, with still a second lap of 750 meters to go. With a field spread out but Bragmayer maintaining the lead, Kirsten Kasper (USA), Taylor Knibb (USA), Anna Godoy Contreras (ESP), Andrea Hewitt (NZL) and Barbara Riveros (CHI) among others quickly pushed to break away from the pack.
Even though the leaders never managed to work together smoothly, and with Riveros taking the responsibility of pushing hard in front of the pack, the group managed to have a bit over a minute over the chasers, and more than 2 minutes with Ueda and Perterer, two of the strongest runners in the field. And when it all came to the run, it was Hewitt the first to strike leading the athletes out of the second transition.
Right on her heels were Knibb, Godoy Contreras and Rivas, with the American quickly taking the lead. She knew then that she had to serve a 15 seconds penalty for leaving equipment outside the box, and it was her choice to serve it in the first or the second laps of the run. Halfway through the run, Knibb tried to break away, on a last effort to open a gap of more than 15 seconds that could give her the win, with Rivas, Hewitt and Godoy Contreras always close behind. But the American never managed to open a sufficient gap, so when she stopped at the penalty box, just a few meters before the finish line, she could only look hopelessly to Hewitt sprinting to take the tape.
The Kiwi, whose last victory was in the World Triathlon Series in Gold Coast in 2017, looked a mix of confused and thrilled when she crossed the finish line, still digesting what had just happened. “It was crazy out there. I didn’t know that Taylor (Knibb) had a 15-second penalty. I didn’t know until that last corner that I saw her in the penalty box. I was in third at halfway and I had two girls on my back. I was running for the podium but then I found myself in front of the tape. I didn’t even know that I had won today”, she said. Hewitt, whose fiancee Laurent Vidal died just four years ago today, couldn’t help the tears. “For me it is crazy to also have to celebrate (the victory) today, on a day like today, because today is the anniversary of the saddest day of my life”, she explained.
Knibb managed to finish in the second place despite the penalty, to wrap up the season with a world cup podium, the only one she has got in 2019. “I was planning to serve the penalty on the first lap and hopefully catch up with the leaders and race from there but one of the coaches said to take it on the second lap. I had about 100metres to process it and then I decided to take it on the second lap because when I am racing I don’t look at the penalty board so I was hoping that Andrea (Hewitt) and Claudia (Rivas) didn’t see that I had a penalty. I expected to be sprinting in for fourth of fifth place so it’s better than expected. And for Andrea to finish ahead of me, you could not ask for a better person to beat you”, said Knibb.
The bronze medal was for Rivas, sprinting Godoy Contreras on an unexpected comeback to the top positions after her 7th place in the 2016 Rio Olympics. She was the best Mexican of the day, with the team performing brilliantly under the heat to have Cecilia Perez in the 5th place and Lizewth Rueda Santos in 6th. USA’s Kirsten Kasper ended in the 7th position, with another Mexican, Jessica Romero Tinoco capping up the top 8.
Results: Elite Women
1. Andrea Hewitt NZLNZL Flag 01:34:35
2. Taylor Knibb USAUSA Flag 01:34:41
3. Claudia Rivas MEXMEX Flag 01:34:49
4. Anna Godoy Contreras ESPESP Flag 01:35:01
5. Cecilia Perez MEXMEX Flag 01:35:05
Men's Race Review
The season for the USA men couldn’t finish better. After a dominant run in the 10km run along the Caribben sea, Matthew McElroy led an impressive podium sweep for the USA men in the 2019 ITU Santo Domingo World Cup, followed in the finish line by Kevin McDowell and Morgan Pearson.
With the athletes taking an early start due to the high temperatures in Santo Domingo this weekend, it was to no surprise that the athlete that was able to deal better with the wavy waters of the Caribbean was Richard Varga (SVK). The Slovakian mastered riding the waves four times, twice to get in and twice to get out in the two laps circuit of 1.5km in the Sans Souci Beach, with only Igor Polyanskyi able to follow him.
By the time they both got to the first transition, tho, they were chased by a large group that immediately formed a large front pack of men and established themselves early to lead the race. Behind them, a second pack led by Irish Russel White was trying to keep contact, while far behind out of the water was one of the athletes most eyes were focused on: Cameron Wurf (AUS). An excellent biker, the Aussie had a complicated swim that left him with no options, while the leaders kept pushing to increase the pace.
Halfway through the 40km flat course in Santo Domingo the large leading group was working together in turns to manage the 180 turns at both side of the circuit, with most of the big names included in the pack. Adrien Brifford, Sylvain Fridelance, Manoel Messias, Irving Perez... they all were taking turns to lead the group until the time difference with the chasers was more than 2 minutes.
With the large group arriving together to the second transition, it was Matthew Sharpe (CAN) and Brifford leading the men out in the first meters of the run, but quickly the American squad approached and never let them opened a gap. As soon as the leading men were done with the first little climb to get out of transition, it was three Americans (McElroy, McDowell and Pearson) and three Swiss (Max Studer, Florien Salvisberg and Fridelance) running together, with the Sharpe, Perez and Ilya Prasolov (RUS) fading behind them.
The Swiss were able to stay with the Americans for the first two laps, but passed the 5km mark MxElroy added an extra gear to open a bit of a gap, only to be followed by his countrymates Pearson and McDowell. And together they rode for the final kilometers, looking at each other, no words to be said. It was when the venue was on sight in the last lap when McElroy decided to do his final move, sprinting with 700m to go with no one able to follow, and not looking back until he cross the finish line to claim his third consecutive World Cup win of the season.
Behind him, McDowell passed Pearson to claim the silver medal to cap up the season in style, after the bittersweet 4th place last week in Lima and the third place in Tongyeong. To be consistent with the Americans topping the top positions in the start list in Santo Domingo, Pearson grabbed the bronze medal to give USA the first-ever podium sweep in a men’s World Cup.
The Swiss managed to finish in the next three positions, with Studer crossing the finish in 4th, followed by Salvisberg and Adrien Brifford, with Canadian Matthew Sharpe in the 7th place and Japanese Odakura Makoto closing the top 8.
For McElroy, the race unfolded as he had planned from the beginning. “To be honest, that was the hardest swim I have ever done. I thought I was having a terrible swim but I came out the back of the front group”, he explained. After riding in the leading pack for the 40 km ride, the run was “pretty relaxed, almost the whole run. I knew those guys were strong. I wanted to sit and make my move about 1km out, and I was able to do as I wanted. It all comes down to having a good team, Having a good support team, family and friends is what makes the difference. I am having fun and enjoying the races now”, he said.
“It was incredible coming in in the second place”, explained McDowell. “I think we wanted to make sure we made it all three of us on the podium. The focus was running together. Today was all about conserving until the end. It was about being patient.I have been so close to so many podiums, and today I really tried to change the mind game. I am pleased with second and it’s a great way to finish the year”, he said.
Also extremely happy was Morgan Pearson, with his second world cup podium of the season. “It was a good race for me, I actually had a nice swim and was in third the whole way. I have been working hard on my swim this year so I am happy that it’s showing in races. Then on the bike I was trying to relax and conserve the energy. I thought I did a good job moving to the front, I was happy with that. On the run, I just don’t think I have the strength over the 10km. I thought I was in good shape but I think I am more suited to the shorter distance. I have no shame losing those guys but you always want more for yourself if you don’t win but I am happy for the team”, explained.
Santo Domingo wraps-up the ITU 2019 World Cup season, with the 2020 World Cups starting next year in Cape Town in February.
Results: Elite Men
1. Matthew McElroy USAUSA Flag 01:39:03
2. Kevin McDowell USAUSA Flag 01:39:22
3. Morgan Pearson USAUSA Flag 01:39:31
4. Max Studer SUISUI Flag 01:40:15
5. Florin Salvisberg SUISUI Flag 01:40:46