Lisa Norden (SWE) crowned 2012 ITU World Champion, Under23 World Championships highlights
Photo: ITU/Delly Carr
Auckland, New Zealand - Germany's Anne Haug took the ITU Grand Final title but Sweden's Lisa Norden the 2012 ITU World Championship in an action packed day of international action in Auckland on Saturday.
Non Stanford (GBR) was the first world champion to be crowned on Saturday as she outlasted the Netherlands' Sarissa De Vries and Canada's Joanna Brown in the Under23 women's championship.
Then Haug stormed home to cap off her breakthrough season with a Grand Final win, ahead of Gwen Jorgensen (USA) and Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI). But Norden's fourth place was enough to secure the overall 2012 gold, with Haug winning silver and Andrea Hewitt (NZL) bronze.
The Under23 men finished the day, with yet another close finish, this time Aaron Royle (AUS) just held off Fernando Alarza (ESP) and Thomas Bishop (GBR).
Elite Women's Review
Germany's Anne Haug overcame a tough course and stiff opposition to win the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Auckland on Saturday. The victory was the finishing touch to her breakthrough season and also catapulted her to number two in the overall series rankings, making her the ITU World Championships silver medallist.
"It's been a good season, and it's the final highlight and I can't believe that I'm here," said Haug. "I'm like in a bubble and I hope I can believe it when everything settles down. It was a perfect race and unbelievable."
American Gwen Jorgensen staged a ferocious comeback to finish behind Haug in second, while posting a race-best 34:10 run split. Barbara Riveros Diaz took the bronze in the race, sweet redemption for the Chilean after last year's Grand Final disappointment.
Lisa Norden (SWE) finished fourth in the Grand Final which was more than enough to secure the 2012 ITU World Championship, capping off a breathtaking season in which she won silver at the Olympic Games and collected two series wins.
Sandwiched between the Under23 women's and men's races, 44 elite women began the day with a chilly two-lap 1.5km swim. Rachel Klamer (NED) emerged from the water first, followed closely by Aileen Morrison (IRL), Sarah Groff (USA) and Jessica Harrison (FRA). Also in the front pack were Norden and Erin Densham (AUS), which looked to set up a tremendous clash for the World Championship.
But Densham, who had been sick all week, couldn't keep up on the tough Auckland course and dropped from the lead group and fell further behind. Unable to continue, Densham eventually pulled the plug and called it a day.
In stark contrast, Haug attacked on the bike early and bridged up to bring her and the rest of the chase group even with the leaders on the third lap.
Further down the field, a group of about ten women were still in pursuit of the leaders. Among them were stellar runners like Jorgensen and Ashleigh Gentle (AUS). But that pack wasn't making any progress as they continued to lose time on the leaders with every lap.
Coming into T2 was the leading 19 women who now owned a lead of a minute and 15 seconds over the chase.
Out onto the 10km run course, 12 women ran together up front including Norden, Andrea Hewitt (NZL), Groff, Riveros, Haug, McIlroy, Klamer, Ainhoa Murua (ESP), Jodie Stimpson (GBR), Flora Duffy (BER), and Juri Ide (JPN).
But the lead out of T2 wasn't as comfortable as it may have appeared as Jorgensen was busting through the field. Haug, however, would not be denied gold as she surged ahead to the finish, stopping the clock at 2 hours, 10 minutes, 48 seconds to record the biggest win of her career.
Jorgensen hammered the run course with the fastest time by 40 seconds to come all the way back and out-sprint Riveros for the silver.
Norden, who later revealed she went to hospital overnight to be treated for food poisoning, finished in fourth place, collecting enough points to be crowned ITU World Champion. She added to her illustrious collection that includes Olympic silver, the ITU Sprint World Championship and an Under23 World Championship.
Home favourite Hewitt finished seventh in the race which was enough to lock up bronze in the series. Despite entering the race as the series leader, Densham fell to fifth in the overall rankings after failing to finish.
Under23 Women's Review
In tough conditions on a challenging course, Great Britain's Non Stanford grinded out her most impressive performance to date to claim the 2012 ITU Under23 World Championship in Auckland on Saturday.
After going toe-to-toe for almost the entire 10km run, Stanford pulled away from the Netherlands Sarissa De Vries with a few hundred metres to go to win in a time of 2 hours 13 minutes and 6 seconds, just eight seconds ahead of De Vries, and permanently add Auckland to her favourite destinations list.
"What a great city," Stanford said. "I always judge a city by how well I do so Auckland is definitely up there now as one of my favourite cities in the world."
Canada's Joanna Brown was a clear bronze medal winner, although she was almost a minute behind De Vries she ran solo for almost the entire run leg, well clear of the rest of the field.
The race kicked off Saturday's action in Auckland and a chilly start greeted the Under23 women, with an official air temperature of 13.2 degrees and a wetsuit swim with a water temperature of 14.6 degrees. With strong swimmers like Lucy Hall, Caroline Routier, Claudia Rivas and Celine Schaerer in the field, the swim pace was fast and they formed a small breakaway out of T1 along with Sara Vilic. But Australia's Ashlee Bailie quickly turned it on at the start of the bike and helped bring Simone Ackermann, Natalie Van Coevorden, Ellen Pennock, Stanford, De Vries, Brown with her to the leaders.
That group of 12 then stayed together at the front, as the chase started to slip away behind them. While pre-race favourites Maaike Caelers and Emmie Charayron were working to try and keep themselves in the race and kept the time gap steady at two minutes, they lost 30 seconds on the penultimate lap which put them out of podium contention.
Up ahead Stanford and De Vries positioned themselves well from T2 and shot off the front immediately, where they stayed for the final kilometre. In a battle of nerves, Stanford took the lead but had a persistent De Vries on her shoulder almost the entire time.
De Vries silver continued on a strong year for the Dutch women's team, with Caelers two series podiums and Rachel Klamer's continued move up the elite latter. Caelers recorded the fastest run split of the race to finish tenth.
It was the second ITU world title for Stanford this year, she was also part of Great Britain's gold medal winning Mixed Relay team in Stockholm.
Under23 Men's Review
An all-round strong performance across the three disciplines carried Australia's Aaron Royle to his first ITU World Championship, and broke a 10-year drought for Australian men in the Under23 category in Auckland on Saturday.
Royle was in the lead group across the swim, bike and run and out-sprinted Spain's Fernando Alarza and Great Britain's Thomas Bishop in a frenetic finishing chute finale to win in 1 hour 57 minutes and 17 seconds, just three seconds ahead of Alarza.
Royle said his strategy to hold back until the end paid off, as he became the first Australian man since Brad Kahlefeldt in 2002 to win the category and the first Australian man to win a world title since 2005.
"I had to stay relaxed during that run. I just wanted to watch from the back and see how everyone is looking, my plan was to wait until that very last minute and try and hold on for the sprint," Royle said. "It's sometimes hard to do that because you can get a little bit anxious but I just stayed patient and it worked out for me today."
In a race where the contenders were decided early, Royle was one of the leaders out of the water beside teammates Ryan Fisher and Joshua Amberger, and South Africa's Henri Schoeman and Russia's Igor Polyanskiy. But with the first 31 men out of the water within 20 seconds of the leaders, a large lead group of just over 20 athletes started to form on the first lap of the bike. However Amberger, Bishop and New Zealand's Tom Davison made sure they didn't hang around long, setting a blistering pace at the front on the hilly bike course. Within two laps, the lead group had dwindled to nine athletes, including the three Australians, Davison, Bishop, Polyanskiy, Alarza and Frenchmen Pierre Le Corre and Anthony Pujades.
Apart from Jason Wilson (BAR) bridging up solo at the halfway mark, that's how the lead group stayed for the 40km bike as they continued to increase their lead on the chase group.
While those ten entered T2 together, they started to peel away soon after as Fisher set the pace up front. While Le Corre tried to make a move in the third lap of the run, he was reeled back in by Bishop. On the final run lap Fisher dropped, leaving a four-man race for the title between Le Corre, Royle, Bishop and Alarza. But with a few hundred metres to go, it was clear it was Royle's race as he played out his plan to perfection and powered away from Alarza. Bishop finished just one second behind the Spaniard to claim his second consecutive ITU Under23 World Championship bronze medal.
The 2011 Under23 World Champion Matthew Sharp had a tough race after missing out on the lead bike group, but did post the equal fastest run split of the day of 31:04 to run through the field and finish sixth, while the USA's Gregory Billington and Australia's Ryan Bailie also made up significant time in the run to put themselves into the top ten.
The 2012 ITU Barfoot&Thomson World Triathlon Grand Final Auckland continues with the Junior and, Elite Men's World Championship events on Sunday, before the Paratriathlon and Age-Group World Championships on Monday.