Germany’s Anne Haug wins in dramatic style while Sweden’s Lisa Norden secures the 2012 ITU world title.
While Nicola Spirig, Helen Jenkins and Emma Moffatt were away from this year’s ITU WTS Grand Final, for the rest of the field the race represented the last chance to overcome Olympic disappointment or gain a podium at the season’s end. But with much of the field having undertaken a long and draining season in the Olympic year, there were plenty of variables to contend with before race and series champions could be crowned.
Following a traditional Maori haka display in the warm sunshine in Auckland, the women got underway for the final 1500m swim of the 2012 ITU WTS. Rising star Rachel Klamer of the Netherlands was the first wetsuited figure to emerge from the water, clocking a 19:01 split at the head of a strung out field with no real breaks until the 27th athlete back.
As the 40km, eight-lap bike course got underway, the main group formed including Sweden’s Lisa Norden, second overall in the WTS; series points leader Erin Densham of Australia; New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt, fourth in the points tally; Britain’s Jodie Stimpson; and Barbra Riveros Diaz of Chile.
Coming into lap three, the chasing group, led by strongwoman Anne Haug of Germany – who came 43rd out of 44 athletes in the swim – had narrowed their deficit from around a minute to 42 seconds and showed no signs of slowing.
Now led by New Zealand’s Kate McIlroy, the leading pack powered on. The course’s three leg-stinging climbs had taken their toll on Densham though, who had been suffering with flu prior to the race and called it a day, relinquishing her chance at the title that would now be Norden’s to lose.
Another occurrence to shake up the race during lap three was Haug’s surge out of the chasing group, leaving behind fast runner Gwen Jorgensen of the USA to bridge the gap to the front pack. Sitting fifth in the standings overall and with a killer run in her arsenal, the German’s appearance was to be feared by the remaining favourites.
McIlroy soon took advantage of one of the climbs to put in a strong acceleration and forge a gap of around 15 seconds that held the chasers at bay until near the start of lap seven, after which the status quo remained until T2.
Germany’s Anja Knapp led onto the blue carpet and was first onto the run. Though the contenders were all within a few seconds of one another, Hewitt performed a slow transition that cost her 15-seconds, coming last out of the grandstand area while Knapp strode away. The New Zealander, along with fellow Kiwi McIlroy, pushed hard and soon joined the front group who had caught Knapp to form a group also including Stimpson, Norden, Klamer, Haug, Riveros Diaz, Flora Duffy of Bermuda and Juri Ide of Japan, who set the pace.
By 3km in, the USA’s Sarah Groff, again showcasing her never-say-die attitude, had bridged to the leaders along with Spain’s Ainhoa Murua. The group continued together, working to hold a 19 second advantage over the competition by 5km, after which the Ide began lifting the pace, Duffy the first to succumb to the speed.
Meanwhile Jorgensen had already whittled her deficit down to 40-seconds after reaching transition in the second bike pack and was driving on with her powerful arm movement and long, fast stride to move up through the field. 40 seconds turned to 25 over the next kilometre, then just 12 seconds going into the final 2.5km lap, where only Knapp had begun to lose contact with the leaders.
As Jorgensen got within a few metres of the leaders, Haug made her move to break the group apart. Running off the front unchallenged, her pure muscular strength and cool demeanour saw her eat up the roads, creating a serious lead of around 15 seconds with less than 2km left. Just behind, Jorgensen continued to accelerate through the rest of the leaders to take second place on the course, pushing on with no sign of backing off.
Jorgensen was leading Riveros Diaz, Norden and a couple of metres behind, Stimpson, as Haug turned onto the blue carpet.
Showing absolutely no weakness, the German powered on to take the ITU WTS Grand Final win in 2:10:48, earning enough points to overtake Hewitt in the rankings and claim second overall. Jorgensen likewise maintained her pace, dashing ahead of Riveros Diaz in the sprint, grimace in place, to claim second in 2:11:00 while the Chilean took third in 2:11:01. Norden’s fourth place (2:11:03) secured her the 2012 ITU WTS World Championship title at the end of a stunning season while Hewitt, seventh on the day, dropped behind Haug to take bronze in the 2012 series. Stimpson ran strongly to cross the line in fifth place – 2:11:03.
Top 3 Women
Anne Haug (GER) 2:10:48
Gwen Jorgensen (USA) 2:11:00
Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) 2:11:01
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