In choppy waters off Mitchell Park it was Britain’s Holland and teammate Jessica Learmonth who were first out of the water, followed by Zaferes and fellow American Kirsten Kasper.
If that country-to-country showdown wasn’t enough, by the time the first athletes were out of the first transition and onto the highway, the lead pack consisted of four Brits and three Americans, with Norway’s Lotte Miller the eighth in the mix.
At that stage the intriguing prospect of a straight USA vs GB battle looked on the cards, as Taylor Spivey and Kirsten Kasper worked with Zaferes, while Sophie Coldwell and Jodie Stimpson joined Holland and Learmonth taking their turns to try and create a solid lead.
By the end of the third lap the front eight had opened a 20 second advantage over the strong chase group of nine that included Canada’s Joanna Brown and local heroes Ashleigh Gentle and Emma Jeffcoat.
That was as comfortable as it got for the front-runners, however, and as the gap was closed out, so an almighty group of 28 had formed for the final stages of the draining 40km ride.
That meant a congested T2, but Holland managed to get away cleanly and had a few useful first strides over the rest of the field, but it wasn’t long before she was joined by Ashleigh Gentle and Katie Zaferes in a potent breakaway trio that started pulling clear of the competition.
With just over two laps still to go, Zaferes and Gentle decided to pile on more pressure, upping the pace and leaving Holland no option but to drop off, now some five seconds behind.
Then, 3km from home, Holland powered back into contention, passing Zaferes and hammering onward. The American could not respond, and as the gap grew and Holland knew the Series was hers, it became a straight sprint between Gentle and the Brit for the gold medal.
Cheered on by the baying crowds, it was Gentle who summoned the final flourish, crossing the line seconds ahead of an equally delighted Holland and basking in the afterglow of a Gold Coast sunset and a truly epic afternoon of racing. Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown finished eighth, guaranteeing herself the bronze in the final season standings.
“Sandwiched between Katie and Jess is a really great place to be on the swim,” said Holland afterwards. “It was choppy out there and you really couldn’t see the buoys or where you were going so for me it was a case of just follow those two and hope that I came out in the right place. A race like this a war of attrition with the wind, so I just decided back it off and pace my own run. Half way through lap three I was back on again and I knew that they might suffer and fortunately they did. Katie has only been off the podium once this year and she is so strong across the board, swim, bike, run. It is really hard to beat someone who doesn’t have a weakness. I feel for her coming so close and being the leader the most of the way through the year but I really wanted it and I am so delighted that I won it in the end.”