Gwen Jorgensen of the USA, Britain’s Non Stanford and Australia’s Emma Moffatt take the podium at ITU San Diego.

Gwen Jorgensen ITU San Diego

Gwen Jorgensen put in a stunning run to win ITU San Diego (Photo: Delly Carr/ITU)

A thrilling race in triathlon’s San Diego birthplace created edge-of-the-seat action right to the finish, with the USA’s Gwen Jorgensen taking the US Championships and her first WTS victory, while Britain’s Non Stanford showed she’s not to be underestimated at the highest level.

The women’s race got underway with 37 of the world’s fastest multi sport athletes sprinting across San Diego’s golden sand and into the 23 degree water of the Pacific Ocean. Despite the warm conditions, wetsuits were chosen and it was Ireland’s Eileen Reid who blasted ahead in the opening stages, setting the pace to stretch out the field from the gun.

Reid was overhauled during the first lap, dropping from the front by a handful of places as Carolina Routier of Spain led back to the beach at the end of the first 750m lap with Brazil’s Pamel Oliviera, Australia’s Emma Moffatt and the Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer her nearest pursuers.

As the swimmers looped back towards the sand for the final time, word came that Reid had incurred a 15 second penalty due to a false start. Meanwhile Routier continued to push on at a ferocious pace, establishing a front pack and lengthening the field. Routier dolphined out of the sea in a stunning time of 17:25 with Oliveira, Moffatt and US Olympian Sarah Groff close behind.

10 seconds later, it was Klamer leading the chase with Canada’s Ellen Pennock, while the remainder of the field began streaming in 36 seconds behind the leaders. Series leader, Anne Haug of Germany, was 1:04 back, mirroring her slower swim in Auckland.

Routier led strongly from transition with Oliviera and Groff, while Moffatt had a little catching up to do, but was soon sat in fourth wheel.

A chase group of around 20 including under 23 world champion Non Stanford of Great Britain, New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt, Australia’s Felicity Abram and Britain’s Jodie Stimpson was chasing at 41 seconds back. Ahead, Moffatt and Groff remained strong, time trialling across the sun drenched boulevards of the largely flat course and building on their early lead with Oliviera and Routier holding on in their wake.

By the end of lap two of eight, the rear group had swollen to the majority of the field, with Anne Haug spearheading the chase. The lead group pushed their advantage out to 47 seconds until lap four, when the main peloton finally began to organise its chase, Stanford and Abram taking big turns at the front to bring their deficit down to 37 seconds by the bike’s half way point.

Two laps later, the race remained in virtually the same state, the leaders only loosing a few seconds to hold on to half a minute’s lead.

Try as individual athletes might to close the lead, there appeared to be little desire in the pack as a whole to work together and after six laps, the leaders were holding a 35-second advantage that increased going into the final lap to 54 seconds, the breakaway’s largest so far.

Moffatt led the other three women into transition with Groff the first to power onto the 10km run course. Covered by the Australian, Groff quickly moved ahead of Oliviera and Routier.

The main pack eventually arrived 1 minute, eight seconds down, with Haug blasting out of T2 as best of the rest.

Groff then went on the offensive, speeding away from Moffatt with an acceleration that the Australian had no answer to. However, Moffatt continued to run hard, keeping the American in sight.

With Oliviera and Routier still holding third and fourth place, 32 seconds behind, the battle for fifth was hotting up as some of the sport’s best runners upped their pace. Stanford led Haug, Stimpson, Abram and the USA’s Gwen Jorgensen at a fast pace – overtaking Oliviera and Routier within the first lap.

At the head of the race, Moffatt dug deep to come back up to Groff then continued apace into the lead, the diminutive Aussie quickly creating a gap over the blue carpet of transition and ploughing on relentlessly, her fast turnover moving her further and further ahead of her pursuer.

Stanford remained in third place, leading Haug, Stimpson and Jorgensen into transition 51 seconds down, while Abram, who had been dropped from that group, was forced to serve a 15 second penalty. The remainder of the field were around 1 minute 10 seconds off the pace.

By the end of lap two, Stanford’s hard chasing group caught Groff, whose earlier effort seemed to have cost her dearly. The American was spat out the back of the fast-moving pack as compatriot Jorgensen moved on ahead, 29 seconds behind Moffatt and three seconds ahead of Stanford with 3.3km to go.

Jorgensen’s tall, powerful and comfortable rhythm was contrasted by Moffatt’s bobbing head and the Aussie’s look back over her ever-dwindling eight-second lead.

Holding only four seconds into the final kilometre, Jorgensen soon pulled behind Moffatt before moving to her shoulder and then flashing ahead.

Nine seconds behind, Stanford continued to lead the charge for third with Haug dogging her steps, Stimpson a little way back on the course.

The American continued to run hard and fast while Moffatt put every ounce of energy into defending her silver medal position.

Jorgensen accelerated onto the blue carpet, a smile appearing on her lips as she sprinted towards the tape, crossing the line in 1:59:59, taking the US Championship title and the accolade of being the first American to ever win a WTS race.

Just behind, Moffatt led Stanford onto the blue carpet but the under-23 world champion put on a savage sprint to the line, the Australian pushing to keep with the Brit, but it was Stanford who won out, taking second in 2:00:03 with Moffatt recording the same time.

Haug claimed fourth place, earning enough points to keep her top of the ITU WTS rankings while Stimpson took fifth in 2:00:31.

After her earlier fade, Groff ran strongly to limit her losses, coming seventh overall behind Andrea Hewitt.