Non Stanford wins ITU Grand Final to claim 2013 ITU World Champion

Non Stanford ITU Grand Final 2013 (Photo: Janos Schmidt/ITU)

Non Stanford ran a 33:12 10k, the fastest despite a 15 second penalty (Photo: Janos Schmidt/ITU)

With early-morning fog hanging over the capital and a chill in the air, the ITU Grand Final got underway this morning with the elite women diving into Hyde Park’s Serpentine.

The wetsuit-mandatory 1.5km swim began as a furious wall of mashing arms as the world’s best female triathletes pushed hard from the pontoon towards the first yellow turning buoy. As the rain began to hall above the 16ºC water of the lake, Sarah Groff (USA) became the early leader, taking a select group with her to eke out a break to the remainder of the field.

Fittingly by the Australian exit at the 750m mark, Emma Moffatt (AUS) led back along the pontoon and into the water followed by Alice Betto (ITA) and Groff. Jodie Stimpson (GBR) was 10th, seven seconds back with series leader Gwen Jorgensen (USA) another second behind. Non Stanford (GBR) was off the pace by 20 seconds while Anne Haug (GER) was suffering, being dropped right off the back of the splintering group.

Moffatt continued to push on and led from the water in 18:43 with Groff on her heels, the pair followed by Jessica Harrison (FRA). Andrea Hewitt (NZL) was ninth, 10 seconds behind while Stimpson was another three seconds behind and just ahead of Jorgensen. Stanford had 17 seconds to make up a manageable deficit compared to Haug, who was outside the top 50 and more than two minutes behind.

Harrison led out onto the bike with Moffatt and Groff creating a small breakaway gap at the start of the iconic 40km course, joined quickly by Stimpson, Pamela Oliviera (BRA) and Ainhoa Murua (ESP). Stanford meanwhile failed to get her wetsuit into her transition box, prompting a 15-second penalty to be taken during the run course.

Anja Knapp (GER) dropped out of the chasing group to wait for Haug – over 1km behind – while the front pack swelled as the pace began to settle, Jorgensen and Stanford both sitting comfortably in the middle.

Stimpson led after the first lap, Natalie Milne (GBR) on her wheel along with 21 other athletes, all the favourites apart from Haug – now being paced by Knapp – present and correct.

At the head of the race, Jorgensen took a spill on the wet corner just outside Buckingham Palace, uninjured but losing precious time after a dropped chain. Passed by the chasing group, the American was riding alone with bloodied elbows ahead of the German duo.

By the end of lap two, Stimpson, Groff, Moffatt and Stanford looked in strong contention for the win with Jorgensen over three minutes behind and now overtaken by Haug. Fast runner Emma Jackson (AUS) hung at the back of the group while Emma Pallant (GBR) was forced to retire after a nasty crash that saw her grazed and bruised at the edge of the course.

Behind the lead group, Haug was 3:20 behind and losing more time while Jorgensen retired from the event and her championship title bid following her earlier crash.

With three bike laps to go, the 24-strong leading group held a lead of 1:28 to the first chase pack, with more than 20 seconds to the next group and Haug now 3:30 in arrears.

Harrison then had to pull out of the front group and off the road to swap a punctured wheel, putting her 30 seconds off the pace in her final ITU WTS race.

During lap six, there was a half-hearted breakaway attempt before the race settled a little on the final lap, the leading group easing off the pace a little and taking the dangerous, slippery corners slowly, allowing Haug to gain some time, though the German remained 3:23 behind despite her best efforts. The first chasing group, including Vicky Holland (GBR) and Vanessa Raw (GBR), was just over 90 seconds behind.

Stanford and Stimpson led the race into T2 at the end of the bike leg, Stanford immediately moving to the front of the group and creating a gap to Groff while Stimpson struggled to get one of her shoes on.

Stanford pushed on to edge a little further ahead of Groff, Moffatt running in third place and Stimpson a couple of seconds behind on the shoulder of Eileen Reed (IRL) and in a group with Jackson, Ashleigh Gentle (AUS), Betto and Hewitt while Haug finally entered transition 3:21 behind.

The young British star continued at her savage pace to put more space between herself and Groff, finishing the first of three laps with a 15-second lead over the American and another 15 seconds to the chasing group that now included Moffatt, but still to serve her penalty.

Taking the 15-second count at the end of lap two, Stanford’s gutsy challenge to become the ITU World Champion continued, the Welsh athlete getting back onto the course with 14 seconds still in hand to Groff, Moffatt just five seconds behind and leading the chase to the American.

Stanford’s spectacular race continued during the final lap, her fast leg turnover and strong arm movement showing her continued strength while Moffatt pulled into third with Reed in fourth and Stimpson in fifth.

Moffatt’s move continued, the Aussie taking second on the course with Groff trying to stay with her. Behind them, Stimpson put on a spurt of speed to edge slightly ahead of Reed and then overtake the American to reach a podium position before Reed kicking ahead of the Brit.

At the front of the race Stanford was making her incredibly fast 10km run look easy, showing no signs of discomfort at all as she sprinted onto the blue carpet, grabbing a Welsh flag and holding it aloft before crossing the line as ITU World Champion in 2:01:33.

Behind her, Reid and Moffatt sprinted for second, the Irish athlete taking silver in 2:01:57. Moffatt claimed third in 2:02:00 while Stimpson took fourth in 2:02:06, Betto rounding out the top five in 2:02:09 and Groff fading to seventh, 43 seconds behind Standford.

The grand final results make Non Stanford the first female triathlete to ever win a senior world title the year after holding the Under23 honours. Jodie Stimpson’s consistently-brilliant season puts her in second place at the end-of-year rankings while Haug, who finished 36th stays on the podium in fourth ahead of Jorgensen.

Stanford said: “It’s actually incredible, it hasn’t really sunk in yet to be honest with you. I am still a bit speechless, I am a bit overwrought, it’s all happened so fast. I am sure once it sinks in, it will be the sweetest moment ever.

“I found out on the second lap of the bike, Jodie actually rode up to me and told me, which was a bit of a shock, but very nice of her. The first thing that went through my head was I have done a Jonny Brownlee.”

Commenting on the British one-two she said: “It’s amazing – one and two – to share that podium with Jodie is fantastic. Up until this point it’s always been Brownlees one, two, so to have it on the women’s side is fantastic, a great step forward.”

As well as earning her the world championship silver, Stimpson’s fourth place was enough to meet the selection criteria for next year’s Commonwealth Games.

She said: “To finish second in the Series, I wouldn’t have said that at the start of the year, so yes, that’s awesome. That’s qualified me for the Commonwealth Games so to get fourth that’s brilliant, I’ve done it and I can concentrate and have a solid winter now.”

Commenting on Jorgensen’s crash she said: “It took a couple of laps for us to know it was Gwen. Gwen is an awesome competitor. I would have liked to see her finish the race – how it should have been – and not come off.”