Vincent Luis’ decision to miss the Tokyo test event to focus on the Grand final was vindicated today as he lifted the 2019 series’ winner’s trophy after a textbook race in the Swiss town of Lausanne.
It was Luis’ title to lose heading into the final round of the 2019 World Triathlon Series, after racking up five top-five finishes and one sixth in six races and needing a top-five finish in the final race. Contenders to his throne included the reigning champion Mario Mola, five-time world champion Javier Gomez, Fernando Alarza, Australia’s Jake Birtwhistle and Belgium’s Marten van Riel. And they, along with a punishing Swiss course, a gutsy Norwegian and temperatures in the high 20s, would make him work for it.
Knowing he was in a strong position, Luis played a relatively safe race. Mere seconds separated him and swim supremo Henri Schoeman after the two-lap 1.5km swim, guaranteeing him a place in the front pack alongside GB’s Jonny Brownlee, Gomez, Alarza and Birtwhistle. Mola had a sub-par swim to just miss the first pack, but by the start of the second lap of seven had brought the chase group up to make a large lead pack of 23.
Three laps in and the break to the chase group, which included GB’s Alex Yee, was one minute. Keen to start a break up front, meanwhile, was Brownlee, who could be seen trying to ‘rally the troops’, to put it diplomatically, in scenes reminiscent of his older brother. But he wasn’t there with 12km left when a small breakaway of four, including the strong Norwegian biking duo of Casper Stornes and Kristian Blummenfelt, took the limelight, albeit briefly.
Luis kept his nose clean throughout the 40km bike leg, sitting in but keeping a close eye on his main title threats for any sudden breaks off the front. With one lap to go, the chase group, unable to find a productive rhythm, was 2mins down.
Brownlee was seen dropping his bike on the way into T2, to leave second last from the lead pack. Up front it was Blummenfelt who took to the front, with Mola, Luis, Gomez, Alarza, Stornes and Gustav Iden (NOR) snapping at his heels. One lap completed and they’d reeled him in to make a lead group of six. Stornes was the first to drop, followed by Gomez, as Mola upped the pace. Iden and Alarza were the next to go with 5.5km to go. Blummenfelt, with a sniff at his first WTS win, took it up a notch again to lead the race, leaving training partners Mola and Luis to race shoulder to shoulder.
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Blummenfelt never looked back, to take his first-ever WTS win in emphatic style after 1:50:47 and a 30:46min 10km. Next through was Mola, followed by Alarza and Iden who capitalised on a slowing Luis. But fifth was all Luis had to do take the title, to finish a day of ‘just-enoughs’ for the Frenchman. Gomez took sixth, Stornes seventh, Brownlee eighth, Yee 13th (with the third-fastest run of the day of 31:12).