The women’s race began with Lucy Hall (GBR) and Tamara Gorman (USA) setting a frantic pace from the very first strokes on the Bonaparte Dock. Behind them were two more extraordinary swimmers in Summer Cook (USA) and Valerie Barthelemy (BEL), the Belgian cheered by the local crowds who gathered under the MAS Museum to enjoy a delightful showcase of triathlon racing at its best.
The four athletes were joined by Natalie Van Coevorden out of transition and tried to ride solo for the first kilometres of the bike course, but the technical corners and the cobblestones proved too much for them to stay out by themselves, and they were quickly chased by a group of another seven riders including the strong riders Amelie Kretz (CAN), Verena Steinhauser and Kyleigh Spearing (USA).
The group worked together to stay ahead of the chasers, lining up to manage the multiple 90-degree turns and negotiate the cobblestones. Trying to stay out of trouble and still saving some legs for the run, the leading group had built up a gap of 27 seconds by the end of the 22 km bike ride.
And it was the USA’s experienced Summer Cook, who had stayed in the back of the bike group for much of the ride, who emerged first out of the last transition. Without looking back even once, she started to break away in the first kilometre, with Natalie Van Coevorden and Verena Steinhauser the only runners able to stay in check as Cook’s lead grew bigger and bigger.
The American managed the cobblestones easily in the run course and was all smiles at the finish line as she grabbed a sixth World Cup of her career. “This is a really tough bike course, and biking is my weakness, so I came here to challenge myself. After a rather disappointing race in Leeds last week, I needed to change something, and this is a great result”, said the American. “I pushed myself out of the comfort zone and it proved successful”, she said.
Behind her, the surprise of the day was for Great Britain’s former track and field athlete Beth Potter, who was able to cross the line in second place after flying past Steinhauser and Van Coevorden in the last kilometres. Potter, who represented Team GB in the 10,000m at Rio 2016, had the fastest split in the run segment of her third appearance on the World Cup circuit. “I feel so happy with this race. I had three targets for it, and I accomplished all of them. I couldn’t be happier with my performance”, said the Brit.
The third place was decided by a sprint over the finish line, with Italian Steinhauser managing to pass France’s Dodet in the last 50 metres to claim the first World Cup podium of her career. “I am so happy”, she said. “The course was extremely hard and I thought I couldn’t do it, but I managed to find some strength at the end and I was able to pass Sandra”.
The French, who won the first World Cup of her career in Astana only three weeks ago, claimed fourth place just ahead of Australia’s Van Coevorden. The first local over the finish line was Claire Michel, in 7th.