Vincent Luis (FRA) executed a successful title defense while Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) outclassed the field at the World Triathlon Series Hamburg, which was designated the 2020 world championship at very short notice. As the only race in the WTS to be able to take place, Hamburg became the first time since 2008 that the world championship was awarded in a single-day event, and the first time ever that the world championship was raced over the sprint distance.
With COVID-safe protocols in place, the race venue was moved to fully-closed roads and few spectators. Yet despite the wet and windy conditions earlier that day, the action was heated and furious in both the men’s and women’s fields.
Luis positioned himself comfortably with Alistair Brownlee (GBR) to exit the swim on the pointy end of things. While Brownlee along with brother Jonathan drove the pace of the lead pack of eight on the bike, they all managed to stay in touch until transition. The run would be the deciding factor as Luis, fellow Frenchman Leo Bergere, and surprise contender Vasco Vilaca (POR) pulled away from the field. With 900 meters to go Luis put on a surge to put daylight between himself and the other two, to which they had no answer.
He said: “I knew I was in good shape and i’ve spent the last six weeks doing a lot of sessions with some of the best guys in the world. I swam good and when you have the two Brownlee brothers with you, you always have a good chance to get away. I had the two young guys with me on the run so I was a bit scared but pushed the pace with one lap to go.”
While it was fellow Brit Jess Learmonth who led the women out of the water, Taylor-Brown was only eight seconds back and in the chase pack along with Katie Zaferes (USA) caught the breakaway halfway through the bike leg. She did her fair share up front alongside Learmonth to keep the pace high, but once the competitors were out on the run the gloves came off. 2017 ITU world champion Flora Duffy (BER) and Learmonth distanced themselves from the field with an excellent transition, but Taylor-Brown put on the afterburners and kicked ahead of them early to finish with a comfortable nine-second gap. While Duffy put up a good fight, it soon became clear there would be a new world champion crowned.
Taylor-Brown said: “It just sort of happened. I felt really comfortable setting off on the run, I really enjoyed the gravel running, that’s like my kind of running. I felt really comfortable on the gravel and thought let’s just go for it… It feels weird saying that I am the World Champion because it’s been an unusual year. We’re missing a few people as well.”
This was the first major race outing for the Phoenix Team, a squad of athletes who aim to harness the power of sporting achievement, inspiring and uplifting the next generation by providing a symbol of hope and strength and the tools to take on tomorrow. Follow their stories at pho3nixfoundation.com/pho3nix-team and get updates on Instagram.