There’s an Afrikaans saying that goes ‘die Kaap is weer Hollands’ and that was the way it turned out as Cape Town welcomed the world’s best triathletes for leg No4 of the World Triathlon Series (WTS) on Saturday.
England”s Vicky Holland shone brightest on an overcast autumn day and posted her first ever WTS victory.
She clocked 1hr 49min 51sec as she kicked for home with just over a kilometre to run and held off pre-race favourite Katie Zaferes of the United States and Olympic champion Nicola Spirig of Switzerland. Holland was just a second ahead of Zaferes and another four clear of Spirig who has become a mother since London 2012.
Best South African finisher was Stellenbosch’s Mari Rabie who ran a superlative race to end 25th overall in 1:52:57.
She was always in contention during the first two legs which are her forteacute and although she’ll be the first to admit that her running talent isn’t quite up there at the highest level she’ll hold her head high right now.
Always a formidable contender from school level, the Stellenbosch athlete had the very worst of build-ups suffering a heart problem that kept her out for ages.
‘I had a heart virus which affected me for eight months,’ she told Road to Rio 2016 afterwards. ‘I wasn’t allowed to exercise at all for four months and then the next four months had to keep my heart rate below 120 beats per minute.
‘I had a good swim but my goggles started leaking after the first buoy which was a bit of a problem.
‘I found the bike a bit tough for the first part and thought my race was over but then I got to work well with Nicole and my thought was just to say in the top seven.
‘I had a solid run pretty run and I think I ended up pretty much the same as I did last year. Next up are the African Championships in Egypt on 7 May,’ said the 2008 Beijing Olympian. For the record, last year she was 25th in 1:50:16 so to go so close after the year she’s endured is remarkable.
The host nation’s main hope on Saturday was Olympian Gill Sanders but Saturday brought no satisfaction as she ended 39th in 1:59:52.
After a solid swim on the reduced swim loop (750 metres compared to the usual 1500m due to the chilly 11.4deg Celsius ocean temperature) she started the bike leg 40sec or so in arrears.
Part of the second group she battled to make up ground on the bike as the lead pack moved away on the 40km loop.
And then it got worse as she suffered a puncture!
‘There was a crash just outside the stadium and I picked up a puncture in that incident,’ said the Commonwealth Games silver medallist in teh team competition.
‘I rode a lap with the puncture and it was very difficult to corner obviously. Then I had to change wheels and lost time. I had also battled a bit to warm up on the bike after the cold swim,’ she said.
It got worse though. Coming into Transition Two she missed the dismount line and had to endure the frustration of a 15-second time penalty. ‘After the puncture etc I got confused what lap it was but that’s what happened. I had a nice run and felt fresh but it just wasn’t my day.’
Indeed, Sanders looked one of the freshest (as well as the most frustrated) finishers but such is the humdrum of international triathlon. The Olympic distance of 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run is brutally unforgiving.
Anel Radford was South Africa’s second best finisher in 36th spot (1:56:15) and other South African results saw Vicky van der Merwe ending 41st of 43 finishers in 1:59:29 while All Africa Games champion Carlyn Fischer failed to finish
A disappointing crowd pitched to watch the globe’s finest multi-code do battle … hopefully Sunday’s men’s race with Olympian Richard Murray, Commonwealth Games team medallist Henri Schoeman and former world junior champion Wian Sullwald in action will lure the crowds to Green Point.
Source : South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee