Five things we took away from WTCS Cagliari

by Ben Eastman on 26 May, 2024 07:51 • Español
Five things we took away from WTCS Cagliari

It was the race that closed the Olympic qualification window but such was the action at WTCS Cagliari it is hard to escape the feeling that the drama has only just begun. Cassandre Beaugrand prevailed in a breathtaking finale in the women’s race to claim her first ever standard distance win in the Series while Alex Yee stamped his authority over a race that has become a second home for him.

With their performances, both race winners issued declarations of intent at the top of their lungs that carried a simple message: they are coming for the gold medal in Paris. Cagliari, though, saw a multitude of stories beyond the victors. With qualification fights, rising hopefuls, selection conundrums and more, read on to find five of the major takeaways from the event.

Beaugrand is ready

Entering WTCS Cagliari, Cassandre Beaugrand had never won a race over the standard distance in the Series. Late in the run, it appeared that her record would remain in place as Beth Potter, Lisa Tertsch and Emma Lombardi pushed for the win. Yet Beaugrand was not finished.

She dragged herself back into contention and then responded to Tertsch’s attack. From there, she summoned the final sprint required to take the win.

Last year Beaugrand claimed WTCS wins over the sprint and super sprint eliminator formats. Following her latest success, she therefore has the rare distinction of winning over all three formats, putting her in the company of Flora Duffy and Georgia Taylor-Brown. Most significantly, the standard distance monkey is off her back, so to speak.

The French star will now enter the Paris Olympics having proven she can win over the longer format. Moreover, considering that she also won a silver medal at the Test Event last summer, Beaugrand may have given a final confirmation that she has what it takes to win when everything is on the line.

Tertsch and Lehmann enter the big leagues

Early in the first lap on the run in the women’s race, a lead group of six athletes had come together. Alongside the eventual race winner Beaugrand, the pack contained the defending world champion, Beth Potter, WTCS race winners Georgia Taylor-Brown and Sophie Coldwell, WTCS medallist Emma Lombardi, and Jeanne Lehair. From further back, however, another athlete was stirring.

Lisa Tertsch sailed through the field and inserted herself into the lead pack. After winning a maiden WTCS medal in Hamburg in 2022 and finishing 4th at the WTCS Final in Pontevedra in 2023, her presence was no major surprise. Nevertheless, having been a little late to the lead pack party, she threatened to stomp all over the leaders’ plans.

It took everything Beaugrand had in a final sprint to hold off the German athlete as Tertsch took the silver medal in the best result of her career to date. Once again, as she did at WTCS Yokohama, she clocked the fastest run split of the field and served a clanging statement that she will be a force in Paris.

Meanwhile, Csongor Lehmann made a statement of his own in the men’s race. It had been a hectic fortnight for the Hungarian athlete and he admitted after the men’s race in Cagliari that he was not entirely sure which time zone he was in. After racing at WTCS Yokohama he was parachuted into the Hungarian team at the Mixed Team Relay Olympic qualifier in Huatulco. Although Lehmann clocked the fastest third leg of the race and lifted Hungary into 2nd place, it was not to be as his team ended the day with the bronze medal.

Eight days after his disappointment, Lehmann was the only man able to hang with the brutal pace of Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde in the opening section of the run. He would gradually slip away from the two leaders but he held firm to resist the charges of the chasers and claimed a maiden WTCS medal.

The colour of the medal might have been the same but the feeling could not have been more different. Whereas Huatulco brought a degree of devastation, Cagliari marked the former World U23 champion’s arrival at the highest level.


The selection conundrums

With the Olympic qualification window at its end, thoughts of selection were pervasive in Cagliari. On the French team, Beaugrand’s win means that she has officially confirmed the provisional slot she earned in 2023. She thus likely joins Leonie Periault and Emma Lombardi after they won medals of their own in Yokohama. Pierre Le Corre likewise confirmed his Olympic berth with a 6th place finish in his first WTCS appearance of the season.

However, the remaining French slots are very much up in the air. Vincent Luis placed 9th in Cagliari, matching his result in Yokohama. While Leo Bergere finished 4th in Yokohama, a struggle with illness saw him slide to 15th in Cagliari. At the same time, Dorian Coninx’s crash in Yokohama complicates the situation as the world champion has a fractured wrist and elbow. Two of those three men will need to be added to the team alongside Le Corre but it remains to be seen who they will be.

Over in the British Olympic race, Georgia Taylor-Brown (6th) and Sophie Coldwell (7th) bested Kate Waugh (10th) and have likely confirmed their Olympic places alongside Beth Potter. In the men’s event, though, two contrasting athletes put their hands up for selection alongside Alex Yee.

Samuel Dickinson impressed on the bike and showed he could offer handy domestique services to Yee. At one stage, he was the only man capable of responding to an attack by Hayden Wilde on the bike. On the other hand, Hugo Milner was electric on the run. His 10km split of 29:18 was only bettered by Yee (29:11) and Wilde (29:13). While Dickinson showed his strength on the bike, the second discipline was Milner’s problem and he could not capitalise on a solid swim. The choice may therefore be between Dickinson’s solidity and Milner’s wildcard potential, and that fails to account for Barclay Izzard’s status as the second British man in the Olympic rankings.

The race among the American women also became a little more complicated after Cagliari. The reigning Olympic bronze medallist Katie Zaferes finished 12th, a single place behind the already-qualified Taylor Knibb. After finishing 4th in Yokohama, Taylor Spivey slipped to 15th; similarly, Kirsten Kasper followed her 5th place in Yokohama with a 21st place in Cagliari.

Across multiple teams, then, some long debates await the various national selectors.

Oh how the turntables

One of the most remarkable features of WTCS Cagliari was just how much change there was among top finishers from WTCS Yokohama. Only two weeks separated the two events but there was a near wholesale shift in the outcomes.

Some athletes enjoyed consistency across the two races. Emma Lombardi finished 3rd and 4th and as a result has taken the lead of the women’s standings. Luke Willian’s results of 3rd and 8th have handed him the men’s Series lead. Charles Paquet finished 5th and 7th while Flora Duffy placed 7th and 8th. As already mentioned, Vincent Luis and Kate Waugh had identical finishes at the two events.

Otherwise, there were plenty of significant reversals of fortune.

Morgan Pearson fell from 1st in Yokohama to 40th in Cagliari. The women’s winner in Japan, Leonie Periault, also crossed the line down in 26th. While Taylor Spivey and Kirsten Kasper slipped, their teammate Taylor Knibb tumbled from 2nd to 11th across the two races. Moreover, Miguel Hidalgo went from 8th place to a DNF and Anna Godoy Contreras switched from 6th to 17th.

In addition, there were plenty of reversals in a more positive direction. Csognor Lehmann and Lisa Tertsch both rose from 14th in Yokohama to the podium in Cagliari. Vetle Bergsvik Thorn, who tackled the same Yokohama-Huatulco-Cagliari expedition as Lehmann, jumped from 12th to 4th. Elsewhere, Ricardo Batista soared from 32nd to 5th and Jeanne Lehair climbed from 28th to 5th.

Across the board, then, inconsistency was a trend across the two races. Perhaps the turnaround was a factor but the main takeaway appears to be that, such are the high levels in the Series, even the slightest drop in form or condition can be punished mercilessly.

Thrice as nice

There have been three editions of WTCS Cagliari and on all three occasions Alex Yee has come away with the gold medal. In doing so, Yee mirrored an earlier piece of WTCS history after his compatriot Alistair Brownlee won the first three editions of WTCS Madrid between 2009 and 2011.

Yee arrived in Sardinia with something of a point to prove after a sub-par showing at WTCS Pontevedra cost him the 2023 world title. En route to his hat-trick in Cagliari, though, the British athlete proved that what happened at last year’s Final was an aberration.

Normal service was resumed as Yee was the fastest runner in the men’s field and hardly put a foot wrong across any of the three disciplines. When he is in such form, trying to figure out a way past him becomes a real head-scratcher.

A word should also go to Hayden Wilde as he also had an exemplary race. The New Zealander made the front pack out of the water as he hoped and then rode aggressively throughout the bike before challenging Yee until the final moments of the run. Between now and Paris, though, Wilde will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to get past his great rival over the 10km run.

The next stop of the WTCS returns to Hamburg in seven weeks. Stay up to date with the build-up and all the action on TriathlonLive and across World Triathlon social channels.

Related Event: 2024 World Triathlon Championship Series Cagliari
25 May, 2024 • event pageall results
Results: Elite Men
1. Alex Yee GBR 01:39:44
2. Hayden Wilde NZL 01:39:46
3. Csongor Lehmann HUN 01:40:27
4. Vetle Bergsvik Thorn NOR 01:40:36
5. Ricardo Batista POR 01:40:37
Results: Elite Women
1. Cassandre Beaugrand FRA 01:47:25
2. Lisa Tertsch GER 01:47:28
3. Beth Potter GBR 01:47:31
4. Emma Lombardi FRA 01:47:32
5. Jeanne Lehair LUX 01:47:51
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