Spain's Javier Gomez outsprints Mario Mola to Yokohama title
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Three races, three wins. Spain’s Javier Gomez threw-down yet another stellar performance in Yokohama on Saturday, in a race that may have reset the world order in triathlon.
Previously in every WTS race Alistair Brownlee and Jonathan Brownlee had started together, at least one of them had finished in the medals. In Japan, they were pushed off the podium by Spain’s Mario Mola and South Africa’s Richard Murray.
However it was Gomez who yet again re-affirmed his place at the top of the WTS pecking order in 2014, as he pulled out his most impressive win yet this season. While in Auckland and Cape Town Gomez dropped Jonny Brownlee with a few kilometres to go to assure his win, he didn’t capture the Yokohama victory until the final metre.
With the Brownlee’s falling off the pace halfway through the run, Mola and Gomez dropped Murray with just over a kilometre to go, and entered the blue carpet together. While Mola looked hesitantly over his shoulder twice at Gomez, he wasn’t caught off guard in the throw down. The pair sprinted side by side almost the length of the finishing chute, before Gomez lunged to the finishing tape when it counted. Gomez captured his third consecutive WTS win in 2014, and his first ever in Yokohama, in 1 hour 45 minutes and 31 seconds. His bid to become only the second man to win four ITU World Championships is on track.
“With Mario and Richard, then run pretty fast and I was just about to drop in the second or third lap and somehow I managed to get up. Then I got down to the final few hundred metres, I knew that Mario is pretty fast but I just gave it everything, the third sprint I’ve won in my life, so I’m pretty happy,’ Gomez said. “Third win of the year, I can’t believe it’s going so good.”
When Murray made his move on the second lap, Gomez had to focus behind and up front.
“At this point of the World Championship the main rivals were Alistair and Jonathan, Jonathan has two second places so I was a bit worried about him but when I saw they dropped I focused to try and win the race and Richard and Mario were at the front. I almost dropped when Richard made his move but I managed to keep up and felt a bit better at the end of the race.”
Gomez says he is in the middle of one of the best phases in his career but is not resting on his laurels.
“This has been the best season so far having three wins and this kind of racing at the highest level in the world is just amazing. But I know the job is not done yet, I need another two good results before the Grand Final and the Grand Final is such an important race, if you have a bad day there you are not even on the podium in the Series so I am still focusing, I will train well and see how it goes.”
Mario Mola was pleased to be on the podium behind his countryman.
“I can’t be happier, Javi deserved this race, he sprinted like a beast and I have to congratulate him. I have to also thank Tom Davison who did a great job on the bike, thanks to him we were able to get to the first pack so yeah I am happy with my race and pleased with my second and will keep working for the next one.
“When Richard made the move I definitely thought he could get away. He is a great runner so I knew I had to be close to him to get a win or get a podium. That is what I tried to do. I didn’t feel great on the start of the run, when Alistair started I thought that is a bit too much but I tried to stay there and then found the energy to push at the end of the run that allowed me to get second position so I am very happy with that.”
Murray was delighted with his performance and a return to the podium.
“Its been coming a long time, the last time I was on the podium was just before the Olympic Games, it has been a long time for me, I have had a lot of 5th places which I am currently sick of now and I don’t want to settle for anything less. Tom Davison I give big credit to, I might even throw some cash his way, being the best ‘domestique’ anyone can ask for. I can’t believe my lap splits, we were going well over 50kph on the flat and that is the reason why we closed the gap. There was a crash with two laps to go, I was almost in it, the guy was on my right, there were two crashes and I managed to escape that. I have only run twice now with the Brownlees from the start of the race and I have managed to take both of them so I am real stoked, I think it was a good entertaining race today.”
Murray said his move on the second lap was a planned effort.
“The legs were feeling good and I didn’t want to be the follower today I want to be the one giving it a go, I don’t want to follow and get broken. I put two moves in on the run and couldn’t get away from them, the Spanish guys their surging skills are very very good. From about halfway through the second lap we were surging each other for the rest of the race. I think after about the 6th surge my hamstring started to go and on the last lap Javi started to go and I just couldn’t respond. I tried to stay with him as long as I can, if you look at the footage I was in the biggest hurt locker ever on the last 2k. They managed to get a small gap but third place I am super super stoked with it.”
Like in the women’s race in Yokohama, the race started with a wetsuit swim which failed to make much of an impact on the make-up of the race. But in this case, it was the efforts of New Zealand’s Tom Davison that ensured it didn’t.
While the usual suspects such as Henri Schoeman, Joe Maloy, Aaron Royle and the big three of Gomez, Brownlee and Brownlee exited near the front, so did around 10 other athletes. After one lap of the bike their lead to the first chase was just over 20 seconds, which was not enough on the technical Yokohama course. Particularly against the force that is Tom Davision in 2014.
After making a name for himself and sealing his place on the 2014 New Zealand Commonwealth Games team in Auckland, where he pulled Ryan Sissons to the lead group, Davison cut through another minute deficit without breaking a sweat. Within just two laps he had moved through the field and collected Mola and Murray on the way, before the halfway point of the 40km bike the lead group swelled to almost 40 athletes.
However unlike the women’s race, where the lead group was so slowed by its size that almost the whole field caught it before T2, Davison, Gomez, the Brownlees, Benjamin Shaw and Royle ensured that no-one else joined that group. While a few small breaks were initiated in the final few laps, nothing stuck and 36 athletes hit T2 together.
It marked the first time in 2014 that two of the fastest runners in the field had actually left T2 in the lead group, and Murray and Mola relished the chance to properly challenge the big three of the Brownlees and Gomez. However it quickly emerged that Yokohama in 2014 was going to be different, as Jonathan Brownlee was the first to fall off the pace. That ended his incredible run of 17 consecutive World Triathlon Series podium places, since the Madrid race in 2010. While in his first race of the 2014 season, Alistair Brownlee held on for longer, he also couldn’t stick with the pace that Gomez, Mola and Murray had set.
While neither Brownlee made the podium, it was a good day for the British team with four athletes in the top ten, including Aaron Harris and Adam Bowden. Alongside Mola and Gomez, Spain also had three with Fernando Alarza running himself into 7th place.
Alistair said he just didn’t have the running in his legs today.
“The swim was real tough, I had to fight my way around a bit and then the bike obviously we tried to push on early doors and then it came together and nothing happened really and then on the run I had no legs at all really. I hope there is more conditioning to come from me but I think I am a fair bit fitter than that to be honest even though I haven’t done the training I would like to, I was practically jogging. But I think hopefully a bit more running, maybe a bit more rest I will be a bit better.”
Javier Gomez’s undefeated start to the 2014 season sees him comfortably atop of the Threadneedle rankings, with Jonathan Brownlee sitting in second.
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