Audrey Merle earns first-ever World Cup victory in Tongyeong
Race conditions were idyllic for the next World Cup of the 2022 season in Tongyeong, South Korea, as the top triathletes in the world lined up. The field consisted of 49 women and 65 men contesting for medals and glory on the world stage, in the standard-distance race format. The Korean World Cup commenced with a 1.5km swim in the Tongyeong harbour which transitioned to a 6-lap bike course for 40km before finishing with 4-laps of the 2.5km run portion of the race. Tongyeong boasts a challenging and hilly course that tests athletes on the bike and the run.
In the women’s race Audrey Merle (FRA) put an incredible amount of time on the field to run away with victory. 2022 World Triathlon Cup Huatulco champion Annika Koch (GER) made her move at the halfway point of the run to earn the silver medal. A brilliant race set-up by Mathilde Gautier saw the Frenchwoman claim bronze.
In the men’s race Matthew McElroy timed it to perfection to run down the field and take the tape in Tongyeong. Hungary’s Gabor Faldum crossed the line to earn silver and Great Britain’s Samuel Dickinson stormed across the line for bronze.
Women’s race report
49 of the top triathletes from around the world lined up along the Tongyeong Harbour to race in the next edition of the World Cup tour in South Korea. Zsanett Bragmayer of Hungary headlined the women’s start list and was the first athlete to take a position on the pontoon for the commencement of the race. Racing got underway with a two-lap, 1.5km swim in the harbour of the coastal city, which is Surrounded by the sea at the southern end of Goseong peninsular in South Korea. Mathilde Gautier of France led the women through two laps of the swim and into the first transition of the day.
Mexico’s Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal, South Africa’s Simone Ackermann, Great Britain’s Olivia Mathias, New Zealand’s Ainsley Thorpe, Audrey Merle of France and Germany’s Annika Koch joined the leading French woman through transition and out onto the 40km bike portion of the World Cup race in Korea. The course in Tongyeong is famous for its hilly sections, which challenge the athletes on both the bike and run. Out on the bike course the women quickly established a lead group of ten athletes which also featured Italy’s Ilaria Zane and South Africa’s Sarah Jane Walker.
The chase group included Bragmayer, Canada’s Amelie Kretz and Sandra Dodet (FRA) who were all working well together, to apply pressure to bridge the gap on the leaders. By the fourth lap of the bike segment, the lead group had extended their gap to 40-seconds with each athlete taking turns up front, including an impressive bike split by Tapia Vidal. On the final bike lap of the race the front group of ten had extended their lead to 1minute5seconds and Merle was doing a lot of work on the hills to keep the group riding together.
Gautier led out of the final transitional forcefully, with fellow compatriot Merle running closely in second. Koch was chasing down the leaders and running in third. Before the halfway mark of the run Merle established a sizeable gap on Gautier. The hill on the run course was having an obvious impact on the field, as the women drastically separated.
The battle for medals was between Koch and Gautier.
Merle continued to push hard and with no other athletes in sight was able to enjoy her moment on the blue-carpet to take the tape and win the 2022 World Triathlon Cup Tongyeong, her first victory at this level.
“I feel really happy. Honestly, it was four really difficult years for me and today was big to win a world cup. I know it’s not the biggest race in the world, but I really wanted to win today and I am really happy.”
“We know that a lot of good runners were on the back and I think it was natural to work together and try to be with a lot of advantage in T2.”
“I just wanted to catch the first on the beginning and stay in the lead group. I know the run course was good for me with the hill. I felt really good. I just tried to take a breath and be happy to be first and just enjoy the moment. I was really emotional in the last lap,” Merle said.
Koch found another gear which enabled her to surge on the final lap and earn the hard-fought silver medal.
“I am really lucky to have another podium, it was a really tough race. I battled so hard with Mathilde (Gautier) on the run but it was fun. I am really done but it was good.
“At the beginning, I didn’t feel so good so just tried to run at my own pace but then I saw Mathilde (Gautier) wasn’t far away and I tried to catch her metre by metre. At the end, I just tried but she was still by my side and I just went all in and it worked out,” Koch said.
Gautier was delighted as she came across the line and was awarded bronze, a breakthrough performance for the emerging French athlete.
“I am very very happy, it’s my first podium so it’s a big surprise for me. I worked a lot for it, a big surprise, I am so happy.
“I love spicy laps on the bike and on the run and it was very hard today, my legs were very tired after the bike but yes I love this place for the race.
“It’s a big motivation, it’s a lot of strong girls in France. I was injured for one year so it’s a nice comeback for me. I work a lot and I hope to see three girls in Paris.”
Sandra Dodet recorded the fastest run split of the field and crossed the line in fourth position and Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal who put in a great deal of effort on the bike to keep the group in front crossed in fifth position.
Review the full results HERE.
09:46 - 13 Oct, 2022