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Despite an early start time, the elite women competing in Huatulco at the third stop of the 2012 ITU World Cup circuit were confronted with debilitating heat. The high air and water temperatures, combined with a steep climb on the bike and a hilly run, provided the scene for a challenging day. While some athletes fell victim to the brutal conditions, others prevailed, making it a day of “firsts”.
With a powerful run, Flora Duffy (BER) claimed the top spot, earning her first World Cup victory. Similarly, Pamela Oliveira (BRA) secured her first-ever World Cup medal, gaining essential Olympic points along the way. Home favourite Claudia Rivas rounded out the top three, making her the first Mexican woman to medal at a World Cup since 1993.
“I’m starting to tear up I’m so happy,” Duffy said. “It’s been a long road to get here. Today was a hard race and a hard course, but I think that’s what I needed to make me focus and really push. It totally played to my strengths today.”
The three were a part of a lead pack that proved impossible to chase down from early on. Rivas and Oliveira led the ladies out of the swim. With a quick transition, Oliveira wasted no time using her strong bike legs to conquer the monster 24% grade hill.
By the first lap, the top finishers, along with Alexandra Razarenova (RUS), Line Jensen (DEN), Yuko Takahaski (JPN) and Margit Vanek (HUN) had opened up a minute and a half lead. The ladies took turns at the helm, pushing the group of seven further and further in front of a struggling chase pack. By the end of the eight-lap bike course, there was a three and a half minute time gap between the two groups.
The question then became who had enough left to finish the run. Duffy answered, splitting the fastest transition time to sprint out ahead of the group on the first run lap. It was a small, but decisive move in the race. Duffy blazed through the first lap to gain a 28-second lead. While her own pace dropped on the second lap, she still managed to increase her lead by another 20 seconds.
“Towards the end, the bikes started to get really hot,” Duffy said of how the heat affected her. “I went through two bottles, which I don’t normally do. Then on the run, at every stop I put water on my head and water on my body.”
Behind her, Rivas, Oliveira, Razarenova, and Jensen ran shoulder-to-shoulder until the final lap. In a battle to the end, Oliveira, who spoke of improving her running at the press conference on Friday, surged slightly ahead. Rivas followed Oliveria’s pace, while Razarenova and Jensen couldn’t muster enough stamina to maintain the speed.
After Duffy sailed to the win in 2:13:17, an elated Oliveira crossed over thirty seconds later at 2:13:47 for the silver. Cheered on by the locals, Rivas took third six seconds behind Oliveira.
Razarenova came across the line in fouth place while Jensen rounded out the top five.
Vendula Frintova (CZE) was running in the top ten but unfortunately succumbed to the soaring heat and difficult conditions as she collapsed less than 50 metres from the finish line and had to be carried away by medics. She was taken to hospital and the latest reports showed signs of improvement.
The elites weren’t the only athletes to compete this weekend. On Saturday, junior athletes from Mexico, Canada and the USA competed in the 2012 Huatulco PATCO Triathlon Junior North American Championships. The youth vied for a chance to qualify for Junior Pan American Games later this year, at which they can qualify for Junior World Championships.
Battling similar hot conditions a day earlier in the sprint distance, Amelie Kretz (CAN) finished first in 1:06:11. Mexico’s Adriana Barraza and Vanesa De la Torre clocked in next at 1:06:45 and 1:07:27, respectively, to earn spots on the podium.