Genis Grau brings it home in Huatulco with explosive first World Cup gold
After the women’s race on Saturday night, Sunday morning was the men’s turn to tackle the grind of Huatulco’s hard and hot course, and they collectively produced plenty of sprint-distance fireworks over the course of the hour until a final kick from Spain’s Genis Grau ultimately proved decisive.
A huge pack had formed on the 20km bike and there were a dozen athletes still well in contention as the run slowly boiled the field down until eventually just Grau, Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) and Miguel Hidalgo (BRA) remained. It was cat-and-mouse for the final 500m, but ultimately Grau found the best line and some precious daylight at the final turn, pressing on to take the tape by just a second from Canada’s two-time winner, Hidalgo repeating last year’s result with bronze.
‘I was not expecting this, it’s a really big surprise,” admitted a thrilled Grau. “I came from WTCS Leeds and didn’t know what was going to happen or how I would adapt to the heat. I swam well and managed to stay with the leaders on the bike, then found myself with the leading athletes on the run. I was dropped a couple of times but knew I had a powerful sprint and just went for it right before the finish line.”
It felt considerably cooler than it had for the women’s race as the men lined the beach, race number one Hidalgo taking to the right of the start position and followed by all the top ranked athletes, Mislawchuk and Diego Moya (CHI) included.
Swim specialist Richard Varga (SVK) found himself in the middle, and it was he and Mislawchuk fastest out of the traps at the horn. It wasn’t long before Hidalgo had manoeuvred to the front, New Zealand’s Trent Thorpe trying to stick to keep up with the leaders.
Only 15 seconds separated the top 20 out of transition and onto the bike, and despite an early burst that saw 14 athletes clear together over the first half of lap one – Sergio Baxter Cabrera (ESP) and Brock Hoel (CAN) included - that soon became 25 as the likes of Grau, Justus Nieschlag (GER) and Shachar Sagiv (ISR) bridged up.
At the halfway point it was still Hidalgo driving from the front along with Baxter and Ren Sato (JPN), the group now 38, before the bell signalled the last lap and nearly the entire field had merged, home favourite Crisanto Grajales (MEX) left to ride solo off the back but cheered on by the crowd at every turn.
Out of T2 it was Sato and Hidalgo shoulder-to-shoulder, Mislawchuk tucked in there too along with teammate Hoel, Moya and Baxter but only ten seconds separated the top 40 as they hit the 5km run and a fascinating race to the finish began.
Baxter was going well with Portugal’s Joao Pereira and another pair of crowd favourites Aram Michell Penaflor Moysen and David Nunez full of running, so that at the bell it looked like any one of 11 athletes could take the win.
The final climb out of transition shuffled the pack once more, Mislawchuk asking the questions but failing to make any significant impact on the group, then Hidalgo burst on the downhill as the final kilometre really heated up.
Nunez, Baxter and Sagiv’s medal challenges faded but their own battle for positions still raged, while ahead there was nothing to call between Grau, Mislawchuk and Hidalgo. The Brazilian pressed before the final turn but it was Grau who had the line and the sprint, searing to the tape, Mislawchuk with silver, Hidalgo the bronze.
Nunez was a popular fourth ahead of Baxter, Sagiv, Pereira, Penaflor, Moya and Alois Knabl (AUT) rounding out the ten.
“It was a bit of a strange race,” said Mislawchuk. “On the run it was kind of like a championship style track event where I pushed the first bit but realised there was fifteen or twenty guys with us, tactical until the end and I got caught off guard going into the last corner. I mean after I tore my achilles last year I didn’t know if I was ever going to be on one of these podiums again, you never know when your last podium is… I’ll enjoy this one.”
“I thought I was going to win on the last corner but Genis (Grau) and Tyler (Mislawchuk) were fastest on the day,” said Hidalgo. “I am happy with my performance but I wanted the win so much but repeated last year’s result. I am proud of my performance, I gave it everything, no hiding from the start. This course is so hard to breakaway on the bike and always comes into a running race.”
For the full results, click here.
02:03 - 19 Jun, 2022
07:37 - 15 Jun, 2022