Merle marvels to win U23 World Championship
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The 2015 ITU Women’s Under23 World Championship title went to Audrey Merle after she outran her French compatriot on the blue carpet in a down to the wire finish.
Finishing just a hair after Merle, compatriot Leonie Periault seized the silver medal. Melanie Santos (POR) walked away with the bronze medal, a feat that is especially significant this week as fellow Portuguese Olympic star Vanessa Fernandes was honoured in the ITU Hall of Fame the night before.
Athletes competed in a sprint-distance race due to unexpected weather patterns, which meant the title would go to the one that could produce the most speed.
With the swim shortened to just one lap, the women began the day with a wetsuit,deep-water start in Lake Michigan. Mexican Lizeth Rueda Santos broke away in the water and was able to exit the swim with a 20-second lead heading into the first transition.
Trailing not far behind in the water was Natalie Van Coevorden (AUS), who followed Rueda out of the transition zone and was able to push to create a peloton for the bike leg. Halfway through the cycle, a 12-woman strong pack formed that included Rueda, Merle, Avery Evenson (USA), Johanna Gartman (USA), Shiho Sato (JPN), Chloe Cook (GBR) and Dominika Jamnicky (CAN).
With the bell sounding off on the final lap of the bike, a four-person chase pack caught the leaders making for a total of 16 athletes in T2, leaving the hopes of the podium down to two 2.5 kilometre run laps. It was then that Merle ran with intent, as she began to drop her riding mates. Periault went with Merle, and the two French women ran together up until the very end.
Both women sprinted down the chute side by side, with Merle grabbing the gold medal only by a fraction of a second. Merle took home the bronze in the women’s Junior World Championship last year, so winning the title in 2015 gives her the redemption she was hoping for as she entered the new sport class.
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