Podcast #75 - Men's World Triathlon Championship Series number one Vasco Vilaça
The name Vasco Vilaça has been on everyone’s lips over the opening stages of the 2023 World Triathlon Championship Series. Currently riding high as world number one heading in to Cagliari for the third stop of the year, a gritty silver in the heat of Abu Dhabi to get his campaign underway in March was followed by Yokohama bronze after a thrilling blue carpet battle with Matt Hauser.
With the mists of disappointment around not being selected to represent Portugal at Tokyo 2020 finally clearing, Vilaça has bounced back, helped by an irrepressible optimism, determination and love of the grind. Not to mention naps. For the full interview, you can listen on Apple, Spotify or Google podcasts.
Outsprinted but not out-gunned
From his base in Cagliari - where he is sharing an apartment with fellow JFT training group member Alois Knabl - Vilaça reflects on another satisfying race in Yokohama, where being pipped at the line into bronze was more of a moment to savour and build on than regret.
“Matt’s sprint was incredible. It’s funny thinking about it afterwards, no one was expecting him to be there because I could hear Leo and Coninx were behind me, I could hear them breathing… so I was controlling it okay, they were not closing the gap directly. So it’s like, ‘okay, I got this, I got this’. And then all of a sudden I can start hearing these steps coming, closing, closing, closing. I’m like, who is this?”
It was indeed Hauser, who had looked out of contention, then reeled in those in front, then dropped off again before delivering his final surge to silver behind Hayden Wilde. “But I know I have a good sprint in the end, so I’ll save that for when Hauser is not there,” says Vilaça in typically understated fashion.
His respect for the Australian making his way through the career ranks at a similar point in time is clear, his love for being back at the pointy end of races just as he was in that pandemic-hit, Vincent Luis-dominated 2020 season, likewise.
Up against the quickest in the world
One thing is for sure, Vilaça has found the consistency from swim to bike to run to put himself in the mix regardless of who else is on the start line. It just so happens that Cagliari will also be the first time that the two fastest runners on paper will toe the same line in 2023, and keeping up with the pace Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde are likely to set presents an interesting challenge to Vasco and everyone else with medal ambitions. In Yokohama, cramp out of T2 put the Portuguese star on the back foot and meant he was always fighting to regain position. In Cagliari last year, it was Yee fighting through the pain to find the gold.
“If I’d had a good transition, I would’ve tried to be there and stay with Hayden as long as I could, but it’s hard to know how long I could actually be there. Plus, I think it could have looked very different though and maybe Leo wouldn’t have let go either. With more athletes, Hayden could’ve slowed down to maybe also save some energy for the last lap or something to get away. But I think Hayden’s a very strong runner, so it’s not like those, I don’t know how much, 10 seconds I lost didn’t mean I was gonna win. Let’s see what happens in Cagliari!”
Cagliari start is a beach
Cagliari’s beach start presented the athletes with a real opening test when it debuted last year on the Series calendar, and it is a start that Vilaça has been practicing in the days leading up to the race. The waves have been big, the current strong, the shallows extensive. It could make or break some races before they’ve even got going.
“The swim is hard yeah, running in shallow water for 200m, plus it’s two laps so you need to go out and then come in through that, and then you need to go out again through that and then come back in. If the waves are like they have been, it’s gonna break up the entire field, I think very, very easily. Some people’s races are gonna be over at that point. Every time you dive under a wave, the current was sucking you down the beach. And so then by the time you make it through the waves, you could be like a hundred meters off line for the buoy.”
It’s not long to wait to find out how it goes - watch all the action on TriathlonLive.tv on Saturday 27 May as WTCS Cagliari continues a brilliant season of action and gets the second and decisive Olympic Qualification period underway.
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11:42 - 03 Mar, 2023