Vasco Vilaca soars to debut World Triathlon Cup gold in Rome
Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca came into the first ever Rome World Cup weekend on a mission, eager to put the drama of Pontevedra behind him, and he did so in style, wrapping up a superb season with a first gold on the circuit.
After a solid swim-bike he was first out of transition and never let up the pace, dropping the rest of the field immediately and putting together a rapid 14min 26sec 5km run in the heat to secure gold. Only Arnaud Mengal could match that run firepower as the Belgian flew into silver over the closing stages and a first World Cup podium along with Germany’s newly crowned U23 World Champion Simon Henseleit who dug deep to earn bronze.
“I was completely exhausted by the end, it was the last race of the season and I wanted to enjoy it so at the beginning of the run I just went for it,” admitted Vilaca. “I didn’t know if anyone would come with me, and those younger guys are coming through so fast, but I had a blast. I had in the back of my mind I wanted a bit of revenge for Pontevedra, and this gives me the confidence to keep working and know i’m doing it right. I think we’ll have a nice winter to prepare for the new season. It’s my first time fighting for Olympic qualification and the nerves are already ramping up a little… it’s the biggest show in sport and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting there.”
Strada sets the early pace
The home fans’ favourite Nicolo Strada was able to stay clear of the congestion as he put together an excellent 750m swim, a big group pouring out of the lake behind him including Csongor Lehmann (HUN) and Gianluca Pozzatti as the Italians tried to get the crowds going.
They were first onto the bikes, too, along with Jonas Schomburg (GER), Jimmy Lund (GBR) and Vilaca, further back the returning Jason West struggled in transition and lost some precious places and time on the leaders.
Just 20 seconds separated the top 30 at that stage, that was soon whittled down to 25 athletes after a quick lap one led by Henseleit, Marten Van Riel and Casper Stornes all taking pulls. Meanwhile Shachar Sagiv, Richard Murray and Barclay Izzard were pushing the chasers some 30 seconds back, West with Mitch Kolkmann and Valentin Morlec trying to gain ground but somewhat lost over a minute off.
Van Riel’s bad luck continues at end of bike
Stefan Zachaus (LUX) made a move to break on lap three but couldn’t make it stick, and that was how the remainder of the bike looked, 21 athletes all pouring into T2 together after Van Riel and Pozzatti had a coming together came off on the last dead turn.
Vilaca makes his move
Suddenly on the downhill Vilaca went and nobody could respond, Holm leading the chase but six seconds off at the bell. While the likes of Schomburg and Strada faded, Tom Richard (FRA) and Mengal were picking off those in front and soon alongside and then then past Henseleit and Holm.
As Vilaca slightly eased the pace in the heat, Mengal found another gear to surge into second and even threatened the leader as they hit the long straight home, but there would be no catching the Portuguese star, the Belgian following him over the line and Henseleit with third just ahead of Richard. Holm took fifth ahead of Paquet, Seguin seventh, Stornes, Westermann and Crociani the top-ranked Italian rounding out the top ten.
For the full results, click here.
“A first World Cup podium and I really wanted that,” said Mengal. “I took my pace on the run and caught the guys on the first lap and then thought maybe I can go for the podium and just felt really good. I didn’t know where I was in the swim after 400m, I saw Marten van Riel and a lot of people in front and then realised the gap wasn’t so big and I was almost on the front pack which was a first for me!”
“Honestly I didn’t expect that,” admitted Henseleit. “Obviously I won the U23 worlds and new I had good shape but the field was so stacked. I have to build into a race and I swam good, biked good and had a good day on the run. The second group lost time and I tried to ride smart, push when I needed to, and it worked perfectly. I’m still quite young so I’ll wait for my chance at the Olympics and i’m sure I’ll have my shot, but this season couldn’t get any better.”
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