YOKOHAMA, Japan — Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) raced to her second consecutive ITU World Triathlon Series medal with a silver in Yokohama, Japan, on Saturday. Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) led the U.S. men with a 14th-place finish in his WTS career debut, a race that also marked the start of the qualification period for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The third stop of the WTS circuit featured an Olympic-distance 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run. Bermuda’s Flora Duffy successfully defended her 2017 title on this course, breaking the tape with a time of 1 hour, 53 minutes, 26 seconds. Zaferes matched her runner-up finish here last year, crossing the line in 1:53:59, while Great Britain’s Non Stanford took bronze in 1:54:42.
Duffy, Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.) and Zaferes were the first three athletes out of the water. Duffy and Zaferes went for an early breakaway on the bike, but were soon caught by a group of nine women. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) and Italy’s Alice Betto went down in a crash on the third lap — and while Kasper attempted to continue the race, she had lost touch with the lead group. By the time the leaders finished the nine-lap bike course, they had more than a minute on the chase pack.
Duffy pulled ahead on the run almost immediately, building a gap on the rest of the field as she cruised at a 5:23-per-mile pace. Zaferes pushed hard for second, while Stanford held on for the bronze medal. Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle, who nearly caught the Brit, ended up fourth.
After also claiming the win on her home course at ITU World Triathlon Bermuda two weeks ago, Duffy now moves into the lead in the overall WTS standings. Zaferes and Kasper now hold the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.
“I am so excited. I feel like I was in good form, but I also was a little tired after Bermuda, so that second lap on the run I was feeling rough,” Zaferes said. “Thankfully I brought it back together for the third and fourth laps, so I am really happy with it.”
After a bike that didn’t go her way, Cook had a strong run to end up sixth overall in 1:55:39. Also competing for the U.S. were Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.), who was 22nd in 1:58:16; Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), 24th in 1:58:31; and Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), 28th in 1:59:22.
In the men’s race, defending ITU world champion Mario Mola of Spain ran his way to a dominant victory in 1:44:59. Jacob Birtwhistle of Australia claimed the silver in 1:45:40, and Spain’s Fernando Alarza rounded out the podium in 1:45:51. Leading the U.S. effort was Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), who placed an impressive 14th in his first career WTS race.
Slovakia’s Richard Varga was the leader out of the swim, but the top 20 men all exited the water within 10 seconds of each other. That led to a large peloton forming on the bike, with nearly 40 men — including Pearson, Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.) — all in the mix.
The field would stay bunched together for most of the nine-lap bike course, leaving the medals to be decided in a footrace. Mola was the only athlete to run a sub-30-minute 10k (29:52), leading him to the dominant victory.
Pearson, a former NCAA Division I track and cross-country runner at the University of Colorado, ran a 31:28 to cross the line 14th in 1:46:44. McElroy was not far behind him, taking 17th in 1:46:57, while McDowell ended up 44th in 1:50:49.
Mola now leads the overall WTS standings, followed by Alarza at No. 2 and Birtwhistle at No. 3.
The next stop of the ITU World Triathlon Series is a Mixed Relay event, which takes place June 7 in Nottingham, England. The Mixed Relay series, which features three stops in 2018, is new to the WTS circuit and will showcase the exciting race format ahead of its debut as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The ITU World Triathlon Series continues with individual racing with a stop in Leeds, England, on June 10.
2018 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Elite Women — Complete Results
1. Flora Duffy (BER), 1:53:26
2. Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.), 1:53:59
3. Non Stanford (GBR), 1:54:42
2. Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.), 1:53:59
6. Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.), 1:55:39
22. Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.), 1:58:16
24. Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), 1:58:31
28. Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), 1:59:22
Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), DNF
Elite Men — Complete Results
1. Mario Mola (ESP), 1:44:59
2. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS), 1:45:40
3. Fernando Alarza (ESP), 1:45:51
14. Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), 1:46:44
17. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 1:46:57
44. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 1:50:49
Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), DNF
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).