LAUSANNE, Switzerland — USA Triathlon’s up-and-coming stars took on one of the season’s most challenging courses Friday at the ITU Under-23 and Junior World Championships, both held in Lausanne as part of the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final. Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.) was the top American finisher on the day, placing eighth in the women’s U23 race, while Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.) also placed top-10 in the junior women’s race.
The U23 athletes covered a 1,500-meter swim; an eight-lap, 40-kilometer bike; and a four-lap, 10-kilometer run. Juniors raced half the distance: a 750m swim; four-lap, 20k bike; and two-lap, 5k run. Each lap on the bike and run took athletes up steep and hilly terrain in the downtown streets of Lausanne.
Ackerlund was the United States’ only competitor in the women’s U23 World Championships. She finished the swim just outside of the top-10 but was able to join a group of leaders on the bike, including France’s Emilie Morier, Australia’s Kira Hedgeland, Great Britain’s Olivia Mathias and several others. By the time they hit transition two, the leaders had 45 seconds on the rest of the field.
On the run, the hot and hilly course separated the field quickly. Morier took off in the lead and Mathias held strong to second place. Hedgeland looked to have a hold on the bronze-medal position for the first three laps, but Germany’s Lisa Tertsch ran up from the chase group to pass her and move into podium contention.
Morier would break the tape to become the U23 world champion with a time of 2:04:01. Mathias was just seven seconds behind her in 2:04:08, and Tertsch collected the bronze in 2:04:32. Ackerlund’s 2:06:49 brought her across the line in eighth — her second top-10 finish in three U23 Worlds appearances.
“Today was my last Worlds as a U23 athlete, and it was a blast to race it on the super tough course here in Lausanne,” Ackerlund said. “I loved swimming in the lake, and it was one of my better swims of the year to make front pack. Then riding up the hills was all-in, and I don’t think I caught my breath until halfway through the ride. I’m happy to have finished up with eighth, my second time with top-10 at U23 Worlds before I move into elite racing next season.”
In the men’s race, Rider had a stellar swim, exiting the water in second behind defending world champion Tayler Reid of New Zealand. After a quick transition, Rider led the field onto the bike. The lead pack held together for the entire eight-lap course, with no one able to make a breakaway on the steepest climb.
Spain’s Roberto Sanchez Mantecon had the legs for a strong run, pushing the pace with a 32:12 10k to take the win in 1:50:20. Hungary’s Csongor Lehmann ran his way to the world silver medal in 1:50:36, and Israel’s Ran Sagiv completed the podium in 1:50:50.
Rider finished in 1:52:13, taking 12th on the day — a 13-spot improvement on his first U23 Worlds performance last year in Gold Coast, Australia.
“(Today) was maybe one of the hardest races I’ve ever done,” Rider said. “On the swim, I was up front after a couple hundred meters, kind of switching leads with the Australian and New Zealand athletes and trying to keep the pace high. We were trying to get a small group away, but we didn’t manage to do that. I tried to conserve my legs a bit, but the bike course is impossible to go easy on, and up the hill every time someone was pushing the pace super hard. Starting the run, I didn’t feel amazing but was running well. I found myself at the front pretty quickly and maybe went out a little too hard on the first lap. After the first lap, I started to suffer quite a bit. Every time up the hill, my legs just got more tired. I ended up 12th, which leaves me happy, but wanting more next year.”
Also racing for the U.S. in the U23 men’s race were Darr Smith (Atlanta, Ga.), who placed 21st in 1:54:01, and Austin Hindman (Wildwood, Mo.), who was 31st in 1:56:12.
Cridge was the top U.S. women's performer at the Junior World Championships, finishing ninth — a significant step up from her 29th-place finish in 2018. She was top-10 out of the water, joining a lead pack of 18 women on the bike. She stayed with that group for the entire four-lap bike course and went on to run an 18:46 5k, crossing the finish line in 1:01:59.
“My goal was top-10, but my progress goal for the whole thing was just to get in that front bike pack and stay with the front pack,” Cridge said. “I knew the hills were ridiculous, and Indiana doesn’t have a bunch of hills like that. I actually went out to Girona, Spain, last week with Origin Performance and really just worked on the hills. Getting to work with Matt (McElroy) and Eli (Hemming) really helped me prepare. Once I got on my bike I was thinking, ‘Stay in the pack, stay in the pack, work that last hill to make sure I’m there,’ and then on the run I just gave it everything I had to stay with the (top) girls.”
It was an Italian 1-2 finish, as Beatrice Mallozzi was crowned world champion in 1:00:41 and Costanza Arpinelli took the silver in 1:00:42. France’s Jessica Fullagar rounded out the podium, taking bronze in 1:00:53.
Liberty Ricca (Colorado Srpings, Colo.) also competed for the U.S. junior women, finishing 33rd with a time of 1:04:25.
In the men’s junior race, Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.) led the U.S. contingent in 27th place. He was eighth out of the swim, putting him in a strong position to ride with the leaders. Luis Ortiz (Orlando, Fla.) started the bike in the chase pack, but the two groups merged by the halfway point to create a peloton of 44 men.
It was a crowded transition onto the run, and the podium was anyone’s game until the bell lap. In the final 1.25k, Ricardo Batista of Portugal and Lorcan Redmond of Australia pulled away off the front. Batista ultimately broke the tape in 55:05, followed by Redmond for silver in 55:12. Earning bronze was Spain’s Sergio Baxter Cabrera in 55:16.
Shellenberger’s 16:57 run split was enough to get him across the line 27th in his Junior Worlds debut, with a total time of 56:28. Ortiz came through the finish chute 24 seconds later, taking 31st.
“I think I’m most proud of mentally staying in the game the entire time,” Shellenberger said. “There was no real point where I sort of let it go. I was fighting until the finishing chute. I didn’t give up anywhere, and I felt very good about that part of my race. I’m super proud of my performance.”
Friday’s races were held as part of the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 1. The Grand Final marks the culmination of the ITU World Triathlon Series by crowning the men’s and women’s elite world champions, while also featuring world championship events for U23s, juniors, elite paratriathletes and age-group athletes. For a complete schedule of more event information, visit lausanne.triathlon.org.
ITU U23 World Championships
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
U23 Women — Complete Results
1. Emilie Morier (FRA), 2:04:01
2. Olivia Mathias (GBR), 2:04:08
3. Lisa Tertsch (GER), 2:04:32
8. Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.), 2:06:49
U23 Men — Complete Results
1. Roberto Sanchez Mantecon (ESP), 1:50:20
2. Csongor Lehamnn (HUN), 1:50:36
3. Ran Sagiv (ISR), 1:50:50
12. Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.), 1:52:13
21. Darr Smith (Atlanta, Ga.), 1:54:01
31. Austin Hindman (Wildwood, Mo.), 1:56:12
ITU Junior World Championships
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Junior Women — Complete Results
1. Beatrice Mallozzi (ITA), 1:00:41
2. Costanza Arpinelli (ITA), 1:00:42
3. Jessica Fullagar (FRA), 1:00:53
9. Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.), 1:01:59
33. Liberty Ricca (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:04:25
Junior Men — Complete Results
1. Ricardo Batista (POR), 55:05
2. Lorcan Redmond (AUS), 55:12
3. Sergio Baxter Cabrera (ESP), 55:16
27. Drew Shellenberger (Indianapolis, Ind.), 56:28
31. Luis Ortiz (Orlando, Fla.), 56:49
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 at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — 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 & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).