McElroy and Zaferes Claim Silver Medals at ITU World Triathlon Leeds

By USA Triathlon | June 09, 2019, 2:26 p.m. (ET)

LEEDS, England — Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) won a silver medal Sunday in the fourth stop of the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Series in Leeds, England — marking the first WTS medal for a U.S. man since Jarrod Shoemaker in 2009, and the highest finish in McElroy’s career. 

In the women’s race, Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) also earned silver, ending her three-race win streak but increasing her lead in the overall ITU World Triathlon Series as the circuit reaches its halfway mark. 

The course in Leeds featured a 1,500-meter swim in Roundhay Park’s Waterloo Lake, followed by a point-to-point 40-kilometer bike through the countryside and into the city center. The race culminated with a four-lap, 10-kilometer run on city streets, finishing in front of the grandstands of Millennium Square.  

The men’s field was one of the deepest in WTS history, featuring the “Magnificent Seven”: two-time Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee and two-time Olympic medalist Jonny Brownlee of Great Britain; five-time world champion Javier Gomez Noya and three-time world champion Mario Mola of Spain; current WTS leader Vincent Luis of France; and WTS powerhouses Henri Schoeman and Richard Murray of South Africa.

McElroy was 20 seconds back from swim leader Schoeman coming out of the water, but a quick transition put him in the lead pack of about 27 on the bike. That group included the likes of the Brownlee brothers, Schoeman, Gomez Noya, Luis, Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle and Norway's Kristian Blummenfelt. By the second transition, they had built a gap of about a minute on the chase pack, which included Mola and Murray.

It was anyone’s game heading onto the run, as the 27 leading men left transition in a tight pack. The group started to thin out around the second lap, and McElroy was one of five men to make a move up front. As the American ran alongside Gomez Noya, Birtwhistle, Schoeman and New Zealand’s Sam Ward, it became clear that the podium would come from those five.

Birtwhistle surged to the lead in the final 2k, running to victory in a total time of 1 hour, 45 minutes, 12 seconds. Just behind him, McElroy outsprinted the legendary Gomez Noya to take the silver in 1:45:19. The five-time world champion from Spain crossed the finish line two seconds later to round out the podium.

“I’ve had five World Cup podiums, but to finally make a statement on the WTS scene is life-changing,” McElroy said. “It feels amazing, honestly — the best achievement I’ve ever had in my life and in my sport career. It was pretty unpredictable. I think today I just did everything right. The swim, bike, run combo was spot on, and my mindset going into the race was very positive. I’m excited for the future.”

The last time a U.S. man medaled in the ITU World Triathlon Series was in 2009 (under its previous name, the ITU World Championship Series), when Jarrod Shoemaker won gold in Hamburg, Germany.

Prior to Sunday’s race, McElroy’s highest career WTS finish had been 11th, earned last year in Hamburg.

The women’s race was also a thriller, as Zaferes earned a silver medal and Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) finished fourth.

Heading into Leeds, Zaferes was undefeated on the 2019 WTS circuit — having won the first three stops in Abu Dhabi, Bermuda and Yokohama. She has now reached the podium in six consecutive WTS races, dating back to August of last year.  

Joining Zaferes on the podium were two British athletes, buoyed by an enthusiastic hometown crowd. The win went to Georgia Taylor-Brown, who earned her first career WTS victory, while Jessica Learmonth took bronze.

Learmonth was first out of the water in 18:34 — but six women were within 10 seconds of her, including Zaferes and Spivey. After a quick transition, it was Zaferes and Great Britain’s Sophie Coldwell who took the early lead on the bike. They were quickly reeled in by a strong but mighty group that included Spivey, Learmonth, Taylor-Brown and Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes.

That six-strong group worked together for the remainder of the 40k ride, steadily gapping the rest of the field. By the time they reached the second transition, they had nearly two minutes on the chase.

In the first kilometer of the run, Zaferes and Taylor-Brown surged ahead of the rest. They ran shoulder-to-shoulder for a few minutes, before Taylor-Brown made her move toward the end of the first lap. Meanwhile, a battle was playing out for the bronze-medal position between Learmonth, Coldwell and Spivey. 

Ultimately, Zaferes could not bridge the gap created by Taylor-Brown, as the Brit claimed her first WTS victory with a time of 1:55:46. Zaferes crossed the line 11 seconds later to take silver in 1:55:57, and Learmonth held off Spivey to take the bronze in 1:57:22. 

“Our group came together right before the city section. We really worked awesome together through the straightaways, and through the technical sections, we kind of swapped off based on our strengths,” Zaferes said. “We all just worked so well together, so it came down to the run. Georgia ran so strong — she gapped me at the perfect section and pretty much kept that gap the whole time. Ten seconds never seemed so far away, but I didn’t give up.”

Zaferes maintains her solid grip on the overall WTS lead with 3,925 points — 611 ahead of Learmonth at No. 2.

Spivey crossed the line fourth on Sunday with a time of 1:57:38. She is now No. 3 in the WTS standings with 3,249 points. Spivey has finished no lower than sixth in the 2019 WTS circuit to date, with two podiums already in Abu Dhabi and Yokohama.

Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.) also had a strong race, running up from the chase group to finish 10th in 1:58:40. After a ninth-place showing in Yokohama last month, Gorman now has two career top-10 finishes on the WTS circuit. Also racing for the U.S. was Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.), who took 21st in 2:01:02. 

The racing action shifts next Saturday from individual to relay competition, as the ITU World Mixed Relay Series makes it second stop in Nottingham, England. Then on June 29, the WTS circuit heads to Montreal, Québec, for a sprint-distance race.

AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run

Elite Men — Complete Results
1. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS), 1:45:12
2. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 1:45:19
3. Javier Gomez Noya (ESP), 1:45:21


U.S. Finishers
2. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 1:45:19
Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), DNF
Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.), DNF


Elite Women — Complete Results
1. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR),1:55:46
2. Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.), 1:55:57
3. Jessica Learmonth (GBR), 1:57:22

U.S. Finishers
2. Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.), 1:55:57
4. Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), 1:57:38
10. Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), 1:58:40
21. Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.), 2:01:02
Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.), LAP

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 Committee (USOC).