U.S. Men Sweep ITU World Cup Closer in Santo Domingo as McElroy Takes Third Straight Win

By USA Triathlon | Nov. 10, 2019, 1:26 p.m. (ET)

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The U.S. men closed the ITU Triathlon World Cup season in style Sunday, as Matt McElroy, Kevin McDowell and Morgan Pearson swept the podium in Santo Domingo. McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) led the charge, snagging his third consecutive ITU World Cup victory. 

The U.S. women also saw a podium performance from Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.). The 21-year-old raced to a silver medal, claiming her first individual podium in ITU competition this season. 

Santo Domingo, a first-time ITU World Cup host, offered an Olympic-distance course with a 1,500-meter swim, 42.2-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run. The women’s elite race was shortened due to heat, so athletes contested a 5k run instead of a 10k.

In the men’s race, Slovakia’s Richard Varga was first out of the water, and Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) were all within six seconds of the swim leader. McElroy was 22 seconds down after the swim with some ground to make up, but it didn’t take him long to find the 20-strong lead pack on the bike. 

By the second transition, the lead pack had built a gap of two minutes on the chasers. McElroy, Hemming, Pearson and McDowell all established themselves at the front of the field early on the 10k run, pushing the pace alongside Swiss athletes Adrien Briffod, Max Studer and Florin Salvisberg. 

The American trio of McElroy, McDowell and Pearson continued to surge ahead on the second of three laps, and McElroy made his move on the bell lap. He ultimately clocked a 30-minute, 8-second 10k — 19 seconds faster than anyone else in the field — to snag the gold medal in 1 hour, 39 minutes, 3 seconds. 

McDowell came across the line second with a time of 1:39:22, with the second-fastest run split of the day in 30:27. Pearson ran a 30:31 10k, completing the podium sweep in 1:39:31. Hemming ended up 15th with a time of 1:42:02.

With three consecutive victories, McElroy closes out the most successful season of his five-year elite triathlon career. Four of his nine career ITU World Cup medals have come in 2019. He also made history in June by becoming the first U.S. man since 2009 — and the second in history — to earn an ITU World Triathlon Series medal with a silver in Leeds, England.

“It comes down to having a good support team at home, a great family behind you and friends. That’s what makes a difference,” McElroy said. “I was pretty relaxed for the whole run, but I knew those guys were strong. Morgan is one of the faster runners in our sport. He’s got an awesome running background, and Kevin is a great runner too. I wanted to sit and make my move 800 meters to 1 kilometer out, and that’s what I did. I executed perfectly, and I was just enjoying myself today.” 

The recent strong performances by the U.S. men are critical leading into the 2020 Olympic year, as three U.S. men must be within the top-30 in the ITU Individual Olympic Qualification Rankings in order to secure three athlete quota spots for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“Coming in, I think we really wanted to make it 1-2-3. It would’ve been great to be the first one, but the order didn’t matter as much as making sure we got on the podium,” McDowell said. “Especially on the run, that was the focus — running together and not really attacking each other until the last lap. I’m pretty excited going forward, I think we’ve got some good momentum and hopefully this helps us get three spots to the 2020 Games.” 

Pearson, who is in just his second year as an elite triathlete, reached the ITU World Cup podium twice season with a bronze here in Santo Domingo and a silver in June in Huatulco, Mexico.

“The podium sweep is awesome,” Pearson said. “The U.S. guys, right now, we’re all kind of cheering for each other and bringing each other up. We want three guys at the Olympics next year.” 

In the women’s race, the field spread out quickly on the swim as Hungary’s Zsanett Bragmayer was first out of the water in 18:16. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) was the first U.S. woman out of the swim in 18:25, with Knibb five seconds behind her. 

Knibb and Kasper solidified themselves among the 20-woman lead group on the bike, pushing the pace with Chile’s Barbara Riveros, New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt and Japan’s Niina Kishimoto. They had about a minute on the chasers by the second transition.

Knibb dropped a piece of equipment outside of her box in transition and was given a 15-second penalty that she would have to serve on the run. She took the lead on the final lap of the run, narrowly ahead of Hewitt and Mexico’s Claudia Rivas — but Hewitt passed her as she served her 15-second penalty just before the finishing chute.

Hewitt ultimately broke the tape with a time of 1:34:35. Knibb had enough of a gap on Rivas to hold onto the silver-medal spot in 1:34:41, and Rivas crossed the line for bronze in 1:34:49.  

“I was hoping that Andrea (Hewitt) and Claudia (Rivas) wouldn’t see that I had a penalty, so maybe I could build the gap and then they would just race each other. It was a bit squirrely on the bike, so I was hoping that would happen on the run too,” Knibb said. “I just did everything I could that was in my control. I was expecting to be sprinting in for fourth or fifth, so it was better than expected. And for Andrea to finish ahead of me, you could not ask for a better person to beat you.”

Kasper ended the day seventh with a time of 1:35:26.

The ITU World Cup circuit ramps back up again in 2020 with the first stop set for March 14-15 in Mooloolaba, Australia.

Santo Domingo ITU Triathlon World Cup
Men: 1,500m swim, 42.4k bike, 10k run
Women: 1,500m swim, 42.4k bike, 5k run (shortened due to heat)

Elite Men — Complete Results

1. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 1:39:03
2. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 1:39:22
3. Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), 1:39:31

U.S. Finishers

1. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 1:39:03
2. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 1:39:22
3. Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), 1:39:31
15. Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), 1:42:02
Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.), DNF

Elite Women — Complete Results
1. Andrea Hewitt (NZL), 1:34:35
2. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), 1:34:41
3. Claudia Rivas (MEX), 1:34:49

U.S. Finishers

2. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), 1:34:41
7. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 1:35:26

About USA Triathlon

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