ARZACHENA, Italy — Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) led the U.S. contingent Saturday at the Arzachena Triathlon World Cup, placing sixth and eighth respectively. The Italian island city offered a scenic, yet challenging course, with significant climbing and strong winds on the bike and run.
The sprint-distance race, the penultimate elite competition of the shortened 2020 World Triathlon season, featured a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run. The race went on with several COVID-19 health and safety precautions in place, including COVID-19 testing before and after international travel; daily self-screening and temperature checks before entering the race venue; face coverings at all times except when actively racing; contact reduction for athletes, coaches, staff and volunteers; and increased cleaning and disinfecting practices onsite.
In the women’s race, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy led out of the water and never relented from there — building her gap even further on the bike and run en route to the victory in 1 hour, 53 seconds.
Zaferes was second out of the swim — 12 seconds behind the Bermudan, but at the front of a long train of chasing athletes. As Duffy continued to ride off the front during the initial climb on the bike, Zaferes rode with a strong group including Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer, Italy’s Verena Steinhauser and Angelica Olmo, France’s Leonie Periault and Great Britain’s Beth Potter. At the second transition, Duffy had a 50-second lead.
The Bermudan stayed out front on the 5k run, clocking the only sub-17-minute run split of the race (16:55). Meanwhile, Zaferes battled alongside Olmo, Steinhauser, Periault and Potter for the remaining podium spots. Potter was the first to distance herself from the chase pack, grabbing the silver medal with a finishing time of 1:02:04 — more than a minute behind Duffy.
Steinhauser outsprinted Periault in the home stretch, completing the podium in 1:02:07. The next 10 seconds saw Periault, Olmo and Zaferes all cross the line, with Zaferes taking sixth in 1:02:18.
Also competing for the U.S. women was Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.), who took 12th place in 1:03:26.
In the men’s race, 2019 and 2020 world champion Vincent Luis of France led out of the water and pushed the pace throughout the race, taking the win in 54:24 to remain undefeated in 2020.
Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.) was the first U.S. man out of the swim, 30 seconds behind Luis in 17th place. Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.) and McElroy were close behind, within eight seconds of McDowell. The three Americans joined the first chase pack on the bike, trailing a nine-man lead group that featured Luis, France’s Leo Bergere, Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt and Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee.
On the final lap on the bike, some of the chasers, including McDowell, momentarily closed the gap to the leaders — but the steep climb and technical descent caused separation once again. At the second transition, 11 leaders had a slight advantage on the field, with McDowell, South Africa’s Henri Schoeman and France’s Pierre Le Corre about 10 seconds behind them. The larger chase pack, including McElroy and Rider, was a further 30 seconds back.
Several top runners started to separate themselves immediately from the rest of the field. A sub-15-minute 5k was required to reach the podium Saturday, as Luis ran a race-best 14:40 to break the tape in 54:24. Blummenfelt followed five seconds later (54:29) thanks to a 14:45 5k, and Brownlee rounded out the podium in 54:45 after a 14:54 run split.
McElroy had an impressive run from the chase pack, clocking the third fastest 5k of the day in 14:51 to take eighth in 55:19.
McDowell was the next American across the line, finishing 12th in 55:23. Rider was 24th in 56:38, and Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.) rounded out the U.S. contingent in 37th in 57:49.
The World Triathlon elite season concludes Nov. 7-8 with a sprint-distance World Cup race in Valencia, Spain.
Arzachena Triathlon World Cup
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Elite Women — Complete Results
1. Flora Duffy (BER), 1:00:53
2. Beth Potter (GBR), 1:02:04
3. Verena Steinhauser (ITA), 1:02:07
6. Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.), 1:02:18
12. Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.), 1:03:26
Elite Men — Complete Results
1. Vincent Luis (FRA), 54:24
2. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), 54:29
3. Alistair Brownlee (GBR), 54:45
8. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 55:19
12. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 55:23
24. Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.), 56:38
37. Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.), 57:49
Collin Chartier (Fairfax, Va.), 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 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).