HAMBURG, Germany — The U.S. team of Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) put their efforts together to earn a silver medal at the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships Sunday in Hamburg. The triathlon mixed relay format will debut as a medal event at the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games next summer.
Nineteen countries fielded teams, each comprised of two men and two women. Each athlete completed a 300-meter swim, 6.3-kilometer bike and 1.7-kilometer run before tagging off to the next teammate, with the fastest combined time winning the race. France took its third consecutive mixed relay world title on Sunday, while the U.S. and Great Britain each returned to the podium after disappointing performances at the 2019 World Championships.
The races in Hamburg, which also hosted Saturday’s individual elite ITU Triathlon World Championships, marked the first in-person racing experience of 2020 for most athletes as the majority of the elite season has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamburg is a longtime host of ITU World Triathlon Series events, but this weekend’s races took place outside of the main city and without spectators — at Stadtpark, an urban park located about 10 kilometers from Hamburg’s central square. Several other safety measures were in place throughout the weekend to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including face coverings in all event areas when not actively racing; contact reduction for athletes, staff and volunteers; and COVID-19 testing before and after travel. The exchanges during the mixed relay event were also touch-free.
The U.S. is historically strong in the mixed relay format, earning the 2016 world title, 2017 world silver medal and 2018 world bronze. The U.S. team also took bronze last year at the Tokyo ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay Series event, which was held on the Tokyo Olympic course at Odaiba Marine Park. Each of the world championship medals, as well as the Tokyo test event, were achieved with a different combination of U.S. athletes.
“It’s a team effort and we’re all cheering for each other — we all want to put each other in the best position possible,” Zaferes said. “It's awesome that we have so many strong people in our country, we can mix it up and feel confident with whoever is on our team for the day. The mixed team relay is so fun — it's short, it's fast, and you never know what’s going to happen. And doing it as a team makes it that much more special.”
Spivey was the first leg for the U.S. Sunday in Hamburg, and she immediately set the team up for success. She was fourth out of the water — just five seconds back from the swim leader, Austria’s Therese Feuersinger, and shoulder-to-shoulder with Belgium’s Valerie Barthelemy and France’s Leonie Periault. She rode with the leaders on the bike and laid down the hammer on the run, with only Great Britain’s newly crowned world champion Georgia Taylor-Brown ahead of her at the first exchange to McDowell.
McDowell held steady throughout leg two. He exited the water three seconds behind Léo Bergere of France, who had taken the lead on the swim. As Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt went for a breakaway on the bike, McDowell joined the hard-charging chase pack with Bergere, Belgium’s Jelle Geens and Great Britain’s Barclay Izzard. At the handoff to Zaferes, the U.S. was in fourth but well-positioned for the 2019 world champion to make moves.
While Stine Dale of Norway had a 15-second lead heading into leg three, it didn’t last long as France’s Cassandre Beaugrand, Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth and Zaferes all caught her on the swim. The three powerhouses continued to push each other on the ride and run, hitting the final exchange all at the same time.
Pearson anchored the U.S. team, while Dorian Coninx and Alex Yee brought it home for France and Great Britain, respectively. The three leaders stayed close on the swim, but Coninx went for an early breakaway on the bike to fend off his two rivals known to have top-end running speed. By the time they hit the run course, Coninx had a 16-second lead on Pearson and 31 seconds on Yee.
While Pearson was able to cut the Frenchman’s gap to just 10 seconds, he ran out of real estate as Coninx took the tape in a cumulative team time of 1 hour, 18 minutes, 25 seconds. The U.S. earned silver in 1:18:33, and Yee brought Great Britain across the line in 1:18:59. Rounding out the top-five were Norway (1:19:38) and Belgium (1:19:44).
For more information about triathlon mixed relay’s addition as a medal event to the Tokyo Olympic Games, click here.
ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships
4x300m swim, 6.3k bike, 1.7k run | Complete Results
1. France (Leonie Periault, Léo Bergere, Cassandre Beaugrand, Dorian Coninx), 1:18:25
2. United States (Taylor Spivey, Kevin McDowell, Katie Zaferes, Morgan Pearson), 1:18:33
3. Great Britain (Georgia Taylor-Brown, Barclay Izzard, Jessica Learmonth, Alex Yee), 1:18:59
4. Norway (Lotte Miller, Kristian Blummenfelt, Stine Dale, Gustav Iden), 1:19:38
5. Belgium (Valerie Barthelemy, Jelle Geens, Claire Michel, Erwin Vanderplancke), 1:19:44
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).