EDMONTON, Alberta — Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) dominated the World Triathlon Championship Finals Edmonton on Saturday afternoon to secure the second World Triathlon Championship Series victory of her career and a spot on the world championship podium for the first time.
In an exciting day for the U.S. contingent, both Knibb and Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) won their first world championship medals, while Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.) had a career-best result of fourth place in the elite men’s race and series placement of ninth – the highest ever by a U.S. man – and Chase McQueen (Columbus, Ind.) was among the top 10 in the U23 World Triathlon Championship.
Knibb ends the season having raced four of the five events that counted toward the World Triathlon Championship Series and medaling in three of them. She started in May with a win in Yokohama, Japan, finished 16th at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in late July, earned silver in Montreal last weekend and ended with a win in Edmonton. Knibb said after the final race that she channeled the energy from a disappointing finish in Tokyo toward her Montreal and Edmonton races.
In addition to the series, Knibb was part of the mixed relay team that claimed silver in the event’s Olympic debut, and two weeks ago she was runner-up at the IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder — her first-ever long-course triathlon.
“I’ve just been enjoying races and having fun and trying to execute to the best of my ability and I’m grateful for the opportunities we even have to race,” Knibb said.
Racing against herself for the majority of the nearly-two-hour race, Knibb won in Edmonton with a time of 1:54:47. France’s Leonie Perault claimed silver in 1:55:43 and 2020 Olympic champion Flora Duffy (BER) rounded out the podium in 1:56:11 to lock up her third world title with 3,861 points.
Knibb’s win boosted her two spots in the overall World Triathlon Championship Series rankings to earn silver on the world championship podium with 3,486 points. Spivey was fifth in the final race, dropping one spot in the standings but still solid enough to take bronze for her first world championship medal at 3,239 points. Spivey was fourth in the 2019 overall rankings.
At 23 years old, Knibb is the youngest athlete in the top 40 of the 2021 series rankings.
“The new blood is here and they’re on fire,” Duffy, 31, said, congratulating Knibb and Periault, 27. “It was great to see the young athletes get on the podium today – just so strong and so much talent. Everyone says they’re the future, but I think they’ve arrived and they’re definitely letting us older ones know they’re here.”
This is the first time two Americans finished on the world championship podium in six years, since 2016 Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen (Waukesha, Wis.) and Sarah True (Cooperstown, N.Y.) took gold and bronze in 2015.
The United States continued to prove it has the most depth in the world in women’s triathlon with all five Americans who raced in Edmonton placing in the top 12 in the overall rankings; Great Britain is the only other nation with more than one athlete in the top 15 (three).
Less than a month from winning the Olympic bronze medal, Katie Zaferes (Cary, N.C.) was fourth in Edmonton and sixth in the series rankings (2,902 points). 2020 Olympian Summer Rappaport’s 16th place on the day and 1,676 points was good for 11th, while Kirsten Kasper jumped from 15th to 12th in the standings (1,630 points) after placing 10th.
With her track record so far this season, Knibb was a contender from the start of Saturday’s race.
She was second to Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes after the first of the two-lap 1,500-meter swim but edged out Lopes by the end of that leg to emerge from the water first.
A fierce competitor on the bike and in the run, Knibb then took matters into her own hands and made it a race of one faster than expected.
By the end of the first of eight laps to the 40-kilometer ride, she was leading a chase group of 10 athletes by a massive 35 seconds. Duffey, Spivey, the Netherlands’ Maya Kingma and Zaferes led that pack.
Knibb’s lead continued as the 2020 Olympian was besting the field by 50 seconds after the next lap.
Three laps into the bike and Knibb was 1 minute, 1 second ahead of Spivey, Kingma, Lopes, Germany’s Laura Lindemann, Zaferes and Great Britain’s Sophie Coldwell.
Knibb’s self-motivation never wavered as she started the four-lap, 10-kilometer run a whopping 2 minutes, 44 seconds over Kingma, who was closely trailed by Spivey, then Coldwell, Duffy, Kasper and Australia’s Natalie van Coevorden all within four seconds of the Dutchwoman.
The group racing for second made some ground on Knibb during the run, with a strong performance by Periault moving her up to a not-so-mere 1 minute, 34 seconds back with one lap remaining. Duffy was 10 seconds from Periault, finally making the podium clear as Spivey, Kingma and Coldwell were grouped together 27 seconds behind Duffy.
Finishing in 1:54:57, Knibb’s final margin of victory was 56 seconds ahead of Periault’s 1:55:43 and 1 minute, 24 seconds over Duffy (1:56:11). Zaferes and Spivey were a few seconds behind Duffy at 1:56:14 and 1:56:16, respectively.
In a much tighter elite men’s race, Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt was victorious in 1:44:14, with Belgium’s Marten Van Riel also crossing in 1:44:14 after merely passing France’s Léo Bergere (1:44:15) in the final meters.
The men’s world championship podium looked similar with Blummenfelt taking his first overall win (3,927 points), Van Riel second (3,594 points) and Great Britain’s Alex Yee in third (3,289 points). Bergere was fourth with 3,131 points.
The surprise fourth-place finisher in Edmonton was the U.S.’ Rider, who was seven seconds back from the lead group in 1:44:23 to continue the most successful eight days of his career.
The string of success started at the World Triathlon Championship Series Montreal on Aug. 14, where Rider placed ninth for what was then a career-high and his first time in the top 10. The following day, Rider helped the U.S. team win the mixed relay – his first gold and the nation’s first in three years.
The 24-year-old remained a contender throughout the final, never falling below 15th.
He was 11th after the swim, which France’s Vincent Luis led, then fell back a few spots in the chase pack on the bike that trailed Van Riel, Luis and Hungarian Márk Dévay throughout.
Rider was eighth after the bike, though part of a group of 17, but made his move with a fast run. He kept up with his group and was able to catch up to the leaders. Through two of the four laps, Rider was part of a mix of nine athletes who were separated by only three seconds.
A strong kick in the final lap helped him finish one second ahead of Switzerland’s Adrien Briffod for a new career-best of fourth.
Rider’s finishes at the last two races vaulted him from 35th up to ninth in the overall rankings – the highest by an American man since the series began in 2009. Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) and Kevin McDowell (Geneva, Ill.) ended the season in 10th and 12th, after missing the final race. Pearson only raced two events of the season, the fewest of any men in the top 17.
McQueen led the Americans in the U23 World Triathlon Championship that was also contested Saturday.
A week after helping the U.S. earn mixed relay gold with the fastest leg of any athlete in the field, McQueen placed seventh in the first and likely final U23 world championship race of his career.
He had the second-fastest bike leg of the race, behind only eventual silver medalist Tim Hellwig of Germany, and at one point was leading a pack of 11 athletes through the ride.
Csongor Lehmann of Hungary won in 1:46:47, followed by Hellwig in 1:46:51 and Australian Matthew Hauser in 1:46.55
McQueen’s time was 1:49:15. Darr Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) was sixth midway through the swim and seventh for a good portion of the bike but fell back during the run to finish 14th in 1:50:15, an improvement over his 21st-place finish in 2019. Austin Hindman (Wildwood, Mo.) was 22nd in 1:51:36; he was 31st in 2019.
Kyleigh Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.) was the top U.S. woman in the U23 World Triathlon Championship, crossing in 2:03:48 for 17th place. She had the seventh-fastest swim of the race. Grace Walther (Fort Wayne, Ind.) was 29th in the first fully international race of her career, having previously raced two Americas Triathlon Cup races and one Europe Triathlon Cup, in 2:10:02. Madisen Lavin (Vermillion, S.D.), who was 18th after the swim, did not finish following the first transition.
France’s Emma Lombardi won the U23 women’s title in 1:59:48, followed by Alberte Kjær Pedersen of Denmark in 2:00:05 and German Annika Koch in 2:00:10.
2021 World Triathlon Championship Finals Edmonton
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Elite Women — Complete Results
1. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), 1:54:47
2. Leonie Periault (FRA), 1:55:43
3. Flora Duffy (BER), 1:56:11
1. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), 1:54:47
4. Katie Zaferes (Cary, N.C.), 1:56:14
5. Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), 1:56:16
10. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 1:57:47
16. Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.), 1:59:04
Elite Men — Complete Results
1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), 1:44:14
2. Marten Van Riel (BEL), 1:44:14
3. Léo Bergere (FRA), 1:44:15
4. Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.), 1:44:23
2021 U23 World Triathlon Championship
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Women — Complete Results
1. Emma Lombardi (FRA), 1:59:48
2. Alberte Kjær Pedersen (DEN), 2:00:05
3. Annika Koch (GER), 2:00:10
17. Kyleigh Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.), 2:03:48
29. Grace Walther (Fort Wayne, Ind.), 2:10:02
Madisen Lavin (Vermillion, S.D.), DNF
Men — Complete Results
1. Csongor Lehmann (HUN), 1:46:47
2. Tim Hellwig (GER), 1:46:51
3. Matthew Hauser (AUS), 1:46:55
7. Chase McQueen (Columbus, Ind.), 1:49:15
14. Darr Smith (Atlanta, Ga.), 1:50:15
22. Austin Hindman (Wildwood, Mo.), 1:51:36