KARLOVY VARY — The future of USA women’s triathlon continues to shine as bright as its present, as Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.) secured a back-to-back top-ten World Triathlon Cup finish Sunday at the 2021 World Triathlon Cup Karlovy Vary.
After a consistently solid performance that saw her remain within the top of the field from start line to finish line, Ackerlund finished eighth overall with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 25 seconds giving her the top American finish of the day. In June, she placed sixth at the 2021 World Triathlon Cup Huatulco.
Marc Dubrick (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) was the top U.S. men's finisher on Sunday, placing 25th in his World Triathlon Cup debut.
Karlovy Vary marked the return of World Cup racing back to the calendar since Huatulco took place in June. World Cup events were then then put on pause for major elite competition at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and World Triathlon Championship Series Finals in Edmonton.
Joining the World Cup family in 2017, Karlovy Vary is known as one of the most challenging courses on the circuit due to several grueling hills and technical descents on the bike and run. For the fifth consecutive year, the picturesque city of the Czech Republic welcomed athletes to an Olympic-distance course featuring a two-lap 150-meter swim, seven-lap 40-kilometer bike and four-lap 10-kilometer run.
Both U.S. women performed right out of the gate in Karlovy Vary, remaining in the top ten coming out of the swim. Kyleigh Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.) was fourth out of the water, trailing leader Bianca Seregni of Italy by just seven seconds. Ackerlund then followed in eighth with a 32-second gap going into T1.
Both women carried the strength they displayed in the water onto the bike as they landed into a main chase group after a swift transition. The pack worked together to push hard to close a 30-second gap that was held from four leading riders for the first two laps on the bike.
The work paid off by lap number three, when the chase met the leading four and created a new larger pack that tallied 14-strong and along with Spears and Ackerlund, included names such as Seregni, Jolanda Annen (SUI), Selina Klampt (GER), Sophie Alden (GBR) and Sarika Nakayama (JPN).
It was after enduring six laps of steep inclines that Spearing showed signs of leg fatigue and was dropped off the front group on the final lap of the bike.
After a quick second transition, Ackerlund held on for the U.S. women and was in a solid 6th position for the first 7.5 kilometers of the run.
It was on the bell lap that Ackerlund was overtaken by Annen and Michelle Flipo (MEX) to ultimately land her at eighth overall. Placing 13th in Karlovy Vary last year, her finish is a personal best for the demanding World Cup location.
Spearing ended the day in 20th place, in what was her first World Cup showing of the season, with a time of 2:14:02.
Julie Derron of Switzerland claimed the win with a time of 2:06:56 and her second career World Cup victory. Japan’s Ai Ueda finished second in 2:07:20, followed by Italy’s Bianca Seregni in 2:07:31to round out the podium.
The men opened up the day with a full of dynamic roster of 66 athletes toeing the line eager to make their mark on the demanding course. The field saw multiple lead changes throughout the race, with the podium remaining unrevealed up until the final kilometers of the run.
Despite being over a minute down after the swim, Germany’s Lasse Nygaard-Priester powered through the difficult bike course and presented the fastest run split of the day at 30:35 to claim the men’s victory, the first of his career with a time of 1:53:31.
Grant Sheldon of Great Britain finished second, while U23 2021 World Champion, Csongor Lehmann of Hungary took third.
As one of the strongest swimmers in the field, American Chase McQueen (Columbus, Ind.) delivered and was 11th out of the water, trialing by only 32 seconds heading into T1.
Out on the bike, a massive group of over 27 riders, which included McQueen, worked to close down a front pack of four consisting of Márk Dévay (HUN), Takumi Hojo (JPN), Alessio Crociani (ITA) and Miguel Tiago Silva (POR).
McQueen held on tight for the entirety of the seven laps through laborious cobblestone hills and as the pack entered the second transition, the gap was 38 seconds.
While Dubrick couldn’t hold on after the swim to stay with the large chase group out on the bike, he entered T2 with over three minutes of ground to cover.
However, he found his feet on the pavement as he put up the 12th fastest run split of the day at 32:11 to climb 13 spots and ultimately overcome his compatriot to claim the top U.S. men’s position at 25th overall (1:57:42).
McQueen followed at 46th overall with a time of 2:01:53.
2021 World Triathlon Cup Karlovy Vary
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Elite Women — Complete results
1. Julie Derron (Switzerland) 2:06:56
2. Ai Ueda (Japan) 2:07:20
3. Bianca Seregni (Italy) 2:07:31
8. Erika Auckerlund (Missoula, Mont.) 2:09:25
20. Kyleigh Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.) 2:14:02
Elite Men — Complete Results
1. Lasse Nygaard-Priester (Germany) 1:53:31
2. Grant Sheldon (Great Britain) 1:54:04
3. Csongor Lehmann (Hungary) 1:54:11
25. Marc Dubrick (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) 1:57:42
46. Chase McQueen (Columbus, Ind.) 2:01:53