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Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig (SUI) powered away to her second ITU World Triathlon Madrid title after showing incredible strength in the final metres of the run. Spirig pulled away to a sprint finish for gold ahead of Aileen Morrison (IRL) and Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) who took silver and bronze respectively. The day also saw Olympic dreams realised and shattered as final London 2012 spots were decided in this, the final race in Olympic qualification.
The race began under milder temperatures of a late start for a non-wetsuit swim in Casa de Campo lake. Carolina Routier (ESP) and Abbie Thorrington (GBR) led a large field of over 20 out of the swim and into T1. Nicky Samuels (NZL) put in a great second lap on the swim edging her way into the leading group with thoughts of Olympic qualification no doubt at the forefront of her mind.
The group headed out onto the bike within 12 seconds of one other and included Rachel Klamer (NED), Vicky Holland (GBR), Liz Blatchford (GBR) and Ainhoa Murua (ESP). The second group out of T1 left just 20 seconds later containing Spirig, Andrea Hewitt, Riveros Diaz and Morrison.
The chase pack soon bridged the gap and by the second lap a large group of 30 had formed at the front with a smaller group of 13 led by Anne Haug (GER) now over a minute behind. At the half way point Daniela Ryf (SUI) dropped out of the lead group to leave 29, but a surge on the last lap, largely thanks to Haug, brought the groups together for a busy transition of 39 athletes.
Gaining the advantage out of T2 was Spirig, Murua, Haug, Klamer, Kathrin Muller (GER), Holland and Tomoko Sakimoto (JPN) who quickly put a little fresh air between themselves and a similar sized group a few seconds behind. After a poor transition, Morrison was in this second group on the first lap of the run alongside Emma Jackson (AUS).
“I’m really pleased with the run as I was in a really bad place coming out of T2 which has been typical for me over the last couple of races, I really can’t figure out how to get a good T2 done, but luckily they were running at a nice steady pace at the front and I just slowly made my way there,” said Morrison.
By lap two of the four-lap run, the gruelling bike leg was beginning to take its toll on some of the women as Murua and Holland began to drop off the pace. However, on the contrary Morrison dug deep to join the leaders now made up of Spirig, Haug and Riveros Diaz.
On the final lap, none of the four were giving anything away and it was not until the final 400 metres that Spirig began to push. Morrison and Riveros Diaz followed suit, but the sprint to the line was won by Spirig who claims her second WTS title in Madrid and continues her high class form in 2012.
“It was an amazing race for me. I had lots of support from the Spanish people and I felt good on the run and it was an amazing race,” said Spirig. “It’s all going really well, my training’s been going really well too so I’m very happy at the moment.”
“When I got there I thought well why not push this on, but in the last 800 metres I thought I was coming in fourth as my legs were like jelly and I knew Barbara had the strength. I can’t believe I managed to hold on for second I’m really delighted with that,” said Morrison.
Riveros Diaz has already claimed her Olympic spot for Chile but was impressive despite not being 100% coming into the race.
“I haven’t raced Olympic distance since last October at the Pan American Games so I’m really pleased to be here for another World Championship Series and it’s always nice to have the crowd,” said Riveros Diaz. “Nicola did really well, she’s always strong and Haug got the Olympic qualification. I’m really grateful to everyone who supported me. It’s been a little bit hard because I left my coach so it was quite hard to put all myself together, but I’m pleased to be back and have another solid race.”
Haug’s fourth place finish secures her a spot on the German 2012 Olympic team along with teammate Svenja Bazlen (GER) who finished 12th. Nicky Samuels confirmed a third spot for New Zealand by finishing 15th, ahead of Germany’s Muller, but it still means that both New Zealand and Germany send three female athletes to London.
A solid seventh place finish for Great Britain’s Holland may improve her chances of Team GB selection.
Check back on triathlon.org later this week for the full London 2012 qualification update.