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Swiss star Nicola Spirig showed off her brilliant finishing kick again as she powered to her second straight victory in the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series today in Kitzbühel, Austria and continued her torrid winning streak after recording wins at the European Championships and Madrid.
“It was almost a perfect race for me,” said Spirig. “I had a really good swim, I was really happy with it. The bike was good, we were a small group and people were working so we had quite a comfortable lead in the end and after that I felt really comfortable on the run.”
In a ferocious running battle with five other women, Spirig edged out Sweden’s Lisa Norden who successfully returned from injury to take her place on the Kitzbühel podium once again. Andrea Hewitt out-dueled Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz for the bronze, yet another podium for the Kiwi superstar.
Not far behind them were a host of top names such as Vicky Holland (GBR), Spirig, Norden, Melanie Annaheim (SUI) and four from New Zealand including Hewitt, Debbie Tanner, Nicky Samuels, and Kate McIlroy. Riveros and Anja Dittmer (GER) also managed to latch onto the back of the group coming out of T1.
After German Svenja Bazlen crashed early and Italy’s Alice Betto pulled out with bike issues, a lead group of 15 women settled in up front, which included powerful riders like Spirig, Norden, Harrison, Samuels and Groff. The strength of the leaders was bad news for the chase groups who fell behind further and further.
The lead pack worked exceptionally well together and built a significant lead, which at one point swelled to over two minutes. But the leaders let up slightly on the final lap and the chase pack managed to slice 40 seconds off the lead in the last lap alone.
Spirig and Hewitt were the first to hit the 10km run course as the leaders came into T2 to see their lead dwindle to 90 seconds.
Early in the run, six women emerged at the front and it was clear the podium would come from this dangerous group made up of Spirig, Hewitt, Norden, Riveros, Groff and Harrison.
For much of the run they ran together, with no one making any major surges. Groff was the first to be dropped just before they came into transition to hear the bell signifying the start of the final lap.
In that last lap, Harrison desperately tried to hang on as Riveros and Hewitt took turns at the front.
As they neared the final straight, Spirig and Norden surged to the front. But Spirig reached the blue carpet first and dashed away to the finish, leaving Norden for silver while Hewitt and Riveros fought for bronze.
Spirig triumphantly raised the finish tape at 2 hours, 5 minutes and 37 seconds to record her second victory in Kitzbühel and fourth career WTS title.
“I had a good rhythm and I could run with a group of six and I knew I had a really fast sprint, so I wasn’t the one who had to make the pace, I could sit in and wait for the sprint and it worked so I’m really happy,” said Spirig.
Norden came across the line all smiles three seconds behind Spirig, a successful return from injury after not having raced since April in Sydney.
“I’ve been having quite a tough time in training and struggling to get back into fitness,” said Norden. “Heading out today it was all under control and I didn’t have to fight on the swim and the bike was easy and I went out on the first three laps on the run and I thought ‘jeez, what do we do-should we be running hard?’ and I was just waiting for someone to pick up the pace. When Nicola put down the hammer down, that didn’t help, but I’m super happy to hang on for that long.”
Hewitt was also back on the podium after beating Riveros to the finish line for bronze, three seconds behind Norden. With the finish, Hewitt took over the lead in the overall ITU World Triathlon Series rankings, ahead of Spirg and Helen Jenkins who didn’t race in Kitzbühel or Madrid.
“It was a good swim and bike and then it all came down to the run which was pretty tactical. No one wanted to lead and there was a little bit of shuffling, the lead kept changing and the last kilometre was the toughest and Nicola went for it and I managed third today,” said Hewitt. “I started coming to Kitzbuehel when it was an ITU race back in 2006 and I’ve enjoyed coming back ever since. I base myself in France so it’s pretty close and it’s amazing scenery here and it’s a good time of the year to come here and race.”
Riveros finished up in fourth, while another impressive performance by the veteran Harrison notched her another top-five result.
New Zealand had a fantastic day, finishing with three in the top-8. Samuels came across in sixth while McIlroy in 8th, proving its Olympic team will be quite a force to contend with in London.
In other notable news, Holland pulled out of the race late in the bike. After mechanical problems forced her from the lead group, she faded to the chase and then called it a day before making it to the run course.