France’s Vincent Luis claimed his first victory of the 2019 World Triathlon Series by outsprinting South Africa’s Henri Schoeman in Yokohama.
But there was also another standout performance by Britain’s Alex Yee, who produced the fastest 10km run split of 29:58 to finish in fifth place, closing to within 36sec of the winner.
It was Yee’s first attempt at a standard distance World Series event and backed up his impressive runner-up result from Abu Dhabi in the sprint distance series opener in March.
While it didn’t secure the necessary podium position to meet the first part of the British selection criteria for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, it will still put the 21-year-old in good stead as Britain’s only other competitor in the field in Japan, Tom Bishop, was placed 20th.
Hungary’s Bence Bicsak, aged 23, also showed he is a triathlete on the rise by claiming his first World Series podium in third, with five-time world short course champion Javier Gomez losing touch over the final kilometre to finish in fourth.
It marked another impressive result for the Spaniard, who returned to the WTS from Ironman racing for 2019, finished second in Bermuda in the last round and just a fortnight ago won the ITU long course world title in his home town of Pontevedra.
Yokohama has been a longstanding stopover on the World Series with a course profile not dissimilar to the one designed for next year’s Olympics – even if conditions here were far cooler than are expected in Tokyo.
The race was uneventful until the 10km run, where it initially looked as if Yee might run down a gap of around 50sec to reach the front before a nip and tuck duel to the line between Luis and Schoeman provided the drama.
“I did not feel really great at the start and was not expecting to have a great race,” Luis admitted, having strengthened his lead in the series. “But I think today I was one of the strongest and was really happy it paid off. My tactic was to keep them behind, suffering until the last 300m.”
Commonwealth champion Schoeman was equally upbeat having secured his first WTS podium since winning in Abu Dhabi at the start of 2018.
“I’ve had some disappointing performances of late and wanted to come out here and have a really good result,” he said. “It was a really good breakaway [on the bike] and showed it’s still possible to do that in this modern era of triathlon.”
After Schoeman had led out of the non-wetsuit swim, the breakaway on the 40km cycle leg was eventually whittled down to a group of 10 triathletes that included all the eventual podium finishers as well as Australia’s Aaron Royle and Bermuda WTS winner Dorian Coninx.
Bishop agonisingly just missed the group and was left riding alone for several kilometres before dropping back to form part of a large second group that also contained Yee. Further back still was the 2017 and 2018 Yokohama champion and reigning world champion, Mario Mola. He would reach T2 out of contention and eventually finish 29th.
Luis heads the rankings from Fernando Alarza and Schoeman, with Yee up to sixth.
The World Series now move on to Leeds in three weeks’ time where a strong British men’s contingent is expected with both Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonathan currently on the start-list alongside Bishop and Yee.