Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Triathlon: Gomez outsprints Brownlee

Javier Gomez edged Jonathan Brownlee to win the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland World Triathlon.. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Javier Gomez edged Jonathan Brownlee to win the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland World Triathlon.. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The Auckland leg of the world triathlon circuit once again belongs to Spain's Javier Gomez after the world number one picked up his third straight win at the event after an epic battle with British rival Jonathan Brownlee.

The two heavyweights of the sport predictably dominated the men's event in the opening round of the world triathlon series, treating the crowd lining the city streets to a masterclass. Australia's Aaron Royle was third, beating out compatriots Dan Wilson and Ryan Bailie in a sprint down the chute, after the trio worked well as a unit throughout the race.

The women's race was also dominated by the big names in the field, with world number two Jodie Stimpson of Great Britain taking out top spot in the podium after following Kiwis Nicky Samuels and Kate McIlroy in a break-away on the bike leg. Last year's winner, Anne Haug of Germany was second, while another Brit, former world champion Helen Jenkins, was third.

With both the men's and women's fields stacked with world-class talent, the pace set matched the scorching conditions in Auckland.

But an interesting side battle to the was the race for Commonwealth Games selection among the Kiwi athletes took some of the focus away from the podium spots.

Ryan Sissons was the only New Zealander to book his spot on the startline in Glasgow today, finishing sixth in the men's race after being given a helping hand on the bike leg by Canterbury's Tom Davison. New Zealand's top-ranked triathlete Andrea Hewitt also finished sixth in the women's field, but she had already booked her place at the Games with a eighth place finish at last year's triathlon grand final in London.

Needing to finish inside the top eight to guarantee Commonwealth Games selection, Sissons produced his best performance in a world triathlon series event to book his ticket to Glasgow. But it took a phenomenal ride from Davison to set Sissons up for a decent tilt.

Third to last out of the water, Sissons was dragged through the field on the bike leg by Davison, who incredibly managed to catch the lead group of 12 on the fifth lap.

"[Davison] was my right-hand man, I couldn't have done it without him. We rode hard and managed to get up to front. We had two minutes on the second group off the bike and that was what sealed the deal for me," said Sissons.

"He put me in the perfect spot so I had to repay him for it."

Having sacrificed his own race for the sake of his team mate, Davison finished back in 36th but pushed his case for Commonwealth Games selection having shown his value to the team.

In the women's race Nicky Samuels and Kate McIlroy also gave it a good crack, leading a breakaway group on the bike leg alongside eventual winner Stimpson. But while, Stimpson was able to kick on for the win, the Kiwi pair did not have a big enough buffer on the strong runners in the field.

McIlroy, in her first event back after having a chunk of bone removed from her heel, was 13th, with Samuels back in 16th.

The pair were in contrasting moods at the finish line. McIlroy, who only had four weeks of running training under her belt heading into the event following heel surgery, was delighted to have been competitive for so long, while Samuels was left ruing her race tactics, which left her with little in her legs for the run.

McIlroy said the decision to attack early on the bike leg was a risk. The pair, with Stimpson, established a 43 second lead on the chase pack heading into the run, but were swallowed up by the chase pack mid-way through the second leg.

"We worked hard on the bike. When there's only three of you in the group it's good, but it means you're pretty much doing work all the time," said McIlroy.

"I knew my legs would be tired, I just don't have the running in my legs at the moment. I'm just happy I got through the 10km and managed to finish in a reasonably respectable position."

Samuels believed the risk did not pay off her, and she should have backed herself to be able to match the stronger runners.

- NZ Herald

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