PENTICTON, B.C.—With cheers of a home nation crowd, Canada’s own Lionel Sanders claimed victory to become the 2017 Penticton ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Champion. Overcoming a large deficit from the swim and a flat tire on the bike, the Canadian delivered a come-from-behind performance to collect his first world honour of his career.
“That has got to be the hardest I have ever ran. Unfortunately I got a flat on the bike, the technical descent scared the crap out of me. I think it was a testament of two things: always carry a spare and second, it is not over until it is over.” Lionel said. “I like adversity. I don’t ask for it but it always seems to come for me. So I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to win this thing, with a flat tire and that became my motivation, so you can do a lot of things when you are highly motivated.”
Preparing for a full morning of triathlon racing, the men’s roster lined up for an early start to kick off the last day of competitions at the 2017 Penticton Multisport World Championships event.
The 24-deep list of elite men ran from their beach start into the Okagagan Lake to start the three-kilometre lap swim. The swim course included two long one-kilometre straight parts that intended to split the field. Two men managed to get the edge, Amberger and Spaniard Pablo Dapena Gonzalez exited the waters first with a lead of about two minutes over a pack of four men such as Mark Buckingham (GBR) and Andy Potts(USA).
Sanders was about four minutes down in the swim, but is known to always make a comeback in the next two legs of the race.
Once onto the bike, Amberger quickly separated himself as the race leader. He intensified his lead pedal after pedal. The 120-kilometre bike allowed for many changes in the field among the top ten, but all kept gunning for the Aussie. Frenchman and the 2016 ITU Long Distance World Champion, Sylvain Sudriepushed himself into the silver position, with Canada’s Sanders in hot pursuit. Eventually Sanders overtook Sudrie near the middle of the bike leg, but a flat tire out on the course pushed Sanders back in third as the two headed back into the second transition.
Amberger sped into T2 after dominating on the bike; he had created over a three-minute lead over the chase. However, the run is Amberger’s softer spot, which meant that every second earned he needed it to count in order to fend off intruders of his pursued title.
With Sudrie in second and Sanders in third, young USA’s Drew Scott came into T2 in fourth, with another Aussie Gambles in fifth.
With still about two hours of racing to go from 30 kilometres of a run course, the world crown was still anyone’s for the taking.
The Aussie managed to keep his lead, but he had strong runners in his sights.
Before long, Sanders catapulted himself into second again with the intentions of going for the gold as well. While there was no change in the lead after the first two laps, Sanders had pushed his gap down to about two minutes with still over ten kilometres to go.
It was then after the bell that Sanders finally caught his goal and overtook Amberger.
The lead then did not change and Canada was free to welcome it’s hometown hero to the stage as Sanders crossed the line at 05:20:36.0 to grab the finisher’s tape and become the 2017 Long Distance World Champion.
Just under two minutes later, Amberger crossed to take the silver medal, exhausted but rightfully earned after having a crushing performance. The bronze then went to Gambles, who earned his medal on the run. His last minute effort on the last lap brought him in to capture the last spot on the podium, a feat he did not know was secured under the final metres of the race.
Executing a phenomenal run performance in her first ITU long distance event of her career, Aussie Sarah Crowley was crowned victorious at the 2017 Penticton ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championship.
After batting a time deficit from being down in the swim and chasing a race leader for the entirety of the bike, Crowley bypassed the frontrunner in the second lap of the run to grab the excitedly grab the finish tape to seize her first-career world title.
“It is pretty unreal. I didn’t go into today expecting that at all, everything just went to plan other than falling over at the start of the swim. But I did have a good day though, I worked pretty hard after that, but yeah I had a good day and I am really happy,” Crowley said of her victory.
Coming in second place was Helle Frederiksen (DEN) who dominated the first two legs of the race before finally giving it up to Crowley in the run. Taking the final spot on the podium then went to Canadian Heather Wurtele, who battled hard for her position after a not-so successive swim.
The women’s field toed up to the start list with a stacked roster filled with talent on longer distance courses.
With three-kilometres in the Okagangan Lake to welcome the swim, the calm waters were a nice escape from windy conditions that left the lake choppy in days prior.
In the longer format the field tends to find some gaping and this was no exception. Frederiksen was the clear swim leader, exiting back onto the sandy beach alone but with only a slight advantage. The chase that included Camillia Pedersen (DEN), Leanda Cave (GBR) and Rachel McBride (CAN) were hot on the tails of Frederiksen.
The bike was crushed by Frederiksen, she grabbed hold of the tiny lead she earned in the water and ran with it. Lap after lap she gained speed and had created a gap for herself to ride solo untouched.
The chase group contained McBride, Pedersen, Wurtele, Crowley, Jennifer Spieldenner (USA) and Cave.
Upon entering the run, Frederiksen had gained a healthy lead of minutes. But running a 30-kilometre distance was a first for the Danish as her previous ITU races were at the Olympic level, which meant it was an unknown of what her body could do.
Holding firm in the first 10 kilometres, Frederiksen started to slow her pace and the women chasing her, who have more experience on the longer course, were closing in.
Crowley then made her move on the second lap, sending it into overdrive and bypassing Frederiksen for the first position. Her running legs did not falter and she continued right into the finish chute to grab the tape and a first-time title.
Frederiksen followed near four minutes after, excited to get back on the ITU podium after years. The last podium spot was then left to Wurtele just 50 seconds after, who was hopeful of catching Frederiksen, but couldn’t manage to do so.