Seventeen teams took part in the four-teammate tag race, each completing a 300m swim, two-lap 7.5km bike and 1-lap 1.5km run before handing over the honours to the next athlete. With four international teams, it didn’t have the gobal impact of the World Champs, in Hamburg, but the predominantly British line-up showcased the very best of our nations’s talent, drawing teams from the sport’s top training centres across the UK.
The two Leeds teams, although missing its most famous sons due to injury, were still the pre-race favourites, boasting four Olympians between them – Non Stanford, Gordon Benson and Lucy Hall all racing for Leeds II and honorary Leeds athlete Aaron Royle (of Australia) for Leeds I.
Hall’s partner Mark Buckingham made up the Leeds II team, having got the call-up just 24hrs before the race start to replace Royle, who’d been bumped up to the Leeds I squad to replace Jonny Brownlee.
Joining Royle in the top squad was last week’s silver medallist in Stockholm, Jess Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Tom Bishop.
The Loughborough I team, meanwhile, boasted Commonwealth gold medallist Jodie Stimpson, Sophie Coldwell, Ben Dijkstra and Chris Perham, none of them strangers to a podium or 10.
Nottingham’s crowds ‘thunder clap’ did a fine job of mimicking the ITU’s famous ‘ba-boom’ pre-race build-up, as the first 17 athletes took to the River Trent for a deep-water start.
Loughborough I (Coldwell) was the first of the Brit teams to make a move, coming out second in the swim behind Japan’s Fuka Sega. Leeds I (Taylor-Brown) and II (Stanford, on her first race back since the Leeds WTS in June, having struggled with injury in 2017) had okay swims to exit mid-pack. Although a strong swimmer, Sega is inexperienced on the bike and run and soon fell back post T2.
Eleven athletes raced as one pack over the short, technical 7.5km bike course, Stanford the first to dismount into T2.
Kate Waugh, 18, of the GB Juniors squad, kept Stanford company before Taylor-Brown and Canada’s Joanna Brown overtook them both for first and second place.
Taylor-Brown for Leeds I was the first to tag her teammate, Royle, who did a spectacular belly flop into the Trent, closely followed by Canada’s Matt Sharp.
Leeds II’s Benson with Ali Brownlee’s parting words still ringing in his ears –“Race clever” – was the next in, ahead of Loughborough I’s Perham.
Royle, with a sizeable cushion out of T1 took the bike leg alone, the chasing trio – with a tactically slow Benson sitting at the back – unable to match his speed.
By T2, Royle was 13secs ahead of the trio, but with fresher legs, the Leeds II’s Benson was soon in front, keeping Canada’s Sharp honest in second.
In this order, Benson passed to Hall; Sharp to Paula Findlay; Perham to Stimpson and Royle to Learmonth.
By mid-bike, it was a four-way battle for three podium spots, and with a 1min advantage over the rest of the field, the quartet could take the pace down a notch.
Onto the run it was Leeds I’s Learmonth and Canada’s Findlay who had the freshest legs, leaving Loughborough’s Stimpson in third and Leeds II’s Hall in fourth.