Words & Photos: Eunice Visage
Over the weekend, the best triathletes in the world had more than a thousand spectators on their feet in appreciation of the world-class show they put on at the inaugural Discovery World Triathlon Cape Town – the first of its kind on African soil.
Photos by: Eunice Visage
More than 2,000 participants took part, but it was Spain’s Javier Gomez and Britain’s Jodie Stimpson who claimed the headlines with their victories.
Gomez won the 1,5 km swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run in 1 hour, 44 minutes and 52 seconds. Jonathan Brownlee (UK) finished second some 20 seconds later and the Russian, Dmitry Polyanskiy, secured the last spot on the podium in a time of 1:45.35. Mario Mola ran a sub 30 minutes 10 km to secure fourth place.
The crowd went crazy when South African Richard Murray came in fifth after the second fastest run on the day. "Wow, this was amazing. It was like the Olympics with the people going crazy! It was hard. I did not feel myself today. I could not work as hard as I would have liked to on the bike.
Sorry to the guys. I actually thought my swim was quite good and then I came into transition and saw there was like not many bikes left! Mario and I went together on the run and on the second lap he said, "Let's go" and I thought, "Oh no!" I am happy with fifth, but I know that I need to improve. It was something special to race in front of family and friends. I am looking forward to doing it again next year because this was something spectacular."
Gomez, the current world champion and leader in the World Triathlon Series, could not stop smiling. "I had a good race in Auckland and again today I had a good time. We really pushed hard right from the start. On the bike it was important to keep the minute gap. On the run I did not feel that great and on the second lap I slowed down a bit to recover. On the third lap I gave it everything I had. Once Jonathan and I had the gap, we started to fight for the victory
"This was a great race and a great event. I enjoyed my time here. I can’t be happier actually. The support was great. There was a lot of people cheering us on and screaming my name. As an athlete you love it when people get excited and I hope they enjoyed the show." On Saturday, the British women Jodie Stimpson and Helen Jenkins dominated proceedings, while American Gwen Jorgenson ran herself from a top 20 (at best) to third place. It was Stimpson’s second win in the series after also winning in Auckland. She left Jenkins behind with only a few metres to go. Stimpson’s winning time was 1:46.11, with Jenkins following 7 seconds later, and Jorgenson third in 1:46.33. The women’s race was reduced to one swim-lap because the water temperature was just 11.
"I would have liked a full triathlon to be honest, but even if we only swam 750 m and not 1.5 km, it still hurt like hell today. I must admit that the only thing that kept me going was the amazing support I had along the route. Everywhere there were people screaming my name and cheering me on. When you hurt that is what pushes you through the pain. South Africa you put on a good show and I am glad I was part of it."
Gillian Sanders finished 15th and was the top South African. "It was so tough out there. I am a proud South African today. You can’t beat this venue. It is so awesome and everybody loved it. I think it bodes well for the future of this event."
Mari Rabie, who made her comeback to the international scene, had a good swim and very strong bike leg. "My expectations weren’t high. It’s been two years since I have competed. I have been focusing on my studies. I have only been training for four months and I knew the run would be the big challenge. I am somewhat disappointed with my swim because I am usually a strong swimmer. I am so happy though that I have competed today and it is great to be back!"
Photos by: Eunice Visage
All in all, this event set the standard pretty high even if it was only the first time. The route was praised not only for its toughness – even if it was flat and fast – but also for how beautiful it was.
Amongst those participating in a triathlon for the first time ever was the well-known paddler Pierre-André Rabie, who finished second at the Berg River Canoe Marathon a few years ago. "This was my first-ever triathlon. And I even cycled ‘into’ an old-varsity buddy of mine! I had so much fun and I enjoyed every second. Maybe I will do more of it. It is good for the fitness and helps the paddling."
Former international triathlete Hendrik de Villiers also joined the action. De Villiers won a World Cup event in Richard’s Bay in 2007. "It was great; the weather, the scenery and the organisation. I enjoyed myself and had some really good support on the route."
The amateurs also had lots of fun. "It was so much fun. No wind in Cape Town! Wow, I loved it," said Cornelis Engelbrecth. His friend Karel van Wyk said, “It was flat, but man that was tough going. It was a challenge. It was so fast! I had fun and really enjoyed the event."
For more information, visit http://capetown.triathlon.org
Did you know? More than 10% of foreign tourists come to South Africa to watch or participate in sport events, with spectators accounting for 60% to 80% of these arrivals.