(Sydney, Australia April 14, 2012) Germany's Steffen Justus broke through for the biggest win of his ITU career, in a men's ITU World Triathlon Series race that had twists and turns at every corner in Sydney on Saturday.
After a two-man bike breakaway coming into T2, Russia's Ivan Vasiliev dropped his breakaway partner James Elvery in the first few hundred metres and managed to stay out front until the second last run lap. It wasn't until the final 15 minutes that the trio of Justus, South Africa's Richard Murray and France's Laurent Vidal pulled ahead of the Russian. It set up a final lap showdown, but Justus didn't look back from passing Vasiliev. He rocketed to the front and stayed there, to claim his first ITU World Triathlon Series win and first major ITU title. He said the key had been making his move at the six-kilometre mark of the run.
"The swim was solid. I'm not the best swimmer, so I sat in the middle of the pack. In the bike I tried to stay in the top 10-15, but it was such a big group today; it's quite dangerous in the middle. Transition two was good for me and I had a good run out," Justus said. "Alexander (Bryukhankov) made a fast run in the front, so it was good for me because it split the pack. From 6km mark I tried to push a bit and he dropped; so I kept running and running to make a bigger gap and make it to the finish line."
Murray shook off Vidal to claim his first ITU World Triathlon Series medal and the first in history by an African athlete, while Vidal's bronze is his second consecutive podium in 2012, and his first series medal since 2009.
With plenty on the line in the men's race in terms of Olympic qualification, both individually and in terms of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) qualifying the maximum spots, it wasn't surprising that Vasiliev went hard from the start. Within the first ten kilometres, he went off the front with Elvery and as two groups behind them became one huge pack of over 50 athletes, the pair added to their lead by an average of ten seconds per lap. While a few small groups tried to break from the main chase pack none were successful.
Heading into T2, Vasiliev and Elvery had a lead of just over a minute and the Russian moved quickly to add to it. Behind him the battle was heating up, though, as Alexander Bryukhankov, David Hauss, Justus, Vidal, Murray pushed ahead of the rest. In the final kilometre Justus pulled away and after high-fiving fans down the finishing chute, and leaped through the finish tape with an ecstatic fist pump, in a huge show of emotion.
But the podium places weren't the only important results in Sydney, with plenty more having an affect on the London Olympic field. Vasiliev finished sixth, which should see Russia hold onto three spots in London for now, while Canada's Kyle Jones, Simon Whitfield and Brent McMahon all finished ahead of Portugal's Joao Pereira, which bodes well for their chances to send three athletes.
New Zealand's Kris Gemmell claimed his individual spot in London with seventh, meeting Triathlon New Zealand's qualifying criteria as the first Kiwi in the top eight.
Dextro Energy World Triathlon Sydney - 14 April 2012
Final Results - Elite Men - 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
1. Steffen Justus GER 01:51:04
2. Richard Murray RSA 01:51:13
3. Laurent Vidal FRA 01:51:15
4. David Hauss FRA 01:51:30
5. Alexander Bryukhankov RUS 01:51:31
6. Ivan Vasiliev RUS 01:51:34
7. Kris Gemmell NZL 01:51:42
8. William Clarke GBR 01:51:43
9. Dmitry Polyansky RUS 01:51:49
10. Jarrod Shoemaker USA 01:51:51
Photo Credit: Delly Carr ITU