Olympic gold medallist Gwen Jorgensen and fourth-place finisher in Rio Richard Murray have rounded out their 2016 season with victories at the Island House Invitational Triathlon – a unique three-day, pro-only event that, as the name suggests, is invite-only.
Made up of three races over three days, the multisport extravaganza started on Friday 28 October, with individual time trials of a 750m swim, a 20km bike and a 5km run.
Following this first test, Great Britain’s Holly Lawrence (the 2016 70.3 World Champ) and Australia’s Aaron Royle led the standings leading into day two, with reigning Xterra and ITU world champ Flora Duffy lying in second and Jorgensen third for the women. On the men’s side, Murray ended the day in third behind Terenzo Bozzone and ahead of training partner Mario Mola.
Day two welcomed the Enduro stage, a race comprising a 750m swim, 5km run, 40km bike, 750m swim and a 5km run. In the women’s race, the mass start kept athletes close together during the initial swim leg, with a large pack exiting the water together. Jorgensen asserted herself during the first 5km run to take the lead at the start of the bike. However, non-drafting, long-course specialist Lawrence, used her bike strength to complete the bike leg with the fastest time on the day. Lawrence started the final swim and run legs with a 50sec lead over a pack that included Duffy, Helle Frederiksen, Ellie Salthouse and Jorgensen. The short-course athletes worked together on the second swim leg, narrowing the gap to Lawrence to 30secs heading into the fifth and final leg of the day. Once again, Jorgensen proved invincible on the run, covering the final 5km in 16:52mins for the fastest run split on the day and a 45sec lead on general classification heading into day three. Despite dealing with cramps after the second swim, Duffy ran her way into second place on the Enduro stage, ahead of Salthouse. Lawrence faded to fourth on the stage, but she did enough to remain second overall, 10secs ahead of Duffy.
The lead in the men’s race also switched as Murray gapped the pack during the first run leg, posting a time of 15:21mins for 5km. Cameron Dye of the USA was the biggest mover on the bike, taking the lead over Murray during the closing miles and the two started the final swim and run legs in close proximity. Once again, Murray proved strongest on the run, edging ahead of Dye to cross the line in first place and to take the overall lead after two days of competition. Dye’s performance was enough to catapult him into second place overall after the two stages, while Bozzone’s consistency during the Enduro stage kept him in third place.
The final day tested the top-10 athletes from the first two days’ competition over a sprint distance on the private island of Highbourne Cay. Athletes started the race according to their deficit overall to the overnight leaders, Jorgensen and Murray.
Lawrence dove into the water 45secs behind Jorgensen with Duffy just 10secs further back. Duffy closed the gap quickly to Lawrence and the two worked to reduce the deficit to Jorgensen out of the swim to 30secs.
“I knew I had to go hard from the start if I wanted to shoot for the win today,” acknowledged Duffy. After catching Jorgensen at the beginning of the second lap of the three-lap bike course, Duffy attacked through the technical sections and gained time heading into T2.
“Flora absolutely owned the technical sections of the bike course”, noted Lawrence post-race. “It’s a pretty technical course and I need to get some tips from her for the future!”
Lawrence was second off the bike but Jorgensen refused to allow the elastic to break and remained in close contact. On the run, the American used her dominant run speed to reel in her competitors, taking the lead by the 3km mark of the run. Once in front, there was no looking back and Jorgensen broke the tape first to seal victory for the second consecutive year.
The men’s race was expected to be a showdown between Murray and non-draft specialist Dye, winner of last year’s third-day stage. Murray retained his lead through the swim but Dye quickly ate into Murray’s lead on the bike portion of the race, catching him on the second lap. But despite his 30sec advantage off the bike, the buffer wasn’t enough for Dye as the South African took the lead at the halfway point of the run and breezed to victory.
Thrilled with the step-up in performance relative to his second place last year, Murray gushed at the finish line: “I’m very happy. This is the best race of the season. Period.”
Dye crossed the line in second place but the battle for the third and final podium spot was a heated one with Royle sneaking past Terenzo Bozzone on the run to claim third place.