Brit Non Stanford pulled off a stunning victory in the Cape Town leg of the World Triathlon Series 2016, putting down a marker ahead of the Rio Olympics and showing her return to full fitness is almost complete despite doubts before the race.
Non Stanford and Vicky Holland secure spots for Rio
Although heavy storms greeted the athletes on their arrival into Cape Town, conditions were perfect for the race itself with temperatures of 20c and light winds. After her devastation at not been selected for the Olympic Games, 2014 WTS Cape Town winner Jodie Stimpson was racing purely to bolster her hopes of a strong position in the ITU series itself. Fellow Brits Vicky Holland, who won in Cape Town last year, and Non Stanford were looking to send a message to their opponents ahead of Rio having already qualified. The winner of WTS Gold Coast Helen Jenkins opted out of this race, as did current world champion Gwen Jorgensen.
As the athletes dived off the pontoon, Bermudan Flora Duffy and Carolina Routier quickly broke away from the pack, and Duffy broke away again to exit the water in a rapid 8min 55secs. Routier was unable to ride out with Duffy, who rode off solo and established almost a 30sec lead.
The rest of the ride followed the same pattern, with the chase pack not closing up any of the gap until the final 2km of the bike. Going out onto the run course 6secs in the lead, Duffy was quickly reigned in by four athletes, made up of all three Brit girls of Stimpson, Stanford and Holland as well as Anne Haug of Germany.
It then became a case of how long Duffy could hold on, having exerted herself more on the bike and not possessing the run speed of the three Brits. It was now looking like a potential 1-2-3 for the British athletes, with Haug looking to put a spanner in the works.
However it wasn’t so clear cut, as surprisingly Vicky Holland dropped off into 5th with Duffy holding 4th place going into the final 2km of the run. Non Stanford began to show her return to full fitness is nearly complete, and began to put the hammer down. Haug and Stimpson followed her every move, whilst Kirsten Kasper (USA) overtook Holland to move into 5th place. Stimpson then consolidated 2nd position, with Haug fading.
Stanford continued to pull clear and broke the tape in 59:49, whilst Stimpson held on for 2nd place and finished 7secs back. Flora Duffy capped off a remarkable performance by overtaking Haug, claiming her first podium this year after 4th place in the previous two rounds of the series.
It was Stanford’s first race of the WTS Series this year, and she expressed surprise at her victory in an interview with ITU Triathlon: “I’m not in my ideal race shape so came here to see how I’d get on, so it’s great to take the win. There’s more to come yet which is really exciting!”
Despite the disappointment of missing out on a place in the British Olympic squad, Stimpson showed immense mental strength to finish in 2nd place. She said: “I want to thank my coaches for putting up with me the last couple of weeks, as I haven’t been the most pleasant person to be around! But I will train hard and concentrate on this year’s series and try to finish as high up as I can.”