Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fernandes wins Olympic test event


Less than one year to go until the Beijing Olympics and the new world champion Vanessa Fernandes has made a serious name for herself with a convincing win at today’s Beijing BG Triathlon World Cup with a time of 2 hours and 36 seconds. Aussie Emma Snowsill ran herself into second place, more than a full minute behind while Laura Bennett came third, an exact replica of the podium at the Hamburg BG Triathlon World Championships two weeks ago. As the top American today, Bennett earns an automatic spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

The world number one turned 22 years old yesterday and celebrated it with her third consecutive Beijing world cup title. In a dominating season in which she has won every major title including world championships and European championships, Fernandes has to be considered the gold standard in women’s triathlon as the world’s best continue to push towards next year’s Olympics in Beijing.

Nervous energy was evident from the start of the non-wetsuit swim as half the women dove into the water before the starters horn. The athletes swam hard for about a hundred meters before officials stopped them and directed them back to the pontoon. When they finally did get off to a clean start, it was the American women who surged to the lead. Sara McLarty, Sarah Haskins and Laura Bennett led the women out of the water and into the first transition. Three-time world champion Emma Snowsill and Fernandes were not far behind as the leaders headed out onto the 40-kilometer bike course.

Early in the bike, Snowsill and Fernandes pushed to the front of the lead pack, clearly not afraid to put in the work to break away. The front group that also included German Joelle Franzmann and Pan American Games gold medalist Julie Ertel (formerly Swail) established a 43-second lead after the first lap. But the lead dissolved by the start of the fourth lap as the two packs merged, resulting in 30 women riding within five seconds of each other. With no riders attempting to break away in the final two laps of the bike, this race was going to come down to the 10-kilometer run.

As the came off their bikes, Ricarda Lisk of Germany and Bennett were first out of transition but within seconds, they watched Fernandes explode past them to steal the lead. Bennett tried to stay with her early but after the first lap, the world number one broke away and manufactured a 15-second lead. By the second lap, Fernandes opened up a 42-second gap and it was unlikely any woman, even Snowsill, was going to catch her.

Fernandes crossed the line more than a full minute ahead of Snowsill to win her 18th world cup win and the officially test even for the Olympics. In a riveting race that had many Olympic spots on the line, Debbie Tanner and Samantha Warriner qualified for the New Zealand team as the top two Kiwis today.

2007 Beijing BG Triathlon World Cup – Final Women’s Results:
1st – Vanessa Fernandes (POR) 2:00:36
2nd – Emma Snowsill (AUS) 2:01:51
3rd – Laura Bennett (USA) 2:02:06
4th – Debbie Tanner (NZL) 2:02:10
5th – Anja Dittmer (GER) 2:02:43
6th – Samantha Warriner (NZL) 2:02:44
7th – Nicole Spirig (SUI) 2:02:45
8th – Emma Moffatt (AUS) 2:02:54
9th – Elizabeth May (LUX) 2:03:09
10th – Felicity Abram (AUS) 2:03:16

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