Kate Waugh secured a breakthrough victory while home favourite Léo Bergere also triumphed in the second race of the Super League Triathlon Championship Series in Toulouse on a day packed with incident and controversy.
Ultimately, both athletes proved dominant throughout their respective races to rack up the points for their RTP Sharks and Santara Tech Eagles teams, but their resounding victories only told one side of the story on a dramatic day of racing in southern France.
The women’s event saw the 24-year-old Waugh dominant from the first of the three Triple Mix stages, crossing the line 46-seconds ahead of home favourite Leonie Periault at the finale after a frenetic Enduro on the technical Toulouse city centre circuit.
Following plenty of success at last week’s series debut in London, Waugh’s win saw Michelle Dillon’s Sharks secure further points in the team rankings. But if Waugh’s sizeable margin of victory suggested otherwise, the race wasn’t without drama, with the winner of the series opener in London last week, Jeanne Lehair, who races for Luxembourg but lives in Toulouse, disqualified for not securing her bike helmet in transition.
Elsewhere, major pre-race contender Taylor Spivey of the USA dropped out injured during the race and Kiwi racer Nicole Van Der Kaay was wiped out after a crash involving her Scorpions teammate Alice Betto (Italy) on the bike leg.
“The crowds were incredible today and they were pushing me on every leg of the bike,” an elated Waugh said at the finish. “I really pushed it on the first two rounds of the bike leg, but I knew I just needed to stay on my bike on the final leg. I saw Jeanne’s helmet come undone in transition and I thought she’d get a penalty, but I didn’t expect a disqualification. I was gutted as I wanted to have a battle to the end, but I like to think that I’d have still got the win! Now I need to get my head down in training and try to do the same again in Malibu.”
Waugh, from Gateshead in the north of England, has been racing triathlon since the age of eight and has already racked up European, U23 and Mixed Relay world titles in her career. She finished fifth at the 2023 Championship Series debut in London and her victory here lays down a marker ahead of the next Series leg in Malibu, USA, on 30 September.
The men’s event was similarly dramatic, with the French star Bergere excelling on home soil ahead of Britain’s Jonny Brownlee and Henri Schoeman of South Africa, with controversy over Hayden Wilde’s transition mistake and a rejected appeal against the eventual result.
The French 27-year-old Bergere, who the 2023 World Champion, took control on the final stage of the Triple Mix, striding to victory over the storied Brownlee and Schoeman after nine gruelling triathlon disciplines in the heat of the French city.
Bergere’s win wasn’t without controversy, however, with Kiwi Hayden Wilde mistakenly attempting to ride an extra bike lap on the final stage while leading the race alongside the Frenchman. Wilde was handed a five second penalty for riding across the dismount line while Bergere was not penalised. An appeal was lodged and the Race Jury found that while there an officiating error there was no cause to disqualify Bergere.
“I made the right choices during the three stages today,” said Bergere at the finish. “I need to thank my manager Tim Don and my team for their help today. I’m sorry I didn’t have the battle we wanted with Hayden [Wilde] today, but it’s part of racing and I’m sure he’ll be good in the last two stages [of the Series].”
After second place behind fellow Brit/Shark Alex Yee at the 2023 series debut in London last week, veteran GB star Jonny Brownlee scored another silver to take the overall series lead ahead of Schoeman.
“Leo was too strong today and deserved the win,” said Brownlee at the finish. “It was a very technical course. Every time I went around a corner on the last couple of rounds there seemed to be another athlete in the barriers. So much is about staying on your bike, staying calm and getting around [the course] safely. Anyone can go around a corner too quick, but it was quite hard work today. I lost my front wheel on one of the corners and that spooked me a bit.”
The Yorkshireman scored further points for his Sharks team, with Bergere’s victory giving the Eagles a huge boost in the team standings. Multiple world champion triathlete Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway, meanwhile, would come home in seventh on his 2023 Championship Series debut.
The Eagles were locked with Bahrain Victorious Scorpions as leaders on the day in Toulouse. The Sharks still lead the way with the Scorpions up to second overall, the Eagles climbed a place to third while the RTS Warriors dropped to bottom of the Teams Leaderboard.
The Super League Triathlon Championship Series returns on 30 September in Malibu, USA, before the finale in NEOM, Saudi Arabia, on 21 October.