Photos by Jay Prasuhn
Both Richard Murray and Gwen Jorgensen knew nothing was safe. After two days of crazy racing, on (for them) unfamiliar TT bikes (versus their standard ITU road bikes), each had a head-start on Sunday’s grand final for the Island House International Triathlon
But hunted by non-drafting racing aces, the two knew defending their leads would be a tall order. Each would cede their lead on the bike… but both Murray and Jorgensen would storm back on the run Sunday to claim victory, Murray winning the with an overall three-day time of 3:35:35, with Jorgensen taking the title in 3:55:01. While it was a successful title defense for Jorgensen, the win put Murray on the top step after a second-place result here a year ago. “It’s the biggest paycheck of my career,” Murray said.
Sunday’s final was a race-in event, with only the top 10 men and women participating in the sprint race, with the race being moved from its base of Nassau for the first two days to the blue waters and blue skies of a tiny spit of pristine white sand beach called Highbourne Cay, with stingrays gliding under the swimmers and non-aggressive nurse, blacktip and reef sharks patrolling the perimeter of the swim venue.
In the finale, the race leaders after the first two stages—Murray and Jorgensen—would dive in on the start command, with their competitors starting in pursuit upon the expiration their cumulative time deficit.
Jorgensen dashed into the crystalline waters of Highbourne Cay as Great Britain’s Holly Lawrence champed the bit, awaiting the countdown clock to her two-day time deficit to hit zero before she could begin her pursuit of the American.
While the bike is generally her strength and would serve as her chance to upend the reigning Olympic triathlon gold medalist, the two days of racing had taken their toll on Lawrence. “Walking around this morning, I wondered how the hell I was gonna race again today,’ she said. Beyond that, her bike shifting was acting up, forcing her to back off the full-open-throttle pace during several key moments.
Behind her, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy was on a mission with the same goal; build a buffer on Jorgensen before the run. In third position, Duffy neutralized her start deficits, capturing and passing Lawrence—then Jorgensen. Lawrence, too passed Jorgensen. It wasn’t a terrible concern; the gap was held to 30 seconds. Jorgensen’s counter would begin on the run, where she began to stretch her legs, closing on the two quickly.
The American quickly dispatched with the reigning 70.3 World Champ, then set her sights on season-long rival Duffy.
The moment of truth came in the last mile of the 5k run; Jorgensen and Duffy dashed down the hill to a short beach section, shoulder to shoulder. “Flora’s an XTERRA champion, so she’s awesome on sand. I was like ‘I gotta get with her before the sand section!”
Off the sand, up the sharp rise to the road and back on tarmac, Jorgensen was able to get back into her long stride, close the slight gap Duffy had opened… then counter-attacked Duffy. With just 500 meters of straight, fast racing left, it was done; Jorgensen strode down the final grade across the finish line to defend her Island House title of a year ago.
“We got back to the road, it dipped down and she just… went. Mentally, and I wanted to go, I was ready to go, but my legs were like ‘no, no. you’re gonna just stay there, Flora,’” Duffy said.
Duffy took the stage win on cumulative time, and finished second overall, bettering her third-place finish of a year ago. And while she faded to finish fifth on the day, Lawrence’s time was plenty to retain her third place overall position.
Murray and American Cameron Dye knew the game: Dye would hammer himself to catch up with the South African on the swim and bike, and hope to build a buffer onto the run.
Dye did just as he was expected; he chewed 7 seconds into Murray’s race start lead, then continued the mission, passing Murray midway through the bike. It was no surprise his only chance to beat Murray was to have a buffer headed onto the run.
“If you’re a one-trick pony, you do that one trick,” Dye said. “Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes it’s not.”
Murray knew this was the race; should he let the American go, his race would go up the road with it.
“He went hard,” Murray said. I thought I could close 20 or 30 seconds, but I didn’t think he would put 30 seconds on me.”
Dye entered T2 with the lead, but with an ITU World Cup star on his six, it was tenuous at best. “I knew I was in trouble when I was headed uphill out of transition and he was already almost to the carpet. That ITU speed, man! Those guys drop a 2:30 K to start the whole thing, then they just hold on!
By the 2k mark of the 5k run, Murray had captured and passed Dye on the rolling run course., coming off the beach section just as Dye was headed to the beach turnaround. With enough of a buffer in the last kilometer, Murray glanced back, jogged over to his bike and gave it a kiss before continuing on under the finish gantry. “Lisa (Norden) did that last year and I thought, I gotta do that!” Murray said with a laugh.
The win made amends for a rough season; he broke his collarbone in the spring and simply was the odd man out at most races this year. “I had all these fourth-place finishes; fourth in Rio, fourth in the Grand final. It’s my first win since the New Plymouth World Cup in early April. So yeah… I’m pretty happy.”
Dye kept the gas on to earn the stage win on actual time, and comfortably take second overall. “I knew I was in trouble Richard’s just too good an athlete. I’m two spots up from last year, so I’m still super happy.”
Aaron Royle was able to recover from a rough enduro Saturday to take third on the day, vaulting her (by just six seconds) into third overall over Terenzo Bozzone.
Check in tomorrow for our post-race final gallery from Highbourne Cay.
Island House International Triathlon
Day 3 Pursuit Sprint
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
- Flora Duffy (BER) 57:29
- Gwen Jorgensen (USA) 58:06
- Rachel Klamer (NED) 58:10
- Sarah True (USA) 58:29
- Holly Lawrence (GBR) 58:38
- Gwen Jorgensen (USA) 3:55:01
- Flora Duffy (BER) 3:55:19
- Holly Lawrence (GBR) 3:56:17
- Sarah True (USA) 3:58:51
- Rachel Klamer (NED) 3:59:01
- Ellie Salthouse (AUS) 3:59:09
- Helle Fredericksen (DEN) 4:00:00
- Lauren Goss (USA) 4:01:33
- Katie Zaferes (USA) 4:02:16
- Emma Moffatt (AUS) 4:02:52
- Cameron Dye (USA) 52:05
- Richard Murray (RSA) 52:40
- Aaron Royle (AUS) 53:09
- Leon Griffin (AUS) 53:11
- Eric Lagerstrom (USA) 53:13
- Richard Murray (RSA) 3:35:35
- Cameron Dye (USA) 3:36:04
- Aaron Royle (AUS) 3:38:13
- Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 3:38:19
- Eric Lagerstrom (USA) 3:38:35
- Leon Griffin (AUS) 3:38:55
- Brent McMahon (CAN) 3:39:01
- Joe Maloy (USA) 3:39:19
- Sebastian Kienle (GER) 3:39:46
- Lionel Sanders (CAN) 3:41:19