Chris Dornan

(ISN) – AUCKLAND, NZL—Canada’s Sarah-Anne Brault took on one of the toughest triathlon tracks in the world, not to mention a star-studded field, where she ran to ninth spot on Sunday in Auckland, New Zealand.

On a course rumoured to simulate the 2016 Rio Olympic track, Brault battled through the continuous short hills and fast descents on the 43.2 kilometre bike after a solid 1,500-metre ocean swim. With the field of 52 women quickly spreading out on the 10-kilometre relatively flat run, the 25-year-old from Quebec City held on for ninth place with a time of two hours, 12 minutes, 35 seconds (2:12:35).

“I love New Zealand. The Kiwis are tough people who put on honest, tough races which suits me,” said Brault, who had a career-best fourth-place result on the same course one year ago.

“My result last year did go through my head in the lead up, but every race is a different race. I’m a different athlete now and there are different players in the game. I tried to stay focused today, and give the performance I was capable of doing.”

With rain moving through Auckland in advance of the race, warm and sunny conditions broke as the world’s best took the start line. Brault was a part of a pack of 21 women who formed together after the third lap of the bike. The Canuck tactfully worked her way through the race as the lead group dwindled to nine before wheeling into second transition.

“They say that Auckland gets four seasons in one day so our bike mechanic extraordinaire, Dave, was on site and ready to swap wheels at the last minute,” added Brault. “We had a good strategy for the rain in terms of equipment.”

American Gwen Jorgesen definitely had a perfect race strategy en route to claiming her 10th-career World Triathlon Series title, and first in New Zealand. Darting from the pack on the run, Jorgensen clocked a winning time of 2:09:04.

Fellow-American, Katie Laferes was second at 2:10:42, while Andrea Hewitt overcame a 15 second penalty to grab the final spot on the podium with a time of 2:10:58.

“I can only control my own performance, but those Americans are impressive and they keep coming with more,” said Brault. “They bring the level of the game up, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of people running faster as we get closer to the Olympics.”

Edmonton’s Paula Findlay was the only other Canadian to finish the race. Findlay was in the mix mid-way through the bike before falling off the lead place into 30th place with a time of 2:16:17. Victoria’s Kirsten Sweetland, and Amelie Kretz, of Blainville, Que., did not finish.

A trio of Canadian men hit the start line following the women’s race in Auckland.

Andrew Yorke, of Caledon, Ont., was the top Canuck in 19th spot with a time of 1:59:10.

“I was pretty happy with my performance here today, and I’m moving in the right direction,” said Yorke. “My swim has greatly improved. Every year I feel like the bike is going to get a bit easier on this course, and every year I’m wrong. The guys just roll it on this incredibly challenging course.”

Jonathan Brownlee, of Great Britain, won for the first time in Auckland with a time of 1:55:26. Spain’s Javier Gomez, who won the last three years, posted a silver-medal time of 1:55:41. Pierre Le Corre, of France, rounded out the men’s podium in third at 1:55:52.

Ontario boys, Kyle Jones and Michael Lori, did not finish the race. Jones, of Oakville, was caught up in bike crash after Ron Darmon or Israel went down while reaching for his water bottle.

The World Triathlon Series will now travel to Australia’s Gold Coast, April 11-12.

Top-Five Women’s Results:
1. Gwen Jorgensen, USA, 2:09:04; 2. Katie Laferes, USA, 2:10:42; 3. Andrea Hewitt, NZL, 2:10:58; 4. Vendula Frintova, CZE, 2:11:23; 5. Lisa Perterer, AUT, 2:11:40
Canadian Results:
9. Sarah-Anne Brault, Quebec City, 2:12:35; 30. Paula Findlay, Edmonton, 2:16:17; DNF. Kirsten Sweetland, Victoria; DNF. Amelie Kretz, Blainville, Que.

Top-Five Men’s Results:
1. Jonathan Brownlee, GBR, 1:55:26; 2. Javier Gomez, ESP, 1:55:41; 3. Pierre Le Corre, FRA, 1:55:52; 4. Fernando Allarza, ESP, 1:56:48; 5. Ryan Baillie, AUS, 1:56:53
Canadian Results:
19. Andrew Yorke, Caledon, Ont., 1:59:10; DNF. Kyle Jones, Oakville, Ont.; DNF. Michael Lori, Tecumseh, Ont.