Findlay places 10th, Sharpe posts career-best World Cup finish in 13th
TISZAUJVAROS, Hun—Paula Findlay took a positive step forward in her continued comeback to elite racing form, while Matthew Sharpe had a career-best World Cup finish as both Canadians cracked the top-15 on Sunday in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary.
Edmonton’s Findlay, who qualified for today’s final after winning her semifinal heat Saturday, had a solid outing finishing in 10th spot in the women’s race with a time of 1:00:52. Victoria’s Sharpe, who was second in his semifinal heat, clocked in at 55:24 for 13th place in the men’s event.
The 20th edition of the world-renowned Tiszy World Cup boasts a unique format where athletes are divided into two semifinal heats held on Saturday. The top-14 athletes in each heat, followed by the next two fastest times, advance to Sunday’s final in a sprint race format that consists of a 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike and 5-kilometre run course.
Findlay used her strengths in the swim and bike to her advantage where she took control of the lead pack of seven throughout the technically challenging bike track.
“I had a great swim and came out with the top-six girls. I worked really hard on the bike and tried to get the group working together, but it was quite frustrating. The bike is definitely my strength right now, but I’m not quite confident enough to break away from the pack,” said Findlay. “It was fun to be in control, drive the pace and feel strong throughout the bike.”
Findlay was at the front of the pack until foot hit pavement out of second transition where she was not able to respond to the pace, but continued to fight for 10th spot.
“I know my run is not up to full speed. I’ve been training consistently but had quite a big setback with injuries last fall so I am still getting my speed back,” added the 27 year old. “I feel fit, but not fast. It will just take some more consistency, more running, and more racing! Overall I’m happy to take a positive step forward.”
While three American women stormed out of second transition, only Renee Tomlin held on for the podium after crossing the finish line first. Tomlin clocked a golden time of 1:00:02. Ukraine’s Yuliya Yelistratova had a stellar run to climb into the silver medal position with a time of 1:00:20, while Russia’s Elena Danilova finished third at 1:00:25.
Dominika Jamnicky, of Guelph, Ont., placed 19th, while Quebec’s Elisabeth Boutin was 26th and Emy Legault, of L’Ill Perrot, Que, was 28th at 1:03:35.
The lone Canadian in the men’s race, it was Matthew Sharpe rebounding from a difficult swim to finish in 13th.
“Subjectively it is the best World Cup race of my life. I let myself down in the swim, and had to work very hard to try and bridge to the front group on the first half of the bike before playing the tactical game on the second half,” said Sharpe.
Racing in his home-away-from-home as he’s been living and training in Budapest, the 24-year-old who has battled a string of injuries and setbacks over the last couple of years hung on to a Hungarian athlete’s shoulder for much of the run and fed off the boisterous crowd.
“I just pretended the crowd was cheering for me, which wasn’t far from the truth. My Homestay family was there – all 20 of them – so I felt huge support today. I felt relaxed and ready to race today coming off the semifinal. Of course there’s always something to work on, but overall I’m happy and looking forward to racing in Canada for the first time in three years.”
Russia’s Polyanskiy brothers grabbed the top-two spots on the podium. Dmitry Polanskiy set the time to beat at 54:00, while Igor was second at 54:06. Hungary’s Tamas Toth thrilled the hometown crowd with a bronze-medal performance, stopping the clock at 54:11.