Four of Canada’s top triathletes narrowly missed the podium in a thrilling Mixed Team Relay race at Nottingham, Great Britain on Saturday.
The Canadian squad consisting of Joanna Brown (Carp, Ont.), Mike Lori (Tecumseh, Ont.), Amelie Kretz, (Blainville, Que.), and Alexis Lepage (Gatineau, Que.) were in the medal mix with the top triathlon nations on the planet where they capitalized on a format change to a duathlon to post a stellar fourth-place time of 1:24:25.
“I am really proud of our team today,” said the 26-year-old Brown, who admitted to feeling a bit flat following last week’s World Triathlon Series race in Leeds. “I think we were all a bit frustrated with our individual legs, and have a few things that we each want to work on, but as a team, we had a really good outing. I really believe that we are capable of podium performances, and we keep edging our way forward as we learn more about the relay and team compositions.”
The mixed relay race formate was recently named an official medal discipline for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. An action-packed, spectator-friendly event – with teams of two women and two men – each completed a short-course duathlon on Saturday (1.5km run, 7km bike, 1.5km run) before tagging off to their teammate to take on the next leg.
Brown, who captured her first WTS bronze medal earlier this spring, led the Canadian foursome. Brown dug deep, slowly progressing throughout each of her three legs, moving from fifth place after her first 1.5-kilometre run into third spot through the bike and final run where she tagged off to the 27-year-old Mike Lori.
Running with the Germans and French team who were all chasing down the hosts from Great Britain, Lori held his spot in the first run portion. He was in a pack of four athletes chasing the top-two leaders on the bike and final run portion when he handed things off to Amelie Kretz.
“I was given a great lead out by Joanna which made a huge difference,” said Lori, who spends the majority of his time training in Australia and was toeing the line in his first World Triathlon Series event in three years.
“It was great to be back out there and produce a good result for the team. Our team cohesiveness on this trip was amazing, and I wanted to race even better for the whole team. The super sprint is a great format and super exciting.”
The 26-year-old Kretz was solid through all three disciplines in her leg while clawing the Canucks back into medal contention. Following two strong laps on the bike, Kretz led a group of five nations into the second transition onto the run.
“I had a good first run, and had to work really hard on the bike to connect with the top-three. I connected on the last lap of the bike, and then tried to recover and get ready for the second run,” said Kretz, who won a CAMTRI race in Sarasota in March. “My legs were fried on that second run, and I did my best to stay in contact with the top girls. I’m so proud of our team. This is our best result so far, and I think we can do even better, which is exciting.”
Kretz handed off to fellow World Cup medallist, Alexis Lepage, in fifth place. Starting his anchor leg 46 seconds behind the Brits, and eight seconds off the podium pace, the long-legged Quebecer put his head down and charged to the blue carpet.
Lepage, 25, moved the Canadians into fourth spot after his opening 1.5-kilometre run. Following his two laps on the bike, he charged out onto the run course one final time with the Germans and Italians, just 26 seconds behind the top-three countries.
Lepage, who will represent Canada at the Pan Am Games this summer, came up short in his battle for the podium, but won the three-way race for fourth.
“I’m quite happy with my leg. I was pretty strategic and didn’t want to go full gas to early. I had a solid kick at the end to beat the Italian and German so I’m very happy,” said Lepage. “I’m really happy with the performance of the entire team. It’s a great result for us, and everyone did so well.
The home country of Great Britain ran away from the field to set a golden time of 1:23:13. Switzerland finished in second place at 1:23:55, while France locked up the bronze at 1:24:03.
“The game changed today to a duathlon, and to our athletes’ credit, they took advantage of it and all did a great job,” said Eugene Liang, high-performance director, Triathlon Canada. “Each of these athletes were true pros and did their jobs well, and maximized their strengths.”
Complete Mixed Relay Results: https://www.triathlon.org/results/result/2019_itu_world_triathlon_mixed_relay_series_nottingham/336954