Yelistratova and Castro win in Salinas in emotional sprint finishes
The third edition of the Salinas ITU Triathlon World Cup was the most dramatic and exciting to date after Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR) and David Castro Fajardo (ESP) both won their way to the top of the podium in down-to-the-wire sprint finishes on the blue carpet. With an emotional grab of the victory tape, both Yelistratova and Castro returned to the winner’s circle after years of not making it onto a World Cup podium, with Yelistratova seizing gold for the first time since 2015 and Castro not winning a World Cup race since winning in the debut Salinas event back in 2016.
Joining the steps of the women’s podium was Luisa Baptista (BRA) who finished second to finish on her second Salinas podium in a row after claiming the bronze in 2017. Then third place went to Barbara Riveros of Chile who returned to ITU racing just this season.
On the men’s side coming just moments behind Castro was Brazilian Manoel Messias who also podiumed in Salinas in 2017 and then the bronze went to Joao Pereira (POR) who had back-to-back bronze medal World Cup race weekends from earning third in Sarasota the weekend before.
The women’s race started early in the morning to begin the day of racing. Cooler temperatures welcomed a full start list of 64 women as they stormed into the ocean off the beach start. A short 750-metre swim was quick around the buoys but meant that the exit into the first transition was hectic.
USA’s Tamara Gorman and Spain’s Sara Perez Sala were the first out of the water and into the busy transition area. Once onto the bike, the mass pack from the swim grouped together to form a long train of riders taking on the four-lap 20-kilometre course.
While Perez, alongside Italian Alice Betto, were ahead in the front group, halfway through they both crashed out and had to pull out of the race.
The slight accident did not, however, change the momentum of the ride. The huge group continued with top contenders all in the mix, including Elizabeth Bravo (ECU), Riveros, Yelistratova, Baptista, Gorman and Jolanda Annen (SUI).
Entering the second transition together, the fight would come down to the run. Right out of the gate a group of women put on the pace to get out ahead of the large crowd behind them.
Riveros, Yelistratova, Baptista and Annen were step for step halfway through the 5km run. But once the bell ran, Yelistratova stepped up the speed and pushed ahead of the other women, dropping Annen and Riveros.
It was then Yelistratova and Baptista who were right on each other’s toes until the finishing chute. Yelistratova had just an ounce more of effort to sprint past Baptista on the line to grab the tape and collect her first World Cup win in over three years.
“I had good preparations this winter, but then I had some bad races in the middle of the season. Sometimes it was due to an illness or sometimes due to something else. Luckily I had a great second block of preparation, so I feel really fit now. I am really happy with my last two races. In Sarasota, of course, I did my best to podium, but it was just a half second not enough. The girls were really competitive, but I am very glad once again to be on top of the podium,” Yelistratova said of her comeback win.
Just moments behind came Baptista, who continued her Salinas good luck after earning the bronze in the race in 2017 and this year upgrading to a silver. While the bronze then went to Riveros, who also had a first-time World Cup podium since 2011 in her welcome back season to ITU racing after focusing on longer distances after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Immediately after the women, the men lined up on the Chipipe Beach of Salinas to begin the 10th sprint-distance World Cup race of the season.
With a full roster of 57 men, the local crowds were in for an exciting show watching them all dive into the ocean to begin the race.
The short swim saw no real advantages take place but making it out with a slight lead after the 750-metre course was Kiwi Tayler Reid, USA’s Austin Hindman and Ricardo Batista (POR) who made it into the first transition zone first. Trailing them was a long line of men, who would catch up and morph together to create a single file train that snaked through the bike course.
With no changes in the formation after the first half, it was on the second lap that a bike crash took down some men and slowed down others.
The incident did cause a break in the group and a smaller lead pack survived and pulled ahead. However, despite any efforts, the gap between the two group basically closed and when the 20 kilometres of racing was over, they had found themselves shoulder-to-shoulder entering the second transition.
At this point, the race was still anyone’s for the taking with all the power players still caught in the action. But a kilometre in the run, those with the quicker feet started to emerge.
A group of seven men broke away that included Castro, Messias, Pereira, Rostislav Pevtsov (AZE), Lasse Luhrs (GER), Morgan Pearson (USA) and Grant Sheldon (GBR). Then just seconds behind was a threesome, Crisanto Grajales (MEX), Gabor Faldum (HUN) and Valentin Wernz (GER) who were chasing them down.
The 10 men then started the bell lap together and only stirred the excitement, making it clear the winner was going to arrive from a sprint battle.
The prediction is exactly was the outcome was as a group of men stormed down the finish chute, ultimately with Castro seizing the victory tape. With an emotional cry of excitement, the win was especially special for the Spaniard after he had been on the waiting list for the Salinas event leading right up until the night before the race when he got officially onto the roster. It also brought his journey full circle after first winning in the debut Salinas event in 2016, which was his first World Cup win of his career.
Right at the line Messias beat out Pereira for the silver medal. Messias also gained his second Salinas medal, while Pereira resulted in the bronze, continuing his bronze medal streak after Sarasota last weekend.
In the second to last race of the season for the 2018 Asics World Triathlon Development Team, the 12-person team had strong finishes on the day. Finland’s Henrik Goesch and Brian Moya (COL) had top-20 finishes on the men’s side. While in the women’s race Diana Castillo (COL) had the best result on the team by finishing 20th.