A little hindsight has proved a beautiful, confidence-boosting thing for Ainsley Thorpe after the Kiwi Olympian finished a season-best sixth at World Cup Tongyeong on Saturday.
Reflecting on her first Olympic-distance race at World Cup level, the 24-year-old Cambridge-based Aucklander feels she left just a little in the tank on the run in the southern South Korean port city.
That, a rare injury and incident-free build-up and an otherwise nicely executed race has Thorpe now swaying towards taking a step back up to the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) season decider in Abu Dhabi next month.
The race in the UAE capital is also over the Olympic distance with the potential of even more ranking points as Thorpe’s focus begins to zero in on the Paris Olympic Games test event next August.
“I’m proud of how I raced today in perfect race conditions. The consistent training and hard work paid off,” Thorpe told Triathlon.kiwi after Audrey Merle (1:57:08) sealed her maiden World Cup win and led a French one-three with Mathide Gautier (1:57:38) taking bronze behind Germany’s Annika Koch (1:57:31).
Thorpe (1:58:22) was sixth out of the water after a 19.25 split for the 1500m and then nestled in a race-winning breakaway of 10 on the bike. With a 15 percent gradient climb to be negotiated six times, the leaders eventually put 70s on the chasing peloton over the 40km with Thorpe’s provisional split 1:01:22.
Gautier and Merle made an early break on the run before Merle put in surge in the second lap of four to streak away with the race halfway through the 10km. Her power up a steep hill and quick descents proved too much for Gautier who was also eventually outkicked by Koch.
Not too far behind, Thorpe ran in the company of Olivia Mathias and Simon Ackerman before stretching away to finish sixth with a provisional 36.30 for the 10,000m. Only Sandra Dodet (FRA) and Mexican Rosa Maria Tapia Vidal separated the Kiwi from the podium placers.
After crashing out of the Tokyo Olympics and missing the Birmingham Commonwealth Games with COVID-19, Saturday’s race was a confidence boost for Thorpe. While she won a Oceania Cup race in Taupo in April after making the podium in Mt Maunganui, this was her standout result offshore. She had previously placed 14th and 12th at World Cup’s in Bergen and Valencia after earlier WTCS placings of 51st, 19th and 40th in Leeds, Montreal and Hamburg respectively.
“The swim felt very controlled, just stayed on feet near the front and it was great to be in a small break away on the bike from the swim,” Thorpe said.
“The run was definitely the toughest. I went out relaxed and finished strong which was the plan as it was very windy and a steep up and downhill section per lap.
“I think I could’ve backed myself a little more on the run but otherwise it was a solid race and definitely worth the trip. Abu Dhabi might be on the cards now.”
American favourite Matthew McElroy won the men’s race in 1:44:49 with Hungarian Gabor Faldum (1:45:09) and Brit Samuel Dickinson (1:45:16) filling the podium. It was the Californian world No.17s fifth World Triathlon victory, his second in Tongyeong (after victory there in 2019) and means he’s finished third, second and first in the past three World Cup races.