Transition issue costs triathletes shot at medal
Ryan Sissons shouldered the blame after what appeared a certain Commonwealth Games triathlon relay medal slipped from New Zealand's grasp.
New Zealand looked a huge chance of a podium spot but finished a disappointing fifth, after Sissons began the anchor leg with a 13sec buffer in second place, just 9sec behind the flying Alistair Brownlee. The individual champion cruised to the line for England's gold medal as they clocked 1hr 13min 24sec, for a 49sec margin over South Africa, who pipped Australia for bronze. Canada were fourth, and Sissons crossed 28sec off the bronze medal position.
"I'm pretty disappointed and I feel like I let the team down on that last leg. It's pretty average really," a grim-faced Sissons said as the heavens opened at Strathclyde Country Park.
After a gutsy, aggressive third leg from Nicky Samuels, a late call-up for Kate McIlroy, it all went wrong for the team in black.
Sissons found himself in "no man's land" on the 6km bike leg and eased up to link with South Africa's Richard Murray, Australia's Ryan Bailie and Canada's Andrew Yorke. In a curious period, they hardly pushed the pace and appeared to concede to Brownlee, setting up a duel for the minor medals on the 1600m run.
The bike-run transition provided another nightmare as Sissons dropped off the bunch and never recovered.
"It was either myself trying to catch Brownlee in a one-on-one [bike] which is not really going to happen, or save as much energy as possible for the run," Sissons said.
"I just backed myself to try and run better. I made a silly mistake coming into transition trying to get my shoes and that cost us a few seconds. I didn't really have the legs to keep up. In this sort of racing five or 10 seconds is all it needs."
The individual triathletes sizzled 48 hours earlier under the hot (for Glasgow) sun; this time thick cloud offered some welcome shade. The punters flocked from far and wide, into Motherwell town then down the hill flooding through the gates as they stood up to eight deep around the undulating, tree-lined route which included one killer climb.
It's an absorbing show and a frantic business, this mixed team event, and there's no room for slackers. It's roughly 20 minutes each at full throttle, or bust, over a 250m swim, 6km bike and 1600m run.
New Zealand fancied their chances as mixed team relay made its Games debut, after discovering they were quite good at this when finishing second at the world championships last year. There was some ruthless selection, too, with McIlroy dropped after a disappointing 12th in the individual. Samuels justified the change with a fine performance, while Andrea Hewitt and Tony Dodds did their bit to have New Zealand in contention.
Dodds handed to Samuels in clear second place and she maintained it through the swim with a handy 10sec buffer over Australia and South Africa.
Samuels put in a huge shift on the bike, made up a 13sec deficit on Jodie Stimpson and started the run with a narrow lead. She tagged to Sissons 9sec behind England, before it all went awry.
It meant New Zealand emerged medal-less from Strathclyde Country Park in what will rate as a hugely disappointing two days. They'd targeted two medals but Hewitt's fourth in the women's individual was the best effort.