Dorian Coninx says his laissez-faire attitude towards MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda proved to be the perfect approach as he claimed a maiden series victory.
The Frenchman entered the race bereft of confidence after a disappointing 37th-place finish in the season opener in Abu Dhabi last month and admits he had zero expectations for Bermuda.
Coninx, by his own admission, has often raced against the weight of his own expectations and believes that removing his self-imposed shackles enabled him to produce the best performance of his career.
He now intends to recreate the same pressure-free environment for the remaining six races of the series.
“It’s funny, but I think it’s the first time since I started racing in the world series that I didn’t have any expectations,” Coninx said.
“I was feeling so disappointed since the beginning of the season. I was like ‘I don’t care’. My worst fault is putting too much pressure on myself.
“I’m going to race more like this from now on. I’m going to try for more wins, but mostly I’ll be looking to race for pleasure.”
The 25-year-old won in a time of 1hr 50min 35sec, two seconds ahead of Javier Gómez Noya, of Spain, whose extra experience told as he claimed silver after beating Gustav Iden, of Norway, in a sprint finish.
Coninx was in the lead group out of the water and attempted an ambitious breakaway during the bike before being reeled back into a pack of more than 30 riders.
It was during the run where the former junior world champion really showed his mettle in a lead pack of Gómez, Iden, Vincent Luis and Kristian Blummenfelt.
“During the bike I was thinking, ‘OK, keep some energy for the run. I was not very confident with my running, but I started at my own pace and that strategy worked today,” he said.
“I didn’t feel any pressure because I was the outsider. I was feeling happy to be in a group with Vincent, Gómez, Kristian, many guys who already have lots of WTS podiums and wins.
“At the last turning point I was feeling pretty good and knew I had a good finish. I was thinking, ‘OK, at the top of the hill [Burnaby Street], I will give it everything I’ve got.”
Several of the race favourites found themselves trailing by some distance after the swim, with Mario Mola, the defending world champion, starting the bike 1:09 behind the lead group of Luis, of France, South Africa’s Henri Schoeman and Gómez.
By the midway point of the bike, the second and third groups had teamed up and were gaining ground on the leaders, largely thanks to the heavy lifting of Norwegian Blummenfelt.
It was Jonas Schomburg, of Germany, who led after the second transition, although his slender advantage was quickly swallowed up by the chase group of Coninx, Luis, Gómez, Iden and Blummenfelt.
Luis and Blummenfelt dropped out of the group with about 3km to go, leaving the remaining trio to battle it out before Coninx finally broke clear 300 metres from the finish.
For Gómez, it was almost a fairytale return to shorter-distance racing in his first WTS outing since returning from Ironman.
The five-times world champion, who is attempting to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year, had to come from behind at the tape to beat Iden in an thrilling finish for second.
“When I made my move on the last lap, I didn’t look back,” the 36-year-old said. “I decided to give it everything and to see what happens. I wasn’t sure what was happening behind me.
“Dorian and Gustav went past me, but I had enough extra energy in the last 100 metres to beat Gustav.
“With the finish line so close, I just breathed and closed my eyes. It was the best I could do today and I’m really happy with my second place.”
The 36-year-old admits it has not been easy transitioning from Ironman to the shorter distances, having not raced in WTS since the Grand Final Rotterdam in 2017.
“It’s been quite complicated coming back to this level of racing,” Gómez said.
“It’s not easy at all. I was running really long miles last year and was doubting if I had the speed.
“But I’ve been feeling good in training and my times have been there on the track and in the pool.
“I’ve been running as fast as I was six, seven years ago, and I knew the fitness was there and I wanted to prove it in the race.”
Bermuda is proving to be a happy hunting ground for Iden. The 22-year-old has made two visits to the podium in his WTS career and both feats have taken place on the “mystical” island.
“Bermuda is a good place for me,” he said. “I always look for the win but third is the best I’ve done in a World Triathlon Series.
“I expected a podium because I have been in quite good shape lately; even better than last year.”
Luis leads the series after two races on 1,523 points, with Spain’s Fernando Alarza second on 1,392 and another Frenchman, Leo Bergere, third on 1,287.
• To view the results, click on the PDF links under Related Media