Ashleigh Gentle beats Lucy Charles-Barclay head-to-head and wins PTO T100 Singapore

Ashleigh Gentle wins PTO T100 Singapore (Picture: PTO)

For a long time it looked like Lucy Charles-Barclay would win the PTO T100 in Singapore, but in the closing stages she proved no match for the unleashed Ashleigh Gentle. The Australian athlete, who also won in Singapore last year, made up over five minutes of ground during the 18-kilometer run and triumphed impressively.

Immediately during the swim, in extremely warm water that had cooled down just in time for the full two kilometers to be completed, Lucy Charles-Barclay stepped up the pace as expected. Less expected was that the British athlete was unable to break away from two competitors in the process: Lucy Buckingham and Rebecca Clarke. Consequently, these three women stayed together for the entire swim leg, all the while seeing their lead over the other women grow larger and larger.

When Charles-Barclay, Buckingham and Clarke came out of the water in leading positions, the clock stated 26:03 minutes: indicative of the fast pace being swum. After the first three women out of the water it was Haley Chura and also Dutch Lotte Wilms who came out of the water in fourth and fifth, but they were 1:12 minutes behind at that point. Then following close behind were such favorites as Ashleigh Gentle, Imogen Simmonds, Jocelyn McCauley and India Lee. Ellie Salthouse, trailing by 2:02 minutes, completed the top ten out of the water.

Charles-Barclay and Buckingham in the lead together

Serious differences were immediately made in the first kilometers of cycling. Almost immediately it became apparent that Clarke could not keep up with Charles-Barclay and Buckingham, which meant that two leaders in the race remained. At the same time, Gentle went in pursuit and even though she only gained a few seconds back, she did ride away from all the women who were near her during the swim. From fourth position, the sights were on the women in front of her.

After less than 25 kilometers on the bike, the first dropout of the day was a fact, and it was not the least: Chelsea Sodaro had been trailing all day and dropped out. At that moment, by the way, it also became apparent that Gentle was not succeeding – at least not for the time being – in riding to the front after all: her gap to Charles-Barclay and Buckingham, who were constantly riding together, was actually increasing and had grown to two minutes.

After forty kilometers on the bike – halfway through, that is – the first assessment could be made: Charles-Barclay and Buckingham were dominant and saw their lead grow to almost 3:30 minutes on a group with Gentle, Simmonds, Lee and Byram. On the face of it, Buckingham was especially strong: she was relaxed and aero on the bike, while Charles-Barclay pulled a number of grimaces and was seemingly stumbling to survive the pace dictated by Buckingham.

Cramp for Buckingham, Visser moving up the field

With eighteen kilometers to go and right on one of the steep climbs on the bike course, disaster suddenly struck for Buckingham: cramp shot into her hamstrings and for a moment she came to an almost complete stop. Charles-Barclay passed immediately, but Buckingham, who quickly did some stretching, was able to recover and rejoin immediately, keeping the leading duo intact for the time being. By that point, their lead had grown to nearly five minutes over the four chasing women already, so both ladies were right on track for a strong finish.

A number of impressive things happened in the final kilometers: for example, Charles-Barclay managed to ride away from Buckingham by a few seconds – 12 to be exact – but even more so that the Dutch Els Visser not only hooked up with India Lee, Ashleigh Gentle, Lucy Byram and Imogen Simmonds, but immediately passed them as well. Consequently, the Dutch athlete entered the T2 in third place, which was even surprising as impressive. She did so at 5:03 minutes behind, while Gentle followed at 5:28 minutes, Byram at 5:45 minutes and Simmonds at 6:07 minutes. Lee was further away and saw Anne Reischmann, among others, pass her before starting the run.

Gentle runs like a rocket

During the run, Gentle – on paper the fastest runner in the field – immediately passed Visser again, so the Australian athlete took over third position in the race. Visser raced smartly and did not go along with Gentle’s pace: she stuck to her own pace and did not let herself get crazy. Meanwhile, at the front, the decision between the two fastest women of the moment had already been made: Charles-Barclay immediately ran away from Buckingham and saw her lead increase to a minute in the first few kilometers.

It was obvious that Gentle had the fastest pace of the women in front and after one of the three laps on the run course – that is, after six kilometers – her gap had already narrowed to 3:30 minutes and a few hundred meters later she passed Buckingham, taking over second place. The battle for gold was really on fire, because Charles-Barclay was still in the lead, but actually lost just too much time to consolidate her lead in the remaining twelve kilometers. Meanwhile, Visser bravely held on and the Dutchwoman was still in fourth place: she was running 5:51 minutes behind Charles-Barclay.  

On the second lap, Gentle ran faster and faster toward Charles-Barclay, eventually taking over the lead in the race when there were four kilometers left to run. That happened at about the same time when Visser, five minutes behind, passed Buckingham and thus took over third position in the race. These positions would not change again either.

Gentle won the race in 3:44:23, Charles-Barclay finished second in 3:45:58 and Visser finished third in 3:51:38.