TORONTO (CP)Simon Whitfield looked in world championship form Saturday as he bounded over the finish line to win the Pizza Hut Toronto Triathlon.
The Olympic gold medalist pulled away from Australian Chris McCormack in the final three kilometers of the run portion of the race to win his second World Cup event this year. Whitfield, 26, crossed the finish line in one hour, 50 minutes and 32 seconds, carrying a Canadian flag and taking big hopping steps to the cheers of the small and vocal crowd.
Saturday's 1.5-kilometer swim in a frigid Lake Ontario and 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run around Exhibition Place in cool and wet conditions was Whitfield's final race before the world triathlon championship in Edmonton July 21-22.
"I think I have another gear for worlds actually," said Whitfield.
McCormack finished 13 seconds behind Whitfield. Australian Miles Stewart was third in 1:50:53.
Siri Lindley of Boulder, Colo., won the women's race in two hours and four seconds. American Barb Lindquist was second in 2:02:15 and Australian Nicole Hackett was third in 2:02:41.
"Today was the best swim of my career," said Lindley. "For the first time in my career I went out in that front pack and I knew from there all I had to do was stay really strong and go out on the run and run my hardest and I knew I'd have a good shot."
Tereza Macel of Waterloo, Ont., was the top Canadian, finishing 12th in 2:06:14. Olympian Sharon Donnelly was in the lead pack on the bike portion, but crashed on the sixth lap when rain made the roads treacherous at Exhibition Place.
The men's race was delayed 45 minutes due to thunder and lightning. Donnelly had described Lake Ontario as "ice-cream headache" cold and the water temperature Saturday was 13.5 C.
Elite triathletes with nearly no body fat and a few competitors from both the women's and men's races were pulled from the water, succumbing to the cold even in a wetsuit.
Whitfield, who grew up in Kingston, Ont., and now makes his home in Victoria, worked his strengths throughout the race.
"I felt just fantastic," said Whitfield. "I felt rested and in the right head space. Even before the race when they were holding us back for half an hour because of the lightning, I was excited. I knew it was going to be a good one."
He stayed in contact with the leaders coming out of the water, had a quick transition to the bike and stayed in the lead pack throughout.
Whitfield and McCormack took off on the run together. Whitfield made his move with about three kilometers to go.
"I started worrying about being caught by the main pack on about lap three," said Whitfield. "Starting the last lap I started really pushing as we came through the crowd. I was able to open a small gap, found my rhythm quickly and kept going from there."
"Going down the backstretch I thought of myself as a drag racing car."
Mecel, 27, managed to avoid the crash that took down Donnelly. She came off the bike in fourth place before fading to 12th.
"I'm very happy because this is not really my kind of course," said Macel. "I find this very challenging so I was happy with my outcome."
She hopes that she will earn enough points from the race to join Donnelly and Carol Montgomery of Vancouver on the Canadian women's team for worlds.
"I'm kind of in that maybe-maybe-not category, but hopefully with this race I have enough points to go," she said.
Montgomery won the inaugural Toronto race last year, but skipped it this year to prepare for worlds.
For Donnelly, it was the Olympics all over again. She crashed in Sydney, but managed to finish there.
On Saturday, she felt killing herself to catch up and risking injury to a sore hamstring could hurt her performance in Edmonton.
"I'm going to be known as 'Can't she ride a bike?'" said Donnelly, who was the first woman onto the bike course. "It's hard because this is the first race I've quit.
"I didn't want to quit, but this is a racing and training decision."
Top Ten Finishers at Pizza Hut Toronto Triathlon
1. Simon Whitfield CAN 1 hour, 50 minutes, 32 seconds
2. Chris McCormack AUS 1:50:45
3. Miles Stewart AUS 1:50:53
4. Hamish Carter NZL 1:50:57
5. Peter Robertson AUS 1:51:07
6. Trent Chapman AUS 1:51:12
7. Mark Petzold GER 1:51:15
8. Andrew Johns GBR 1:51:18
8. Craig Watson NZL 1:51:18
10. Chris Hill AUS 1:51:34
1. Siri Lindley USA 2:00:04
2. Barbara Lindquist USA 2:02:15
3. Nicole Hackett AUS 2:02:41
4. Michellie Jones AUS 2:03:38
5. Loretta Harrop AUS 2:03:57
6. Laura Reback USA 2:04:06
7. Akiko Sekine JPN 2:04:13
8. Sheila Taormina USA 2:04:50
9. Jill Savege CAN 2:05:10
10. Melissa Ashton AUS 2:05:41