Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) became the most successful man in ITU World Championship history when he completed a drive for five world titles as the overall winner of the World Triathlon Series with a second-place finish at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Chicago.
"I think it is great. I can't understand it yet, I sometimes can't comprehend doing something like that in the last few years. It is just amazing," Gomez said on collecting his fifth title. "Today I felt good, I had a great race. I felt really good on the race, I just couldn't beat Mario--he was just too strong. But I am really pleased on getting the title and on the podium."
Compatriot Mario Mola gave Gomez a tough battle as the two went back and forth across the 10km run, with Mola kicking into overdrive the last 100 metres to take the win in Chicago and finish second overall in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings. Despite trailing the majority of the race, Richard Murray (RSA) pulled himself into third with an incredible performance while Vincent Luis (FRA) finished fifth in the race for an overall third-place ranking in the Rankings.
"I think I have just done one of the best races of my life," said Mola on his win. "The feeling is amazing. Just to be able to run with Javi at the end, I hope the people enjoyed that as much as we did. It was an unbelievable race."
It was Aquathlon World Champ Richard Varga (SVK) that got the day started when he grinded out a two-body length lead in the swim. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) and Aaron Royle (AUS) joined Varga as one of the first athletes out of the water, which gave them a fleeting lead over reigning champion Gomez, who was stuck in a chase pack 14 seconds back for the first lap.
But Gomez wouldn't let anything come in the way of his fifth world title, and he shut any chance of the leaders staying away by catching them and taking his turn pulling a nearly-30 man pack along by the second lap. All of the heavy pre-race favorites pedaled away in the front including Luis and Mola.
Murray didn't have as much luck catching the front end of the bike as quickly as Gomez, as he sat a minute back after the second of eight bike laps. While the front pack worked well together with several men taking turns dragging the large peloton along including Royle, Ben Kanute (USA), Sven Reiderer (SUI) and Joe Maloy (USA), they couldn't keep their advantage throughout the bike.
The hungry and bike savvy South African put his head down and set about dropping the hammer each lap to chip that gap down to 27 second with three laps to go and then managed to bridge up on the sixth turn around Buckingham Fountain.
Out onto the bell lap, Reinaldo Colucci (BRA) and Andrea Salvisberg (SUI) went off the front, along with Kanute and Maro Van Der Stel (NED) for a 35-second advantage.
As the four leaders headed out onto the run, the realization of the gigantic peloton that was only seconds behind them became real way too soon. While Kanute and Salvisberg was able to hold the pack off for a couple kilometres, the unstoppable Spainards of Gomez and Mola blew past as they made their way through the transition area.
The new commanders of the armada, the compatriots strode side by side, distancing themselves from the field. There was no denying that both would end up on the podium, it now just became a matter of who would end up on top.
In the final lap of the race, both Gomez and Mola took turns accelerating up the flank, trying to leave the other, but it was an effort that went unsuccessful as both were stuck in sync. Giving one last push, Mola finally pulled the trigger in the last 100 metres and was able to sneak away from Gomez and carry himself into the finish line first with the fastest-ever 10km run split of 28:59.
Following just four seconds behind was Gomez, who happily accepted the silver medal that still guaranteed his fifth World title.
In a battle for third place, a group of five that consisted of Murray, Luis, Royle, Fernando Alarza (ESP) and Crisanto Grajales (MEX), who came up the rear, pushed onward together until the final lap, all vying for that last spot that would determine important final positions in the overall Columbia Threadneedle Rankings.
Murray ultimately was the man who seized the opportunity and catapulted himself into the bronze position as they made their way around Buckingham Fountain and onto the blue carpet.