All three showed their class as they stormed ahead on the course in Haines City, central Florida. Belgian Aernouts finished in 3:47:42, a full 38 seconds ahead of second-placed Hanson (3:48:20), who once again recorded the fastest run split.
And in a sign of the trio’s utter domination, even Dreitz’s bronze-medal time of 3:49:04 was more than two minutes quicker than Canadian Jackson Laundry, who claimed fourth spot.
Aernouts said: “It was my first time racing two half-triathlons back-to-back, so I didn’t feel great in the days leading up to the race. But in general I felt pretty relaxed and hungry to race again."
“From the first few meters on the bike, I felt powerful and strong and just focused on my own pace. Around halfway I started to get into the race and made up quite a few positions. I finished strong on the bike and entered the transition in third place.”
That set up a tense finish with Hanson, who was in hot pursuit over the 21.1km run after falling behind during the 90km ride. “I finished strong and left a little bit of energy in the tank to get ready for a sprint, just in case Matt caught me in the final kilometer!” said Aernouts.
He added: “Winning a race in these difficult times felt very, very good. It was also a big relief. After a tough year personally, and difficult times for many of us in general, it was also a reward for not giving up on my job and passion. Not being able to share the victory with many people was a little sad, but I feel very blessed and lucky to be able to race again.”