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A spectacular final leg by Jacob Birtwhistle propelled Australia to a come-from-behind victory in the elite mixed relay at the ITU World Triathlon Series Edmonton on Saturday.

Birtwhistle was part of a group that erased a 26-second lead for Great Britain’s Christopher Perham, who was swallowed up by the pack in the bicycle portion. The Australian then took off during the run, crossing the finish line in one hour, 19 minutes, 21 seconds – two seconds ahead of American Matthew McElroy.

“I was confident we were going to catch that Great British athlete, and it was able to come down to a running race, which is how I like it, so I was able to finish off well for the team,” Birtwhistle said after capturing gold teammates with Ashleigh Gentle, Aaron Royle and Natalie Van Coevorden.

New Zealand placed third, eight seconds back of the United States in an event scheduled to make its Olympic debut in 2020 in Tokyo.

Britain, which led for much of the first three legs, finished sixth. Host Canada settled for seventh.

Saturday’s triumph capped a terrific two days for Birtwhistle in Edmonton. Less than 24 hours earlier, the 23-year-old won bronze in the men’s elite race.

“I was looking to come here and race well, and thankfully I was able to do that and jump on the podium twice,” said Birtwhistle, who is third in the WTS elite men’s rankings. “After the individual (race), to get back up today with a win with the team is pretty cool.”

Joanna Brown of Carp, Ont., led off for Canada, followed by Victoria’s Matthew Sharpe. Cowichan, B.C., native Desirae Ridenour raced third before tagging to Tyler Mislawchuk of Oak Bluff, Man.

“We stayed in contact with the leaders, which is the game plan with this relay – you’re in until you’re not,” Mislawchuk said. “At the end it came down to a five-way sprint, so we just have to figure out a way to get ourselves into that five-way sprint.”

Jessica Learmonth of Great Britain and Taylor Spivey of the U.S., shot out of the gates, ahead of the pack by more than 10 seconds as they completed the first leg. Vincent Luis staked France ahead in the second leg, with Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee in hot pursuit as he tagged off to Georgia Taylor-Brown.

Almost immediately in the third leg, Taylor-Brown blew past France’s Mathilde Gauthier, at one point opening up a 25-second advantage. The lead grew even more at the outset of the final leg, setting the stage for Australia’s comeback. Belgium and France stayed in the mix for a podium position until dropping off to finish fourth and fifth, respectively.

With the result, Australia, strengthens its hold on top spot in the WTS mixed relay rankings. The foursome shuffled its lineup Saturday, moving Gentle into the lead position and having Van Coevorden race third.

“I’m really impressed by the way we came together today,” Gentle said. “We went in untraditional positions, that was a little bit different, but I enjoyed the challenge and I think (Van Coevorden) did too. So it was great to experiment with that, and we’re really pleased.”

Edmonton was getting its first look at the mixed relay.

Relay teams are comprised of two male and two female triathletes, each racing a “super-sprint” – a 300-metre swim, 6.6 kilometres on the bike, and 1 km run – before tagging off to a teammate. Female competitors start the race, then alternate each subsequent leg with their male teammates.

Next up on the WTS calendar is the ITU World Triathlon Montreal, Aug. 25-26. The season concludes with the Grand Final, Sept. 12-16, on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The WTS will return to Edmonton next summer, before the city hosts the Grand Final in 2020.

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