By Paul Groves on 05/07/16 at 2:01 pm
What a great weekend we have had. With athletes racing in challenging conditions in Holten at the 32nd edition of this hugely popular event and with the ETU Youth Festival taking place in Tiszaújváros we have laid the solid foundations for new generations of athletes.
First up though, we take a look at what happened in the Netherlands. This time last year a heat wave had hit that part of Europe and the Dutch authorities had banned all sporting events and required the organisers to reduce the distances from Standard to Sprint.
A year on and the summer has not quite delivered in the northern countries of Europe. With rain showers from about 10:00 in the morning until late and with gusting winds it would be a completely different race from 2015.
The town once again gave 100% to make sure this was the best triathlon event in the Netherlands. ETU Executive Board Member, Eugène Kraus, was present and summed it up, "Holten heeft het beste vrijwilligerskorps van heel Europa". (Holten has the best volunteer team in Europe). His comments were echoed by the numerous athletes as they finished their race, speaking enthusiastically about the volunteers who, despite with wind, rain and sunshine, remained at their posts, dedicated to making their event a success.
Not only the Juniors and Elites were racing; the LOC had thrown open the door for a huge number of athletes, old and new, fast and not so fast, experienced and new to the sport.
Dutch TV star Beau van Erven Dorens took the challenge and despite hitting the rain on his way to the race, was nevertheless singingly positive. After the race he said, "Ik heb zoveel respect voor alle deelnemers, wat vond ik het taai. Ik heb een paar marathons gedaan, maar dit was veel zwaarder. Respect ook voor alle toeschouwers die ondanks de regen langs de kant blijven staan, fantastisch!" (I have so much respect for all particpants. It was tough. I’ve done a few marathons but this was much harder. Big respect for all the spectators who stayed out along the course despite the weather. Fantastic!)
Everyone was welcome and right down to the very last finished, escorted across the line by the LOC.
For those who came to Holten for a personal challenge, they were able to race on a top-quality course, managed by a top-quality LOC and with a strong team of ETU Technical Officials there to ensure the race was safe and fair for all.
However, at the sharp end, it was determined and focussed racing for the Junior and Elite athletes from all over Europe who attended. For spectators, officials, volunteers and of course for the athletes the mix of rain, hail, thunder and lightning was a real challenge. For the media in attendance it meant that some parts of the race could not be covered and so we will use whatever good images we have to show you the race.
ETU would like to thank Christie Brouwer and Inge Huitema and of course, Triathlon Holten for the use of these images.
The weather looked threatening as the Junior Women lined up. Their start preceded the Junior Men by 25 minutes, so that they would have a pretty clear swim and bike and only probably meet up on the run course.
The swim was not even half way finished before the heavens opened and heavy rain added to the high pressure that raced through the region. Luckily the lightning held off until all were out of the water.
It was GB’s Olivia Mathias who led them out of the water into the equally wet run to T1. Her 11th place last year, during the heat wave, at least prepared her for the Holterberg. She led out half the British contingent and behind them came a steady stream of athletes including France’s Jessica Fullager who was joined by the leading Dutch athlete, Rani Škrabanja.
The heavens then opened and this would mean that out on the bike it would be critical not to make any errors.
Škrabanja made sure she was in a safe position on the bike.
Tucked in behind her and taking on a gel, was swim leader Mathias.
The rain was lighter now but still slowing down the athletes and making them approach the corners with much more caution than usual.
The leading group headed to T2, with Mathias having made a gap of a couple of metres to allow her a clean ride into transition. Škrabanja was still in contention and the local crowds cheered her on in the hope of a medal. With Mathias came Sian Rainsley and Kate Waugh. Waugh’s bronze here last year and her recent silver in the World Duathlon Championships in Aviles, suggested that she had the pace to go for silver or gold. It looked like it would be a GB clean-sweep on the podium unless Škrabanja could really kick on the run.
Mathias was on her own at the front and behind, the two Brits had only the company of Fullager but behind them and with incredible pace another British athlete, Bronwen Owen was carving through the field and overtaking anyone in sight. With the fastest run in Quarteira this year, the fastest run in Kitzbühel this year she was now setting the run alight.
First Waugh, then Fullager, then Rainsley. Could she catch Mathias?
It was Mathias who held the lead and took gold but with just 2 seconds to spare as Owen came screaming down the blue carpet to take silver. Rainsley got the well-deserved bronze and then, behind her came Waugh.
Team GB looks like there is strength and depth in the U23 and Junior ranks as well as in its Elite. In fact, in the top ten, GB had six athletes. The home nation saw Škrabanja finish in 6th, just behind Fullager. Her 6th equals her place in Quarteira at the start of the season.
So, with the rain pouring down on the Junior Women, it was a curious twist of fate that saw the Junior men race in blazing sunshine …. But not for long.
The swim start saw a massive number of athletes. It was going to be exciting.
Canada’s Oliver Blecher led them out of the water. His speed from horizontal to upright, running and ripping off the wetsuit was stunning. He opened up a comfortable lead into T1, with James Edgar IRL and Tuur Lemmens BEL following him and behind them the stronger medal contenders.
The bike was wet. Very wet. Jack Willis GBR rode well and was in contention for the podium.
Casper Stornes NOR had work to do if he was to catch the leading trio of Blecher, Willis and Sam Dickinson. He has pace, but was he close enough to the front to achieve anything?
It suddenly looked like a replay of the run from the Junior Women with Stornes rushing past athletes as he got closer and closer to the leaders.
Ultimately it was Dickinson who had the pace and who, after the swim, had pushed the bike hard and who had left the Canadian behind on the latter stages of the run.
Stornes did enough to pass Willis but Blecher remained just too far ahead for him to threaten for silver and so it was GB first, Canada second and Norway third.
Medals were won in tough conditions and it was time for the Juniors to celebrate. For the Elite we use champagne but what does Holten use for the Juniors?
For the junior athletes ETU has a ranking series that recognises the performance of a national federation but thanks to the ITU Statisticians we can see how the individual athletes are performing.
Continental Rankings Europe | Junior Men
Continental Rankings Europe | Junior Women
Check here for the ETU Rankings
Find more details about this event - 2016 Holten ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup