By Paul Groves on 19/06/16 at 7:13 pm
This weekend, while other venues in Europe suffered from rain, the athletes, coaches, managers, technical officials, organisers, volunteers and spectators enjoyed beautiful sunshine and thrilling races.
A packed programme of racing allowed the Juniors and U23 to finish all their races on the Saturday and allow a short recovery until the super-sprint Mixed Team Relays that saw teams of juniors and U23 athletes battle for more medals.
The course was shortened as a result of the municipality being unable to ensure the road-closures for the entire day and with everyone racing on Saturday over the Sprint Distance it was ultimately a good decision as the temperatures crept higher and higher and as the chance of heat exposure became more and more a risk.
The Junior Men raced first. For them the sea conditions were almost perfect. A non-wetsuit swim in warm waters followed by a bike in the heat of the sun and a run in the cool surroundings of the Sea gardens that surround the Casino. If all races were the same it would be boring. This event stands out. It really does. After the swim the athletes climb 77 steps up to the long transition area, before setting off on the 3-lap bike course to finish with a two lap 5k run.
The athletes were lined up and then chose their position on the fixed platform on the beach. This year the LOC had upped the delivery and there was a solid numbered platform that allowed the athletes to launch themselves down the beach.
Hitting the water and with the turn buoys far away enough to prevent any real congestion, the lead was quickly established by Portugal’s Vasco Vilaça.
The swim over, he ran over the beach to start the long climb. Behind him on the beach was Nicolò Ragazzo and Matúš Verbovský.
These three had the smallest lead over the chasing athletes but the climb and the long transition soon pulled more athletes together and once out on the bike a lead group of ten formed.
As they completed the first lap there were shouts from within the pack urging each other to keep up the pace and shouts of encouragement from their coaches and team managers who lined the course.
The local spectators were being treated to a truly exciting race … but they had no idea what was going to happen later.
Tucked into the pack were some fast runners who must have surely been urging the pack to work harder so as to create a bigger gap on the chasing athletes. Ragazzo was joined by Diego Boraschi and Samuele Angelini and Italian hopes must have been raised. Medal chance for all three? Dutch hopes were raised too by the presence of Youri Keulen in the group. Duarte Brás was there for Portugal and for team-mate Vilaça.
With the second lap completed it was time for the pack to be tested and it was Norway’s Endre Espedal who attacked just after the dead turn. Keulen followed and the pack was broken up.
That final lap saw determined riding from the Junior Men and by the time they were entering T2, they had re-grouped. It was
Any mistakes now would be disaster as the twisting and turning run through the Sea Gardens would give the advantage to the stronger runner.
Vilaça and Keulen led out on the run. It did not take long for Vilaça to be joined by Brás at the front. Once there, the pace was increased and with Verbovský just behind them it looked as if the medals would be shared between Portugal and Slovakia. Behind them and looking as if he had missed the party was Boraschi.
As the lead bike emerged from the dark green shade of the Sea Gardens, a cheer went up from the Italian supporters. Boraschi had found another gear and suddenly, there he was, alongside Vilaça and they were running strode for stride towards the blue finish carpet.
What happened next brought everyone to their feet. Despite the PA system being turned up as loud as possible the cheering and shouting of the Italian and Portuguese fans as well as the Bulgarian spectators standing next to all the other fans and athletes made the finish deafening.
Boraschi pulled half a stride ahead of Vilaça and it looked as if he was going to get the best medal.
Boraschi thought he had done enough but misjudging his stride at just the wrong place took everyone back to the Spirig Nordén finish.
Vilaça had timed his run to perfection and after checking the timing chips, two video cameras, a set of still images and using the finish line officials as further witnesses, it was Vilaça who was proclaimed victor of this race.
Brás had done enough to hold the bronze and so it was, Portugal, Italy and Portugal on the podium.
To see the full Junior Men gallery, please click this link. You are invited to tag, share and use the photos.
The Junior Men had delivered a fantastic race. The crowds were delighted. The sun got hotter and hotter and the next race was for the U23 Women.
As the athletes sheltered from the sunshine under the Red Bull tent, it was for some a tense moment.
The music led them to the start platform. The heartbeat music added to the tension. Silence.
They were off!
Sophie Coldwell GBR and Anastasia Gorbunova RUS shared the run up to T1 with Hungary’s Zsanett Bragmayer close behind.
Transition went smoothly and as the first lap ended the women had caught up with each other and there was a lead group of 24.
They were racing 50 seconds ahead of the chase group of 14 but inside that group were some strong cyclists.
By the time that the second lap was over the lead group had grown by one and the chase group was smaller. The gap of 50 seconds had been bridged by GB athlete Zoe Thomas in a fantastic solo burst of pace.
Last lap to be finished, a clean transition and it was 24 athletes facing a 5k run. Would we see a repeat of the Junior Men’s race with a sprint for the finish?
Bragmayer led the peloton into T2.
Bragmayer led out onto the run but with Verena Steinhauser ITA on her heels and not too far back, Angelica Olmo ITA and Sophie Coldwell.
One lap down and the pace had increased. The 24 were down to just 4. Olmo was now leading, with Coldwell tucked in behind. Germany’s Delphine Halberstadt was just ahead of Ekaterina Matiukh RUS with her teammate Yuliya Golofeeva half a pace behind. It was looking as if this would be every bit as exciting as the first race of the morning. 2.5k would decide the medals amongst these 5 U23 women.
It came down to a final kick just about 200m from the finish and Olmo pulled away from Coldwell and Matiukh. She held her lead all the way to the line and, on the very same day as her birthday, celebrated in the best style ever by taking the ETU U23 title. Coldwell held on for silver but only just as Matiukh was bearing down on her in the final strides. Halberstadt had to settle for 4th but as this is her first international triathlon under the ETU / ITU flag and with the fastest run of the day, she gave a clear signal, “I’m here!” The Russian strength coming up through the ranks was very evident as Golofeeva and Gorbunova came home in 5th and 6th place.
Fantastic performances from the U23 women and the right to celebrate in style.
To see the full U23 Women gallery, please click this link. You are invited to tag, share and use the photos.
Next up will be the report for the Junior Women, U23 Men and the Mixed Relays.
|2.||Diego Luca Boraschi||ITA||01:00:49|
|7.||Vetle Bergsvik Thorn||NOR||01:01:50|
Find more details about this event - 2016 Burgas ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup