By Paul Groves on 28/06/16 at 12:29 pm
Yes, Sprint Triathlon Championships for the Elite. Until now we have seen the Age Groups battle for medals but 2016 saw the first ever Elite Championships. A great distance for the media and a full out, 100% blast for the athletes. In the build-up for Rio the Fédération Française hosted a great event in Central France.
The weekend was a busy one with the Aquathlon Championships taking place the day before and allowing those who wanted to a pre-Sprint Championships warm-up race. For the women Russia’s Valentina Zapatrina had shown supreme swim and run pace to take gold the day before and she would clearly be one to watch in the first leg of the race but she would be up against Great Britain’s deadly duo. Jessica Learmonth and Lucy Hall have again and again shown that they can swim hard and then, given the chance, can ride away from the rest of the athletes. Whilst their run pace can be beaten, the combination of swim / bike is one that is rarely matched.
Many years ago in the UK there were advertisements encouraging us to use the trains. With the catch-phrase, “Let the train take the strain” in mind Learmonth and Hall set off from Britain’s spiritual home of triathlon, Leeds but after only a short while it went horribly wrong. “Kicked off the train at Sheffield, major kerfuffle with the bikes”, wrote Hall.
Their arrival in Châteauroux did not go as planned but perhaps some of the pent-up frustration was channelled into the swim as they dominated it and led out of the water with only Maya Kingma NLD able to keep them in sight but that lasted only a very short time.
Out onto the bike and they quickly set about building the advantage and gave us a repeat performance of their Masterclass.
Behind them came the pack but back at the front the two Brits were stretching the lead.
Through T2 and out on to the run.
Would it be Hall or would it be Learmonth?
Behind them it was a scramble for bronze and the pace of Cassandre Beaugrand was at least giving the French supporters something to cheer about.
Destined for Rio and having a great race was Estonia’s Kaidi Kivioja. Beaugrand had the greater pace on the run but with Audrey Merle’s fast pace it suddenly looked as if France was going to have a fight for the bronze between its two young athletes.
Coming onto the blue carpet and the two Brits were shoulder to shoulder, pace for pace.
Hall just edged in front of Learmonth to take gold and with the fastest run of the day it was bronze to Beaugrand. A great 4th for Kivioja kept her just ahead of Merle.
Winning a race is one thing; winning the first ever title is forever!
For the men, who would get that “forever feeling”? Competition would be just as intense.
The beautiful location for the lake had its peace shattered by the men’s start.
The swim was led out by Vincent Luis to the delight of the cheering French crowds.
With the women’s race delivering only one medal to the host nation there were strong hopes that the men could produce more medals. The men’s race did not have the powerhouse of Learmonth and Hall and so with Luis leading out onto the bike and being followed by Anthony Pujades and Aurélien Raphaël, there was every chance that the podium would see one, or possibly two French uniforms. With them came the younger Polyanskiy RUS.
Igor had the edge on his older brother and soon found himself tucked in the lead group of four, working hard to keep away from the chasing peloton. The crowds were out in force.
Châteauroux had welcomed triathlon and the support around the entire course was superb and they were treated to yet again an immensely exciting race with the peloton trying so hard to catch up.
Catch up they did indeed and when they came into T2 any advantage that Luis and his three teammates had built was lost. It was critical now. No mistakes, no obstructions and only 5k. It would be the fastest runner of the day who would take the first ever title. Ireland’s Russell White rode carefully and entered T2 leading the massive pack.
His ultra-quick transition saw him lead out Luxembourg’s Bob Haller.
On and on he raced but soon the chasing athletes caught him. White dropped back.
As the cheers mounted and as it became more certain that Luis had done enough to hold onto gold, it was Ukraine’s Oleksiy Syutkin who surged and was making up places.
Pevtsov held for silver with GB’s Sheldon taking the last medal. Syutkin’s pace split the chasing French and he comes away with a 4th place and a clear indication that he is back and that he is in form.
So, the inaugural Elite Sprint Championships have arrived on the calendar and we all think it looks great. Châteauroux has delivered and the Fédération Française can be truly proud with their event. It really was a case of “wish we were there!” Watch out for the races in Châteauroux next year.
After the race, ETU President Mr Renato Bertrandi said, “This inaugural Elite Sprint Championships was a great success. It was combined with the Aquathlon Championships that brought a huge number of athletes, both elite and age-group, to the city and this created a wonderful atmosphere. The level of racing was impressive, the course was well-designed and the city welcomed us. It was a long drive from Italy but without a doubt, it was worth it. Thank you Châteauroux!”
Great photos from Jaadhes Bonnard – please check out her galleries on Facebook
Also, once again very big thanks to the team at TRIMES. Check out their page for reports on triathlon from all over the world.
Find more details about this event - 2016 Châteauroux ETU Sprint Triathlon European Championships