By Paul Groves on 03/05/17 at 4:48 pm
The Sprint Racing having finished it was time for those athletes who had been waiting to finally get their race over the standard distance. Reports from the venue suggest that it was a day where multiple layers were needed, gloves and for some, hats as well. Our thanks go once more to Carlos Asensi Catalán for the event and podium photos.
The Sprint Race had seen Team GB sweep up with the medals, with the only real opposition coming from the host nation. Quite why so many German athletes were absent from the results might be explained by their reluctance to travel (we saw a big turn out when Kalkar was raced last year) or by the awkward timing of holding their own National Duathlon Championships the same weekend. However such an argument falls apart when you take into consideration the fact that the average British athlete took leave from their work, booked their tickets to fly, made their arrangements to take the ferry and drive. Not a lot of “Vorsprung” this weekend then.
Would the Brits do it again? Could Spain keep them at bay? Well the first category, 18-19, saw Britain’s Emily Burton needing only to finish to claim gold. This is exactly what the Worcester-based athlete did. You can only race against who turns up and in this case, the Spanish Federation missed out by not even fielding an athlete to race against Burton.
For the men, it was also a solo affair with Great Britain fielding the only athlete in the category. Ryan Figgett made the podium in Châteauroux last year in the Aquathlon but this was a better test of his ability. A delighted Figgett said, about becoming Age group Champion, “some of the worst winds I've ever experienced with deep wheels and a TT bike and also nice and wet.”
It was Laia Martín who collected the first Spanish medal at the Awards Ceremony after beating British athlete, Emma Beckwith in the 20-24 category. It was Martín’s greater power on the bike that sealed victory for the host nation.
The gold rush continued with a clean sweep for Spain amongst the Men. The pace also picked up significantly with Aviles bronze medal-winner Javier Cendán Llorens taking gold and improving on his Alcobendas silver. His biking out-performed silver medal-placed Marcos Burdaspar Basarte who popped in a powerful final run but it was not enough to catch Cendán. Taking bronze, to round off the podium, it was Jordi García Bermudez.
We got a truly international podium in the 25-29 category, with Mireia Pons Torres showing great run form. Gold to Spain but silver went to Germany’s Julia Rudack and to fill out the podium it was bronze to Great Britain’s Rebecca Mason, an improvement over her 8th place in Aviles last year.
The Spanish men pretty much ran away with the podium in this category. Out-running the opposition and then holding on with the bike before a final surge of pace on the last 5k. Gold went to Pelayo Menéndez Fernández who has consistently raced duathlon over recent years. This was his first victory but when viewed against his racing in Pontevedra, Alcobendas and Aviles, it may well not be his last. He was joined on the podium by Joanes Goitisolo Otazua who placed 5th in Aviles. Bronze went to José Miguel Gómez García to seal Spain’s domination in this age-group.
The tables were turned by the British women in the 30-34 category as they took complete control of the race. Hayley Lawrence placed 5th in Copenhagen over the Long Distance and eased into T1 ahead of the pack but she was caught and passed by fellow Brit Gina Marek who was much stronger in the bike. Nothing Lawrence could do on the final run would bring her closer to Marek and so it was gold to Marek and silver to Lawrence. Behind them Sarah Crisp had a great ride and the three Brits led home their Age Group with a 13 minute advantage.
The World Champion in this Age Group was racing and he was racing once more on home soil, so that was “no pressure” for the others in the 30-34 Men’s Category. Celestino Fernández Martínez raced true to form and having blown the race apart in the opening run, with a 35:07 10k and then followed it with 1:12:48 on the bike, he could afford to take it easy on the final run. Still, 19:01 is not so shabby and his winning margin was over 3 minutes. Coming in to take silver was Miguel Ángel Huerta Felipe, showing a great improvement on his 10th place in Alcobendas and bronze went to Álvaro Sanz Romero.
Team GB Women swept up on the 35-39 category with the top places going quite easily to them. Home first and winning gold was Rachel Wiseman. Really strong on the run and bike, she was unbeatable and went on to post the fastest time for all women. Almost six minutes back and in silver medal place came Jessica Harvey who has improved dramatically from her 8th in Kalkar. Bronze went to Leah Walland.
A blistering pace was set by the eventual winner, Guillaume Le Mouhaër ESP. Bronze in Pontevedra in the 2014 Worlds, silver in Alcobendas the following year and his 33:53 opening run was more than enough to take him into T1 in the lead. 1:12:26 on the bike and he too was able to ease up on the final run, to cruise to victory in 2:05:55, where he had to wait to see who would be joining him on the podium. It was a battle between the Brits, with Nathaniel Walker comfortably taking silver. It was touch and go as to whether Brian McLellan would be able to hold off Luke Worthington but the final 5k worked just right for McLellan and it was he who rounded off the podium.
It was Spain’s Eva Ribalta Ferrer, the reigning World Champion, who led the 40-44 women into T1. A comfortable 2 minutes ahead and it looked like the deal was done but once out on the bike her form failed and an uncharacteristically slow ride saw her chances of claiming the European title fail. She was overtaken by many, including Swiss athlete and long distance expert, Jaqueline Uebelhart. Her 1:23:09 knocked spots off the World Champion’s time. Great Britain’s Katherine O’Hara was riding well on the back of a strong opening run and indeed, she had the pace to run through to gold and the second-fastest women’s time of the day. Silver went to Uebelhart and Ribalta had to settle for bronze, despite doing her best to catch up on the final run. Her victory placed her second overall and, recovering from a foot injury in November, last year, she can now look very positively towards the rest of the season.
The men’s race saw Miguel Daporta Méndez have the race of his life. After a disappointing result in Aviles, he found himself in a comfortable leading group entering T1. Of those early leaders, he was the strongest in the bike and with the second-fastest closing 5k, he won the race with over a minute lead. Julio Gallego Villalobos had done enough work in the race to secure silver and the clean sweep was completed by Jaime Menéndez de Luarca Zumalacárregui.
With a silver last year in Aviles, Guadalupe Rodríguez Fernández would have been right to be confident about the 45-49 race. An opening 10k put her 30 seconds ahead of Fiona Carter GBR, who struggled in T1 and lost valuable time before setting of to chase. Carter’s bike split made up some of that time and a much-improved transition from bike to run saw her well-placed but between her and Rodríguez, fellow Brit and powerful cyclist Louella O’Herlihy, who took silver in Kalkar, had come through with the fastest ride in this category and it was she who added silver to her collection. Nobody could catch the Spaniard but it was a British silver and bronze for O’Herlihy and Carter.
Also winner of the silver in Aviles, Juan Morcillo Avilés might well have hoped for the same or a better result, once again on home soil. Coming into T1 just behind teammate, Francisco Blázquez Hernández and comfortably ahead of the rest of the field, the two Spanish athletes set off on the bike but immensely powerful riding from GB’s Mark Lloyd took him to a comfortable lead. Gold then as a reward for 7th in Aviles and 7th in Horst. Silver went to Blázquez and bronze to Morcillo.
Coming to this race as defending champion and with a proven record over the longer distance, GB hopes were high that Kate Morris could deliver in the 50-54 category. Following a series of setbacks; a crash off the bike, illness and, just before the start of her wave, gusting winds that took down barriers and warned that the bike was going to be tricky. Arriving in T1 comfortably leading her age group and in tenth place overall, run to bike went smoothly and then, out on the bike course, the gales started.
As a Yorkshire Lass, Morris could not consider the hilly course as anything other than “undulating”. Her opening 10k, run at 43:24 pace, was easily matched by her bike split. Coming into T2 and the punishment out on the chilly bike kicked in. Cramps to the calves meant that instead of the characteristic fast transition, she was rooted to the spot, trying to loosen the oxygen-starved muscles. Out onto the run and a quick consultation with long-time duathlete, Doctor and sun-worshipper, Dean Hardie who was on his last lap and as the rain began to become torrential, she finished with a sprinting flourish with a 22:27 to cross the line in 2:35:02. Not only did she provide a masterclass for younger athletes (Notable that the fastest women in the Sprint Distance was also British and also in this category) but she writes well. Sit down (but not in public) and enjoy reading her race account here.
Ireland’s Helen White came into T1 a minute behind Morris and was swiftly out on the bike. Behind her Anne Johnson GBR was chasing and with a stronger performance on the bike and the edge on the final run, it was Johnson who took silver. Ireland’s first medal was in the hands of White to the vocal delight of the small but beautifully-formed Irish Team of 27 athletes, whose determination to have a good time at the closing party really should have won medals.
The men’s race was at impressive pace. An opening 10k at 37:19 pace saw reigning World Champion, José Manuel Cuadros Escuder enter the transition area in a comfortable lead. A slick T1 took him out onto the bike where he set about making even more of a mark on the race. 1:16:14 later he was back and then, off to the run which was easily a minute quicker than anyone else. Gold in Aviles, gold in Soria. Behind him Ángel Lencina Alonso had done enough on the first run and the bike to hold British athlete, Dave Smith back in bronze but with a truly impressive ride and a swift run through T2, Smith came tantalisingly close to snatching the silver.
The line-up for the Women’s Race in the 55-59 Age Group was an impressive one, with athletes coming to this race with depth and breadth in duathlon and triathlon-racing of all distances. Sheila Power IRL was by far the most experienced and it was to the delight of the Irish supporters that she led into T1. She lost about a minute on the bike to chasing Brit, Jane Ritchie and the lead she had appeared to be insufficient to take the title. Ritchie had lost time in T1 but with a faster bike split and then a technically perfect T2, her running took her to within sight of the Irish athlete. With the blue carpet in sight could Ireland manage to take the gold? Well, she did, but only by the smallest of margins. Ritchie’s final run was inspired but she missed out by just 2 seconds. Her 8th place in Kalkar is a thing of the past. Silver is hers. Best performance on the bike came from GB’s Boo Smith. Her strength and determination out in the wind took her right up through the race and her bronze saw her well ahead of those behind her. After the race, Power said, “Total surprise! Gold at European Duathlon Championships (truly thought I was 4th. It was a hard race on bike for everyone with extreme strong winds plus rain. It's never over 'till it's over...Same lesson always applies.”
For the men, it was going to be fast at the front. ETU Champion for 2014, 2015 and 2016 and reigning World Champion, from the Netherlands, Henry Dullink was easily race favourite. He was up against Manuel González Ojea who himself held the World title in Pontevedra, the 2015 Zofingen title and who was third behind Dullink in Aviles last year. Dullink could only watch in disbelief as González pulled away on the first run. His 37:33 could not be matched. A further minute was wrenched away from the Flying Dutchman on the bike, despite the hailstorms and gusts of wind and then for the final 5k, González took almost 2:30 to finish over seven minutes ahead.
With the upmost respect for the winner, Dullink said, “De Spaande berggeit Ojea was me vandaag far out de baas. Kon ik hem op het WK in 2016 nog achter me houden. Nu was het omgekeerd. Dus vandaag petje af voor deze snelle Spanjaard! The Spanish Mountain goat, Ojea really was the Boss today. I was able to keep him behind me in 2016 but now it was payback. Today, I take my hat off for this speedy Spaniard.” A true Speedy González. Another 7 minutes back came the third athlete, a Spaniard Jordi Moreno Montaner to take bronze.
Reigning World Champion Nora Haggart was up against the reigning European Middle Distance triathlon champion, Irene Peaty in the 60-64 category. It was Haggart who led into T1 and who then held her lead until the finish tape. Gold and Silver to GB.
The Men’s race saw a winner who was from neither Spain, nor Great Britain. It was Ole Loumann DEN who tested the Spanish and led Jorge Ruiz Cabestany into T1. Out onto the bike and the Dane was gone. He powered around the course in 1:20:44 and then, pushing the pace on the run, ensured that the gold was his. The early advantage of Ruiz was eaten into by Roman Hernández Sierra whose biking proved too much for his fellow countryman and he sailed through to take silver. Ruiz gets a bronze but Loumann gets the final words, Gennem blæst og regn til guld for Danmark
”Det vigtige er ikke ankomsten, men rejsen” erklærede Sorias borgmester under sin tale til åbningen af EM i duatlon i den nordspanske by i lørdags. Ordene er et lån fra spanske digter Antonio Machado, der levede i denne oase af en by langs den smukke Duero flod, bag hvilken sneklædte bjerge skyder op i horisonten. ”Vandrer, der findes ikke nogen vej, det er dine spor, der er vejen, vejen laver man, når man går” siger Machado også i et af sine mange digte, der omhandler mennesket i naturen og de udstrakte vidder omkring Soria.
Through Wind and rain to gold for Denmark
"The important thing is not arrival, but the journey" declared the Soria mayor during his speech at the opening of the ETU Soria European Duathlon Championships in the northern city last Saturday. The words are a loan from Spanish Poet Antonio Machado, who lived in this oasis of a town along the beautiful Duero River, snow-capped mountains popping up on the horizon. "Wanderer, there is no way, that's your clue that is the way, the way you make when you go" says Machado also in one of his many poems dealing with humans in the wild and the wide-open spaces around Soria.”
World, European and on the podium an amazing 18 times, missing out on the chance of a medal only three times, British legend Elspeth Knott proved once again that “age shall not wither her, nor custom stale". A winner in the 65-69 Age Group.
The men’s race was run at impressive pace. An opening sub-46 minute 10k saw Christopher Owens GBR lead the defending Champion from France Francis Viet into T1. Viet went on to take the Zofingen title in 2016 following his Kalkar win but Owens raced ahead on the run and left Viet standing in transition. It was out on the bike that the Frenchman struck and he used his power on the pedals to push past the Englishman, taking almost three minutes out of him before they returned to T2. The gold went to Viet and silver to Owens but behind them Steven Rue was having the best ride of his life and had moved comfortably up to the bronze medal position.
Eleanor Robinson, born in 1947, won bronze in Kalkar but then went on to take the European title in Copenhagen over the long distance. She added the Standard Distance 70-74 crown to her collection in Soria.
Richard File was the right man to have at these Championships. Now retired from the Met Office, he knew exactly what weather would be descending on the athletes. He has raced for years now, starting with long distance events, racing the magnificent old Nice Course when athletes swam 4k, biked 120k and then ran 30k on the pan-flat Promenade Des Anglais. He seems to have slipped through the ITU record books, because I remember seeing him race consistently in GB kit back in the 90’s. His ability to mix distances is impressive and it was great to see him back in GB uniform after his last victory, in Weymouth, where his finish time for the Full Distance was 14:26:33 (with a 5:25 marathon to finish). He did not lead into T1. That small victory went to Italian, Dario Pittini but no sooner had they started the bike than it was File whose speed took him past the Italian and gave him a comfortable lead for the final run. File went on to take the title with time to spare. Pittini could not hold on to the silver and it was Britain’s David Taylor who ran past to push the Italian into bronze.
Rain. Wind. Hail.
The final age group saw Guy Daudet FRA, who won bronze in Aviles, set out in the most appalling weather on the run. It was cold. It was windy and he was out there as the only 75-79 Age group athlete with only the Technical Official making sure he was OK. A wonderful gesture provided him with suitable protection against the weather, which was now really turning nasty. Medically sensible and a good call, Daudet finished the race to the cheers of those who lined the finish area and in the evening was once more cheered and applauded by the hundreds of athletes who had stayed for the all-important medal ceremony.
Soria promised. Soria delivered. Well done to the Brits and the Spanish and the Irish who turned up in large numbers.
Other Federations will be wondering why they did not send athletes who could either have defended their titles won last year or to challenge those who raced this weekend and whose finish time, on paper at least they think they could beat.
From one Age Group athlete, who did not win a medal but who paid their money, took leave from their work, went to Spain with their family and had a great time, “It’s their loss. We may not be the fastest in Europe but we were the fastest who turned up and raced against each other. That’s what it is all about. We come to these races to meet with other people who love our sport. It’s like a holiday with a tough race thrown in to make it more fun.”
A vote of thanks once again to the Federación Española de Triatlón. Next up is the Longer Distance at the Sankt Wendel ETU Powerman Middle Distance Duathlon European Championships.
Find more details about this event - 2017 Soria ETU Duathlon European Championships