By Paul Groves on 17/06/17 at 8:13 am
The Junior Women’s race was thrilling from the very start. As the Race Referee consulted the video and still camera images, a false start penalty was issued to one athlete. The tension was immense and the crowds, now enjoying a bit of sunshine, had come back to the venue after drying out from the early morning rains that soaked the ParaTri competitors and spectators.
Russia’s Maria Tchuiko led the athletes around the one lap 750m non wetsuit swim.
She was only marginally ahead of local favourite, Theresa Feuersinger who quickly caught up the Russian and then sped off onto the bike course.
She led the race for all but one lap on the bike before being caught by the chasing group.
Out onto the run and over the two laps she did her best to hold on to a medal position but the hard work done alone on the bike left her unable to respond to the attack from GB’s Kate Waugh, Jessica Fullager FRA and Denmark’s Sif Bendix Madsen. As these three closed in on Feuersinger, even the shouts of encouragement from the thousands of spectators who lined the course could not prevent the inevitable and Austria’s medal hopes were dashed in the final stages of the run.
As the athletes neared the finish area, it was Waugh who had command but she had to dig deep with Madsen so close to her. Fullager, assured of the podium cruised home to take bronze behind the British and Danish athletes.
Waugh had tasted success last year in Lisbon as part of the GB Junior Mixed Relay team but today, the Geordie got it all right and was crowned Junior European Champion.
For the Elite Women, it was always going to be a tough race. With defending champion, India Lee GBR back on the start line and with both Jessica Learmonth and Sophie Coldwell present, the British team looked strong. Over the years we have seen again and again the dominance of the British women in the water and then out on the bike. This race, with no wetsuits and with the testing, technical bike course, was going to give them a great opportunity to set the early pace.
The magnificent setting of the Schwarzsee saw the swim start lined with thousands of spectators, many of them racing over the weekend as Age group athletes. The heartbeats boomed around the lake and the there was silence.
A two lap swim saw Learmonth take early control with just Russia’s Anastasia Gorbunova for company. Fresh from her Leeds bronze, Italy’s Alice Betto exited with Coldwell a few seconds down and this was the four who worked and worked around the bike course building up a massive lead over the chasing athletes.
By the end of the 40k bike, when they entered a very noisy T2, with the crowds clapping and cheering to the sounds of Zorba The Greek, they had a lead of over 2 minutes and it was certain that the three medals would be shared between the four athletes.
At this point, it was Learmonth and Coldwell who set the pace. They created a gap of about 80m on the first lap and gradually racked up the pace to drop Gorbunova. Betto held on, trying to keep the two Brits in sight but by the third lap, the duo were well ahead and all Betto had to do was keep her pace to secure bronze. Behind, a huge group of athletes, led by Claire Michel BEL and Vendula Frintová was gaining on the Italian and it looked as if Betto had miscalculated.
Learmonth kicked on the final lap and broke away from the younger Coldwell. The British Age Groupers lining the course were shouting and screaming encouragement for the two British women and to more noise in the finish line than we have heard in ages, it was Gold to Learmonth, followed by silver for Coldwell. Betto hung on for bronze but then the spring finishes came for the lower placings.
A truly thrilling race from start to finish and a deserved victory for Learmonth, coming back into top form after her injury in 2016.
|2.||Sif Bendix Madsen||DEN||00:59:23|
Find more details about this event - 2017 Kitzbühel ETU Triathlon European Championships