By Paul Groves on 03/04/17 at 4:35 pm
The Juniors had the chance to watch the Elite race in quite tough conditions on the Saturday. They saw the seas and for some, no doubt, there must have been mild panic approaching but race morning dawned, the wind had dropped and the seas looked really inviting.
Again it would be a wetsuit swim, well, it is still April and the seas don’t warm up here for a few weeks. Again the Federação de Triatlo de Portugal provided a live feed and for the thousands of spectators around the world, they had the chance to see just how fantastic Quarteira is as a race venue. Honestly, if you have never been here, make a date for 2018.
The Junior Women raced first and it was a leading group of nine that made it into an empty T1.
Amongst them and in fact leading across the timing mat, was Jessica Fullagar FRA.
Tucked in behind her was Portugal’s Gabriela Ribeiro and, with added pressure as this was a selection race for Kitzbühel for the Dutch, Rani Škrabanja NED. Russia’s Maria Tchuiko and Spain’s Lucía Salafranca Le Toulouzan along with Ukraine’s Sofiya Pryyma made up that leading group as they rushed to get the wetsuits off, helmets on and ensuring, as their coaches shouted commands at them, they got everything into the transition boxes to avoid the dreaded 10 second penalty that comes if you get T1 wrong.
It was once out on the bike that the tried and tested tactic of working hard to break away from the chasing athletes was tried. It was Fullagar with Škrabanja and Salafranca who tried to push the pace.
Behind them the chasing group was about 25 seconds back but despite supreme efforts to bridge that gap they were unable and soon they had been caught by the fragmented groups behind them. By the time the chasing group arrived in T2, they were 29 seconds down on those who had left for the 5k run.
As the leaders headed out of T2, it was Portugal leading, Ukraine second and France third as Ribeiro, followed by Pryyma became the focus of Fullagar. The two laps, out and back, were lined with supporters even in the early morning and the athletes were cheered along. It was here that positions changed dramatically and although Fullagar had to give everything she could to catch, join and pass the leading athletes, she had Salafranca breathing down her neck for most of the run.
Having worked hard in the chase pack and despite entering T2 some 29 seconds back, it was Léa Coninx, sister of Dorian who won bronze the day before, who pulled out a spectacular run to bring her up to contention.
The victory went to Fullagar, with Salafranca taking silver and, making it a Coninx family bronze weekend, Coninx claimed the final place on the podium.
After the race Léa Coninx told us, “I didn’t have such a good start for the swim but little by little I was able to get back into contention and exited the sea in a small group about 15 seconds off the lead. Unfortunately I fell in T1 and that cost me a fair bit of time, so I had to work extra hard at the start of the bike. On the second bike lap we were about 25 seconds down and with Inês Baptista Pereira http://www.triathlon.org/athletes/profile/81876/ines_baptista_pereira we tried a breakaway. That didn’t quite work and in fact our group got caught by two smaller groups behind us. Coming into T2 we were about 15 athletes together and about 29 seconds down. I left as quickly as possible, trying to catch those in front of me from our group and then the athletes who were in the leading group. It was then that I saw a chance on the podium was possible and that was real motivation. I caught the athlete in third place and even got close to the one in silver medal position but didn’t have enough to catch her. Anyway, I am very happy with my first European Cup podium!”
For our silver medallist, Lucía Salafranca Le Toulouzan, “The truth is that I knew I could make a good race but it never occurred to me that I could win a medal. But in the end a good swim allowed me to be in the leading group on the bike. I managed to stay in that first group despite the fact that it is without a doubt the segment in which I have more room for improvement and I went to run with the idea of trying to make a top 10 since in the second group there were very good runners. During the race I surprised myself. I started following the French athlete (Fullagar) to see what would happen and although I could not hold on to her I nevertheless got second place. Something I did not even believe myself could happen.”
Victorious Jessica Fullagar, “It was the first ocean swim for me so it made it really interesting. Unlike the other days it was a lot calmer so it made the swim a little easier than I had expected. I managed to have a good swim and came out with the first girls. The gap was not huge though, on the bike between the lead pack and the chase pack so I tried with a Dutch and Spanish girl (Škrabanja and Salafranca) to work hard so that the chasing girls would not catch us. The hill made the bike fun and the technical parts such as U-turns were also interesting because it made it a bit more of a challenge. I came out of T2 in 3rd behind a Portuguese girl and a Ukrainian girl (Ribeiro and Pryyma). I felt good and so I just thought that I had to keep going so that I could catch them. But I had to run all the way to the end seeing as the Spanish girl (Salafranca) was right behind me. The atmosphere was amazing with loads of people cheering us on and the welcome was just awesome. A great race in an amazing location!”
I think we can all see that for the athletes, this was a fantastic race. Words of great encouragement then for the Federation and the Local Organising Committee. For the French Federation, this result is excellent news as it shows them that their investment in their Junior Athletes is now showing very positive results. Indeed, the top ten finishers here was loaded with French athletes, who took 4th, 7th and 8th place, making the French athletes the most successful here, with 5 out of the top ten positions.
The Junior Men’s race was, in line with the Elite Men’s race, a massive line up of athletes.
Nobody had the power to breakaway but it was Belgium’s Joris Basslé who led them into T1 with the best swim of his career.
(Photo: Tim Van Hamme)
He had a long line of athletes behind him. Max Stapley FRA, Luxembourg’s Oliver Gorges, who was overtaken by Portugal’s Vasco Vilaça on the run to the carpet. Italy’s young athlete, Nicolò Strada was there, as was Spain’s Alberto González García. These were the athletes who led out of T1 but the pack that followed and joined them was huge.
You could sense the concern of the officials as the 30+ young and determined men set off on the 20k bike. The first U-turn was negotiated without mishap and then came the hill. No rain during the night meant that the roads were dry. This meant faster racing but potentially, greater risk-taking. We were all holding our breath as the peloton raced down to the deceptive right-hand turn at the base of the hill but ….. nothing. No crashes, just acceleration out of the turn and hard work as they raced off westwards.
There were various attempts to break away. Estonia’s Kevin Vabaorg rattled the pack with a massive acceleration but was soon caught. Then together, Philip Pertl AUT and Youri Keulen NED broke away but each attempt to escape was checked by the fast-moving peloton and soon, the athletes were loosening their shoes and on the approach to T2. Keulen had done enough, as had Škrabanja, to ensure selection for Kitzbühel.
As they entered T2, it was essential for Vilaça to avoid any trips, obstructions and falls and he placed himself well as the peloton dropped from the pedals and began the run onto the carpet. Dangerously close was González and indeed it was the Spaniard who led out.
Valuable seconds lost by Vilaça who stormed out onto the run in about 5th place but he soon accelerated and took the lead. Had he gone too early?
The run looked flat but there are a few rises, to sap energy in the legs as the athletes pass between the palms. Vilaça was well-placed and the crowds were cheering him along.
There was wind coming in from the sea and this meant that whoever took the lead would have to work extra hard. Soon enough the effort of snatching the lead too early, started to hit Vilaça and he was joined by and then overtaken by González. From behind, Duarte Brás PRT joined them and so we now had a chain-gang on the run as the two Portuguese athletes tucked in tight behind the Spaniard.
As the pace continued to rise, it was Brás and González who broke Vilaça and with just 2.5k to go, the Spaniard was being cheered by the very vocal Spanish supporters who had come close to the run course to see this remarkable battle.
The final turn was completed and González kicked. He had dropped Brás with about 1k to go and held this all the way to the line.
Behind him the two Portuguese athletes could see they were pretty much assured silver and bronze and it was the run pace of Brás that took him to silver. Bronze went to Vilaça and the crowds went wild as two of their athletes made it to the podium.
After the race and catching his breath, Vilaça explained how his race had gone. “Quarteira is one of my favourite European cups! Not only because I'm competing at home but also because the crowds are amazing and we have here in Quarteira such a good standard of organization! The weather was fantastic, which made it possible for a great race to take place. I'm happy with my third place in this first international race in 2017. And really pleased seeing my colleges, Duarte Brás (2nd) and Tiago Fonseca (4th) racing so good!”
Duarte Brás, with his best result ever, took us right inside the race. “I think I should start by saying that the result was very good and I'm very happy with it !! The Quarteira Junior European Cup is a very special event for the young Portuguese athletes and also for me because it is a starting point for the upcoming international season and is the first opportunity to compete with athletes from other countries, which is always a different sensation than competing in the national tests. In addition we are competing "at home" with a very good organization and a very familiar and engaging environment.
As for the sporting part, I was feeling "fit" for the race and went there to go for gold. It happened, but not from the beginning, where I got out of the water a little behind the front group and only caught up in the middle of the 1st lap of the bike. It was exciting and wild out there on the 20k bike, because the group was very big and there were always several little touches among the athletes. I got around in one piece and then on the run it was time “dig deep", which ended up coming together in great results for my teammates and me, with Tiago in 4th and Vasco in 3rd just there behind me, but the great winner was undoubtedly Alberto who made a beautiful race. It was a great day with a fantastic race, I'm very happy!”
Of course, the final word goes to our winner, Alberto González García, “I am very happy with this victory. I was 16 when I first raced in Quarteira and I was getting better and better. Today I was able to claim the gold medal and it is a good turning point in the face of the following international competitions. Also I came here well-prepared after last week in Las Palmas, where I had a good result too.”
A look at the results shows domination by the host nation in the Junior Men’s top ten. 4 places were taken, including three in the top five. Spain can claim three of the top ten, including the gold and the French claim two good positions. Israel gets a top ten place to start the season.
The Junior athletes race for points in the same way as the Elite. At the end of the season, there is no individual cash payment but instead, the best performing national federation will receive from ETU a cheque that can be used for further development of the Juniors.
As for the Elite, we aim to keep you up to date with the Junior Nation Rankings as the season progresses.
Quarteira was a great event and with the live feed, it really raised the profile of this popular early-season race. Our thanks go once again to our folk with cameras, Yossi Rubanenko and ETU treasurer, Alicia García Pérez. Goodbye Quarteira and thank you once again for an amazing weekend of racing.
|1.||Alberto Gonzalez Garcia||ESP||00:55:48|
|10.||Jesus Del Val Benitez||ESP||00:56:51|
|2.||Lucía Salafranca Le Toulouzan||ESP||01:03:36|
Find more details about this event - 2017 Quarteira ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup