By Paul Groves on 12/07/16 at 10:42 am
The weather was very unkind to the athletes who raced in Estonia. While Tiszaújváros enjoyed sunshine, Tartu had rain storms to cope with and a dramatic drop in air temperature just before the race.
For the women, a charged up and on-fire Valentina Zapatrina RUS was ready to collect more points and prize-money. She has had a good season so far, has collected the ETU Aquathlon title along with a bronze in Holten and went to the race in third place in the ETU Rankings (as shown on 4th July, 2016). We always expected this to be an event where the swimmers would show their strength and so it was that Kseniia Levkovska AZE led them out of the water. Zapatrina was close behind her and then came local favourite, Kaidi Kivioja EST. Just a couple of paces behind as they ran to T1 came Russia’s Ekaterina Matiukh. A bronze in the U23 in Burgas has shown that the new generation is coming through for Russia. Italy’s Giulia Sforza made up this leading group.
The Women had glorious weather to start with. The sun was shining and the water, at 18 degrees was just right. As the leading three of Levkovska, Zapatrina and Kivioja built up their advantage over the chasing athletes it looked like they would just avoid the rain but just as they commenced the final lap (of a 4-lap bike) the rain started. A puncture for Estelle Perriard SUI, looked like her race was over but fortunately for her, the wheel station was close by and she skilfully replaced the wheel to carry on with her race and collect ETU points.
As the rain fell, Zapatrina and Kivioja pulled away from Levkovska but a momentary lack of concentration saw the Estonian miss the dis-mount line and that would mean a ten-second penalty out on the run course. To ensure that this penalty was correct, the Technical Officials use video cameras and only when they are certain that the infringement is clear, will the Race Referee impose the penalty. But that penalty has to be written up on the noticeboard at the Penalty Box before the athlete has competed the first half of the race. The penalty was posted and Kivioja has to take the standing ten seconds out on the run course. As she was running neck and neck with Zapatrina, this gave the Russian not only a ten second advantage but also the additional advantage of the time lost to slow down before the penalty box and then to accelerate away after those long, long ten seconds.
Kivioja remained focussed and kicked hard out of the penalty box, with Zapatrina in her sights. It was thrilling for the crowds to watch as she edged closer and closer to the Russian and then, in the final 300m another gear was found, the cheers from her fans urging her to win and she had just enough to snatch the gold for her homeland.
Gold to Estonia. Silver to Russia and a well-fought for bronze for Azerbaijan. After the race, despite the rain, Kivioja was delighted, “Suur aitäh ja kummardus kõigile kaasaelajatele ja muidugi korraldajatele, te olite võrratud! Olen tänase võistluse käigu üle väga õnnelik- väga hea ujumine, tugev ratas, põnev jooks ja boonuseks esimene võit. Eestis võistlemine on alati suurim rõõm!" "Really happy with how today went. A good swim, a solid bike and run got me to the finish first. Huge thanks and my respect for the amazing crowd cheering us despite the bad weather. Thank you Ain-Alar Juhanson & co, always a great pleasure!”
Just before the men’s race the rain got worse. Air temperature dropped and it really was not a nice place to be. The 750m swim was quite possibly less wet that it was for the spectators and officials who were waiting for the athletes to emerge from the water. An early lead in the water gave Ukraine’s Yegor Martynenko a good start as he swam with Belgium’s Kjel De Hertog.
Martynenko led them into T1 and was first out, onto his bike. The others followed. Finland’s Henrik Goesch and Switzerland’s Sylvain Fridelance were close behind and it was this small group that worked together on the bike and, with Russian, Kirill Goldovsky, they dug deep and kept away from the main pack until the final lap when they were all caught.
It was here that the drama began. Martynenko had put his running shoes in a plastic bag to keep the rain off. In the rush that came to get out onto the run, the plastic bag did not make it into the transition box. The penalty was issued and would have to be served out on the run. 10 seconds lost at this level, with these fast runners, would be a disaster.
The pack held many athletes with good pace and so it would be the final 5k that would decide who got the medals. In this leading group the main battle was between Fridelance and Martynenko. Tucked in a good position too was Italy’s Matthias Steinwandter and Goesch. The Belgian, Simon De Cuyper BEL raced last weekend in Holten and had the race of his life up to 200m from the finish. Disaster struck when he lost his footing and stumbled. He dropped from gold to 4th in a matter of seconds but was now looking like he would get a podium place.
Martynenko went to the penalty box and saw the others run away from him. The ten seconds over and he launched himself out onto the final section of the run but despite his strength, he was unable to make contact with the leading group. Ahead of him the lead was in Steinwandter’s hands as he had the run of his life.
He had the best run of the day and edged over the line with a three second advantage over Goesch, whose performance in Tartu gave him his first international podium.
De Cuyper ran, without incident, across the line to take bronze.
A big thank you to the LOC - a great event despite the rain!
At the moment we are waiting for a full set of images.but would like to thank Jüri Suurkivi for use of the images he has provided.
|3.||Simon De Cuyper||BEL||00:56:01|
Find more details about this event - 2016 Tartu ETU Sprint Triathlon European Cup