By Paul Groves on 01/07/15 at 8:10 pm
Points don’t pay bills. This is something we have heard in the past but they will help you get to the Olympics. This weekend points were up for grabs and after the Istanbul Sprint race, there are a few athletes happily counting their extra points, along with their prize money.
For those who went to Kyiv, they too will be counting their points and prize-money but for one athlete in particular, she will be hoping to put this race behind her and focus on recuperation. Race favourite Yuliya Yelistratova UKR was in a commanding position on the bike, in a break-away group of three that would surely share the medals when, on the very past lap, disaster struck.
ETU would like to take this opportunity to wish Yuliya a full and speedy recovery.
The race itself was held under very tough conditions. Wind was blowing down river, the rain the day before had increased the flow of the river and the exit steps that were to be used were damaged by the flow and winds. The LOC, with Eduard Panarin (Ukrainian Federation Secretary General) and Leonid Mogylevsky, Assistant TD, worked with Technical Delegate Sander Verheuvel to ensure that the race could be saved.
Ever resourceful, a replacement pontoon was moved from a nearby mooring place and although it really was not ideal, it was the only thing available, was safe and well-secured and allowed the athletes to exit from the very deep water with relative ease.
The start was clean and the small group of women’s elite athletes moved out in the wide, deep and fast-flowing Dnipro. A turn to the left took them into the wind and current but as a group they did not break up too much. A second left turn brought them back towards the bank and the cheering crowds who had turned out on this very windy morning to see the event and then the swim stars showed their form by pulling away on the long leg with the wind and current behind them. Soon it was Inna Ryzhykh UKR who was working hard with Anastasiya Chernenko UKR.
It was Chernenko who led Ryzhykh out of the water and up the steps to T1.
Yelistratova was close behind and after a very speedy transition the three set about making as much distance as possible on the exposed bike course.
The 8-lap 40k course took in 16 massive climbs and soon it was clear that the medals would be shared by these three.
Well, that is what we all thought.
Behind, Anna Abdulova UKR was working well after losing time in the water and soon was making up for lost time but out in front, lap after lap, tight and working together it was the Yelistratova, Chernenko, Ryzhykh lead pack. It was on the last lap that disaster struck. Yelistratova hit some debris on the road and crashed out. The damage was extreme with deep cuts and she will now be in plaster for some considerable time. Reports came back from the men’s race that there was a lot of blood on the courser at the scene. This is a sad and dramatic reminder to us that our sport can, at times, have a sting in its tail.
Leaving Ryzhykh and Chernenko to battle for gold it was the fast-running of Abdulova that took her to the podium.
Ryzhykh’s victory is well-deserved. For years she has worked so hard at the front end of the race and a victory in Kyiv will make her and her sponsors very happy, even if that happiness is tinged with sadness at her team-mate’s crash. Abdulova saw Chernenko pull away but secured a comfortable bronze.
Abdulova spoke after the race, “This was one of the most difficult races of my life. The last stage of the European Cup in Kyiv, out on the run, was tough. But I got bronze! For me it is more valuable than any gold. I have very mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, there is frustration because it is not the result I think I could have achieved, due to preparation, not final placings, and on the other hand real surprise that I was able to show such patience during the race. I really focussed on myself during the race and despite feeling quite weak I pushed on. Life presented a good lesson. I had the best run of the women today and that is a big thanks to New Balance Ukraine. I was disappointed with my swimming but surprised and pleased that I was able to push so hard on the bike and run. It was easily one of the hardest race in my life and I’m happy I finished. Thanks to all of you who support me!”
Chernenko had some secret weapons at the race. Not only was husband, Danylo Sapunov racing in the men’s event but also, she had their daughter cheering her on. After a good swim and very sensible riding out on the bike, she was able to hold off the fast-paced Abdulova to take silver. “Ukrainian Championship and ETU European Cup Kyiv over the standard distance! During the race my goals were different but for me my lovely daughter Sofia at the finish line was the main prize. Now she is my motivation. She helps me to find time for everything. Of course it is not easy. My advice to all you girls - if you lost your motivation have a baby.” In a great show of solidarity, her first words after the race were, “How is Yuliya? Is she OK?”
From the hospital, Yelistratova explained, “there was a piece of wood on the road. I didn’t see it and lost the handlebars. My bones are OK and so, luckily, are the nerves, but there is a really deep wound in the biceps up to the nerves and the repair has lots of stitches. I need to stay positive because I really need and really want the fastest recovery. Realistically, it looks like October will be the time for a comeback.” For Yelistratova this is a major setback. Last year and indeed in previous years, she has been one of the most consistent athletes on the European circuit and has used so many ETU and ITU races to boost her points. Last year’s winner in Madrid of the ETU Final, she will have to sit this dance out. “Though I'm sad the most because of missing so many good races, points and opportunities... At the same time I'll do all possible for the fastest recovery.”
So the women’s race, with so few competitors, but with so much drama, was over and as the wind dropped, it was the turn of the men to show the gathering crowds of downtown Kyiv just what triathlon is all about.
Before the race some of the visiting athletes had a chance to explore the city. All were impressed. Denis Jaeger, ETU Vice-President, summed it up for them all, “Kiev, une ville et des gens surprenants et attachants, qui méritent d'être mieux connus. Je reviendrai. Kiev, the city and people, surprising and endearing, who deserve to be better known. I'll be back.”
With the sound system now working better and with bigger crowds to see the athlete introduction, the athletes were called to the quayside for the start. The now famous heartbeat started, the tension rose and they were off. With less wind the swim was a little faster but a navigation error by the lead pack added time to their 1,500m swim.
First out of the water was Oleksiy Syutkin UKR. Close behind were Yegor Martynenko UKR, Danylo Sapunov UKR, Luca Facchinetti ITA, Anton Vitolin UKR, Ron Lewinsohn ISR, Ivan Pistol UKR, Patrick Rhyner SUI and Alexis Lepage CAN.
It was the Canadian who ran to the end of T1 first after the long climb from the steps. Soon the group had bunched after the 180 degree turn that took them onto the road. We were treated to a big peloton of riders.
As the laps unfolded there were small groups trying to break away at the front.
Some of these were led by Lewinsohn, much to the delight of his parents who were cheering him along. Aliaksandr Vasilevich BLR, was strong at the front too.
Each lap had a sharp turn. With more than a dozen athletes in the lead pack, the two dead turns were always going to be spectacular but despite the congestion the athletes all negotiated these sharp turns with ease and skill.
The breakaways continued.
It was clear that from within this lead pack the winners would run for the podium. The run course in Kyiv looks easy but contains a huge climb on cobblestones that are over 150 years old.
It was on this hill last year that Martynenko lost out to Pedro Palma. This year it was going to be different. No Palma but, in that top group were Sapunov, keen to add to the family’s medal collection, Syutkin, keen to get a podium place as a special prize for his new baby and the visiting Canadian, Lepage and the young Swiss athletes Rhyner and Adrien Briffod SUI.
The 10k was run at breakneck speed. Martynenko opened a lead but, with Lepage and Briffod fighting it out only about 40m behind, could he keep the pace going? Sapunov dug deep and dug deeper but this was not to be his day. Syutkin flew for the first two laps but then his legs just “drained of energy”, he said later.
Further back, Omar Nour EGY, after a disappointing swim that saw him exit second last, had made up time on the bike and was cutting through the field.
As the pace increased, Martynenko held his lead and was never, on home soil, going to be beaten.
Behind him the two French-speaking athletes; one from Canada and one from Switzerland were battling for silver and gold. It was Briffod who finally had that extra gear. His best performance for a couple of years will give him a silver medal, points and cash and a great memory of Kyiv. Lepage settled for bronze but he too will go away from Kyiv richer for points, cash and experience.
As the Ukrainian national anthem rang out in Kontraktova Square, the many voices of the spectators joined together. In its own small way, this race showed people from outside Ukraine that, despite the political hotspots over to the east, life is trying to find its own normality again in the country. Thanks again to the organisers and to the Ukrainian Triathlon Federation for putting on the race and showing the people of Kyiv just how good our sport is.
Find more details about this event - 2015 Kyiv ETU Triathlon European Cup