By Paul Groves on 05/05/15 at 11:56 am
High drama in Antalya as Team GB sweeps up on medals
The weather was very kind to the athletes and spectators. While some in the North of Europe suffered with the rain Antalya was the best place to be this weekend. Water temperature 21 degrees. Check. No wetsuits. Check. Race course safe and secured. Check. All Technical Officials in place. Check.
This was always going to be tough race for the podium. Great Britain had announced in advance that this race would be the selection race for the Rio Test event, with two places up for grabs for the women and four for the men. Up against the Brits would be the Russian athletes fresh from their winter training camp in Cyprus.
The women set off first and it was no surprise to see a break away at the front led by Anastasia Gorbunova. With her was French athlete, Margot Garabedian. Joining them was Zsanett Horváth HUN.
They had built up a commanding 35 second lead and even with the long climb up the beach they were still together leaving T1. Behind them, ten athletes rushed up from the sea and into T1. Amongst them were the big challengers.
The bike course was fast and flat and with limited wind. It would mean that athletes at the front, only three of them, would never be able to keep away from a determined chase pack. We saw India Lee push hard last weekend on the bike. Once again she showed her strength and before long the pack was formed and it was then all down to the run.
It was out on the run that Elena Danilova made her move. With silver in the 2014 race and a solid winter of training she was in a good position for the podium but her powerful running took her right to the top. She came home comfortably with almost 30 seconds advantage. Teammate Razarenova came in to take silver and securing her place at the Rio Test event was GB’s India Lee. Two bronze medals in two weeks and a chance to go to Rio shows promise for the elite athlete who moved up from AG racing in 2013.
After the race, Danilova said, “It was not a tough race for me. I was not really fully ready for this event and used it more just like training. The second half of the run it was difficult for me but I'm always ready for the battle. This year didn’t start too well for me and I needed this gold medal to be sure to go on.” Her words almost echo those of Alistair Brownlee and Vicky Holland after their Cape Town victories.
For silver medallist, Razarenova, “I really enjoyed the race in Turkey. For me this is the start of my preparations for the World Cup in Yokohama. I managed to swim at the beginning of the main group. I'm happy as during the bike all the girls worked well in the group. I wanted run better.”
Winning bronze made GB athlete India Lee “Unbelievably happy to get my first Euro Cup podium today. Massive thank you to my coaches Richard Stannard & Nick Anderson for their belief”. I am sure Richard will be very pleased with India’s performance but how was it for her in the race ? “The swim was choppy, but the water was lovely to swim in. I was glad it was a no wetsuit swim as it was quite warm. The bike and run courses were simple and not technical but great for spectating and also for keeping track of where other people where on the course. It took us about 12km of the bike to catch the lead group. Time gaps can be seen clearly etc. I'm feeling really chuffed- I know I've been training well, but that counts for nothing if you can't perform in the races. Really happy!!”
The men’s race was exciting and memorable for many reasons. For the young Austrian athlete, Lukas Pertl it was a chance to celebrate his birthday. His race was good enough to get him selection for the U23 Championships in Geneva in July.
For Sylvain Fridelance from Switzerland, who put in such a great effort last year in the ETU European Triathlon Junior Cup in Alanya, this was to be his first race in Antalya. His performance was good enough to rank him first amongst the Swiss athletes in Antalya.
The sea conditions in Antalya are really good. On many occasions the venue has been used for long distance swimming events and the water quality is about as good as you can get. The massive men’s field, all jostling for clear water hit the first buoy with rather more determination than usual and for some athletes, they just got the line wrong and found themselves forced inside the course and unable to fight their way back out to round the buoy. One athlete took a clear line inside and was immediately spotted on the video surveillance. His DSQ was the first. The melee around the buoy was filmed and it was certainly not a place that anyone wanted to be.
Out of the water and on to the beach first was Jonas Breinlinger GER. Just on his toes was Andrey Bryukhankov RUS. Then followed a massive group of athletes emerging one by one from the water to rush up the beach to T1.
The Turkish Federation has invested a lot of time and money in training its technical officials and relies on video recordings of swim turns, Transition, Mount and Dis-Mount lines, turns and the finish. Officials spotted infringements on the mount line and penalties were posted. These 15 second penalties would be served out on the run course. The DSQs for the swim course infringement were posted in Transition but with the speed that the athletes raced through it seems nobody saw the noticeboard.
Out onto the bike and the pace was pushed by the Brits determined to get those all-important Rio Test Event spots. The women had raced and the two places secured. Now it was for the men and only four places available to the 8 British athletes.
40k fast. 40k at speeds over 45kph in places. A big pack. Driven by the Brits’ desire for the Rio ticket and driven by the Russian Team’s desire to test their winter training.
Into T2 and then the fast, flat run was underway. Matt Sharp took his 15 second penalty for the Mount Line infringement but still posted the quickest run of the day and crossed the line to take the tape, the medal and the trip to Rio.
Then followed the other Brits, Mark Buckingham, Adam Bowden and Grant Sheldon. Germany’s Maximilian Schwetz crossed the line well ahead of the Russian machine, which was led by Bryukhankov.
Then the drama started. Officials examined the video to confirm that Sharp had been one of the athletes involved in the scrum at the turn buoy and although they could see he had fought to get the right line he had nevertheless left the course and not re-entered the course correctly. Rules are rules.
For Sharp, being told that he was DSQ’d just before the medal presentation was devastating. A previous winner in Geneva and one of GB’s faster runners off the bike, he was hoping for one of those much sought-after places in Rio. Having posted the fastest time at the event and crossing the finish line in style even after a 15 second penalty for an early mount in T1 Sharp accepted that he had missed one of the buoys and cut the course, even though to swim backwards would have been dangerous for him. Despite not gaining any advantage he nevertheless had cut the course and got the penalty. On Sunday evening, after this top racing performance that ended so badly and clearly very upset with the way things had panned out, he said, “I'm pretty disappointed as this was a qualifier race for the Rio test event and now the performance is nullified.”
For Buckingham, now the winner, it was a birthday gift as he leaves the 20, somethings.
Antalya is done and dusted. For some the next race is on the other side of the planet. For others it will be a time for rest and recuperation and for others it will be a short rest and then a trip to Madrid for the next ETU Triathlon European Cup.
Big thanks to Hamdi Güneş for the photos.
Find more details about this event - 2015 Antalya ETU Triathlon European Cup