Sprint medals decided on Sunday morning. GB sweeps up.

Sprint medals decided on Sunday morning. GB sweeps up.

By Paul Groves on 02/05/17 at 4:50 pm

Age Group athletes from all over Europe made their way to Soria last weekend. It was the first big gathering of our athletes this year after the smaller meeting of Winter Triathletes in Otepää in January. National uniforms flowed through the streets. The cafes and bars were full and bikes were everywhere. Mums and Dads, sisters and brothers, families, friends, supporters and team-mates. This is what it is all about; a great big family and big thanks again to Carlos Asensi Catalán for the images.

The weather could have been better but at least the worst of it held off until late on the second day but it was cold and layers of clothing were applied to fight off the chill. The Sunday morning races were over the Sprint Distance and for both Sprint and Standard, it was non-drafting. There may be moves next year to revise this and bring the format in line with ITU plans but we will have to ensure that the course design is safe enough to permit mass-participation. So, for 2017, non-drafting it was.

The first set of medals to be presented went to the youngest Age Group category, 16-19. For the women, it was a simple battle between the Host Nation and Great Britain and for the women, it was a clean sweep for the Spanish with Txell Jarque Pujals running away by almost a minute on the first 5k run. Her biking skills were put to the test by Anna Vallverdú Cortada and Mar Solís Conejo but it was the final run that saw Jarque make sure nobody could threaten her gold. It was silver to Solís and bronze to Vallverdú. Team GB fought well but simply unable to match the speed of the Spanish.

All that changed with the Men’s race. It was again a British / Spanish affair but here the running was led by the Brits. A silver last year in Kalkar but then a gold in Aviles meant that the race favourite was Harrison Smith GBR.  He was just behind Jake Smith as they entered T1 but with superior bike power, Smith forged ahead with Alfonso Izquierdo Alcázar ESP threatening him with just that bit more speed. Peter Cooke saw his advantage, created on the first run, eaten away by Izquierdo on the bike but with a swift T2 it was the World Champion making his mark clearly on the rest of the field, to come home for British gold with a margin of victory of just under 40 seconds. Behind him it was a real battle and with only 3 seconds separating them silver went not to Cooke but to Izquierdo.

For the 20-24 Category, the race become automatically more international with the presence of French athlete,  Céline Tarabbia.Tarabbia is more often seen in equestrian events but this weekend she clearly made her mark in the world of Multi-Sports as she led from the gun. Her finish time, just over 30 seconds ahead of the silver medal winner, gives a clear indication to the French Federation that she is an athlete to be supported. The only threat to her during the race was from Team GB in the shape of Sarah Kerr. Kerr gave all in the final run but despite having Tarabbia in her sights, the Frenchwoman had done enough earlier on and Kerr goes home with silver. Behind her Marie-Louise Kertzman GBR came home to take bronze. No medals for Spain in this Age Group then but great debut races from the French and British athletes and for Marie-Louise Kertzman, a dream come true after her qualification in the rain in the UK in October last year, “So, the post I thought I would only dream of posting. This time last year, a 30 minute run without a break was impossible. Last Sunday, I officially qualified to represent GB for my age group at the European championships for duathlon next year. Proof that we are all capable of so much more than we realise!”

For the men, it was again a Franco, Anglo, Spanish affair and once again French athletes came home with the top prize. Laurent Razat led a group of four athletes into T1 with blistering 16:04 pace. Close behind him was Spaniard, Arnau Turon but with Florian Dupré and Léon Chevalier there to make up a strong French lead, it was going to be tough for the Spaniard to hold on to any of the podium places. Strongest on the bike was Chevalier but he knew that Razat had greater pace on the run and so he really worked the 20k hard and created a significant lead that was just enough to hold Razet to silver. Turon collected bronze.

With a bronze in Aviles last year in the 25-29 category, French athlete Avril Laheurte may well have been hoping for another podium. Her run over the first 5k placed her well behind Josie Cram who had over a minute on her as they entered Transition but some of that advantage was lost in a slow change by Cram. It was on the bike, however, that Laheurte showed true class. Her power was immense and almost two minutes quicker than her competitors. She could afford to cruise home over the final 2.5k and her Aviles bronze turned into a European Gold. Behind her Cram had lost out on the bike and Spanish athlete Gabriela Pintos Cabrera took almost two minutes out of the Brit. Even on the final run, with Cram flat out and posting a tremendous 9:50 for the final 2.5k, she had lost out too much on the bike and had to settle for a debut bronze but with her running pace, Team GB can look forwards with more than just a little hope.

The men saw the top medals come once more to Spain with the defending world champion Xabier Tijero adding European gold to his collection. He led home Victor Carrasco Gil to ensure that the crowds lining the course had something to cheer about. Behind them, Britain’s Jonathan Barnes rode well to post by far the fastest bike split and then held on to take bronze.

In the next category, it was Team GB all the way, with utter domination for the first five places. It was Mandy Stewart who led them into T1 with an impressive 19:38. Behind her came Samantha Fawcett who, after just missing the podium last year in Aviles, stormed through T1 and pushed all the way by Ellie Dominey ensured, with an equally impressive time in T2 that with a final run of 10:11 she would not only get to the podium this time around but would also go home with the gold and the European title. Behind her Dominey’s extra power on the bike took her into second place and Stewart’s final run was more than enough to place her over two minutes clear into the bronze medal position. This display of power from Team GB gave them seven of the top ten places.

For the Men it was almost, but not quite, a mirror-image of the women’s results but here, Spain truly led the way. Seven of the top ten places, yes but in this case, it was the top seven places and from a lowly 16th place in Aviles last year Iñigo Olano injected real pace into the event with only one person running quicker than him. Added to his pace on the bike, it was gold for him but not without the threat from teammate, Victor Martínez García who was strong on the bike and who took silver. They were a good minute ahead of Juan Enrique Gutierrez Martin. A great performance from the Spanish team and more medals on the table for the host nation.

In the 35-39 category, only one Frenchwoman raced against the mixture of Spanish and British athletes. It was not a good day for her but for Spain only one medal was won. Iria Fernández Fontenla raced to the front on the first run and only lost out slightly on the bike to the Kalkar silver medal-winner from Great Britain, Sara Eames. The final 2.5k at pace took her comfortably to gold. Eames goes home with silver but also with the knowledge that she was the most impressive athlete on the bike this weekend in her category. Nicola Timmins came home for bronze but showed great pace on both runs. A bit of work on the bike and she will have every expectation of being back on the podium in later races.

In the Men’s category we saw not just the Spanish and British but also the Irish. A small team was there but they more than made up for the lack of numbers by bringing great craic to the weekend. Ryan Smith it was who delivered for Team GB. An amazing ride took him well clear and an easy final 2.5k sealed it. Gold to Great Britain. Behind him the reigning world champion, Rafael Curado Tejero was struggling to cope with the determined running of Bruce Raeside and it was only Curado’s edge on the bike that kept him ahead. It was a nail-biting finish but Raeside’s run pace was supreme and he took a significant scalp by beating the World Champion to take the silver. Curado settled for bronze.

Gwen Kinsey came to Soria as ETU Sprint Triathlon Champion, as ITU Sprint Duathlon World Champion and went home with the European title. She was never threatened during the race and commanded the run and bike segments, only easing off on the final 2.5k. Jo Billings moved up from a bronze in Aviles to a silver here in Soria and with a final run, faster than the winner, she had created just enough space to keep Mónica Ortiz Fernández back in bronze. Ortiz won gold in the younger category last year. Moving up now to the 40-44 age group she will no doubt be keeping her eye on Kinsey moving up ahead of her.

The men saw racing between the Spanish and British again but with the added spice of athletes from Ireland and Belgium.  An initial surge by two Spaniards; Emilio Pérez Marín and José Vicente López Cabrera saw them pull away but then, after a rather sedate T1, it was British athlete Jonathan Hoggett, winner of the silver in Kalkar, who powered up through the ranks. The final 2.5k must have hurt but, with López getting to the finish first, he held on for silver and was a minute clear of Pérez.

It was a runaway victory for Britain’s Ella Towers. She was the fastest over all three segments, slowing up only in transition. A finish time of 1:16:05, took her way ahead of the silver medal finisher, also from GB, Liz McLellan who had worked had on the bike and then held on for the final run to take her medal ahead of Viv Malt. A clean sweep for the Brits but also almost a medal for Ireland as Seanin Gilmore missed out on a medal by just 7 seconds after a great ride.

The men’s race was going to be exciting with athletes who had placed in the top five in Aviles coming together again to battle for those three places on the podium. David Vargas Ansia managed a top ten finish in the Worlds in 2014, in Pontevedra. He came away with a bronze in Alcobendas in 2014, a bronze in Aviles and here in Soria, he was simply unbeatable and claimed the title in style. Behind him came Britain’s Michael Buchallet, improving his performance from Kalkar last year when he went home with a bronze medal. Keith Dawson has done a lot of speed work since his 2015 5th place finish in the ITU Middle Distance championships in Motala and used his powerful biking skills to comfortably take bronze.

And then, there is Jacqui Phillips ....

For the 45-49 category, most had already accepted that it would have to be a very bad day for Britain’s Jacqui Phillips if anyone stood a chance of getting to the top place on the podium. A truly astounding athlete, Phillips has dominated Age Group racing internationally and came to the race with six European titles, two World titles and had only lost out in Lisbon last year to a Swiss athlete, to take silver. She was the race favourite, not only in her age group but overall. She delivered. Oh yes, she delivered and was over 4 minutes clear when she crossed the line. Of the very few German athletes who raced, it was the silver medal winner from Kalkar, Anke Lakies who took silver once more. She was comfortably ahead of Nicola Miller GBR, who was followed in by five more British women to make the domination in this Age Group truly one under the Union Flag.

Powerful running took the reigning World and European champion Wayne Aylesbury GBR to victory. His power on the run was enough to take him clear and losing out only to fellow Brit, Leon Field Aylesbury had done more than enough to ensure that the ETU title stayed with him. Field will be delighted with this result as it improves greatly upon his 8th in Aviles. Bronze went to Spain’s Tomás Pérez Cervantes.

Last year in Kalkar, Janice McWilliam had to settle for silver in a tight finish. This year, with a really strong performance on the bike, she had an easy victory and can upgrade her medal to gold. She was led into T1 by fellow Brit Tracy Ford but with greater pace through the transition area, she emerged ahead and her superior biking skills took her to a comfortable lead. Once again on the final run Ford pushed hard but the damage had been done on the 20k and Ford had to settle for silver. Bronze went to Deborah Lloyd to make it another clean sweep for Team GB.

It was not to be a clean sweep for the host nation in the men’s race. Despite the early lead by Fernando Fernández Valladares and the power of Carmelo Gómez on the bike, the balance was changed by Britain’s Peter Stainer. It was ultimately the hard work on the bike from Gómez that secured gold for Spain and the fast running of Fernández that delivered silver as well but the swift T2 and run from Stainer was enough to take him to the podium and a minute and forty seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

Sue Clarke, as defending European Champion returned to Soria as part of the massive Team GB contingent. She cruised in first off the run but then lost valuable time in T1 and was unable to respond as teammate and 2015 ETU silver medallist, Paula Fisher pulled away on the bike. With 2015 European Champion, Gina Willis already ahead of her, it must have been a day to dig deep into the psychological reserves. She did just that and had a much improved T2. Ahead of her Fisher was leading and despite Willis doing her best to catch the leader, it was Fisher who took gold, Willis with the silver and Clarke for bronze. A clean sweep for the British again.

We found just a small handful of German athletes in the men’s race. Coming to Spain to defend his title was Heinrich Wilmink. His 2016 saw him win bronze in Lisbon and a silver in Aviles. Coming to Soria, he was the race favourite. His running took him into an easy lead. T1 went swiftly and out on the bike, Wilmink was strong. His final transition and run saw him take a comfortable victory ahead of arch-rival, David Butt. Butt came away from Aviles with bronze and from Kalkar with silver.  Of the two, Butt was faster on the bike but it was the German’s running that secured gold. Spanish fans cheered for Juan Antonio Baena Muñoz who ended up in a sprint for the final podium place against Britain’s Alistair Stewart. It was not to be for Stewart, who lost out by just one second.

Five starts. Five podiums. Five wins. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well that is exactly what Lucia Soranzo ITA did. We did not see her race in 2016 so it is nice to see her back and back in winning style. She beat the reigning world champion Consuelo Alonso Alonso.

It was time lost in transition that decided some of the positions amongst the men. A fast run may put you in the lead but a fumbled transition can see all the hard work just evaporate. With a bronze in Aviles, it was Spain’s Serafin Torres Terresano who got his run to bike and bike to run transitions sorted and it was he who won by a clear minute. Frenchman René Grou was last on the podium in Alanya in 2013. His biking took him into silver ahead of Derek Bardsley who had the best race of his life.

It was a truly exciting race in the men’s 70-74 category. GB’s Mick Anglim was clearly race favourite, but it was neck and neck as he entered T1 with Ginés Vivancos Sáez ESP breathing down his neck. Time lost in the transition area was soon made up on the bike and it took Anglim’s superior final running pace to secure the European title. Vivancos came home for silver by just ten seconds and for bronze, behind them came John Caborn.

We had to wait until the Men’s 75-79 category to get a mix of nationalities and with France, Spain, Portugal and Great Britain racing. The reigning world champion, Jean-Claude Pesenti FRA was able to show us exactly why he holds that title and led from the very start. Behind him but quicker in transition, was the home nation’s Guillermo Morales Bermudo. Coming home for bronze was Portugal’s Francisco Augusto Cipriano.

The biggest cheers and a standing ovation went to the British legend, Maurice Young. Born in 1934 he is no stranger to the top place on the podium and was, with the absence of the defending champion from Germany, this year able to add another European title to his collection of World and European wins.

A great shame that so few German athletes raced. After their performances last year in Kalkar we should all have expected to see them arrive to defend their titles or to improve upon their places. Sadly, the German National Championships were raced this last weekend.

Nationality Gold Silver Bronze
GBR    11 12 14
ESP    8 9 8
FRA    4 2  
GER   1 1  
ITA     1    
POR       1

For the full results, please click this link.

Find more details about this event - 2017 Soria ETU Duathlon European Championships