It has been a long, long season and for many, the final race was Rotterdam. If you were racing as an Age group athlete for once you got the really better deal as the sun came out and the atmosphere was like a party from start to finish. For the Elite and especially for the U23 and Juniors, the weather in Rotterdam was awful and so, this weekend in the beautiful setting of Funchal.
With the sun shining, with a non-wetsuit swim, it was back to business and a straight-line, 750m swim for a change. A clean start saw some athletes identify a small current in the inner harbour and they soon took full advantage of it. Austria’s key swimmer, Therese Feuersinger found herself in the wrong bit of water but soon, using her swim skills, found the current and was soon with the leaders.
To the delight of the local crowds, it was Helena Carvalho POR, who led them out of the water and into T1. Denmark’s Ditte Kristensen came out a few paces back, with Feuersinger on her heels. The crowds really got behind Gabriela Ribeiro POR, recognising that, with her Soria bronze as a junior, she had more to come. Italy’s Sharon Spimi made up the lead group who had a clear advantage over the chasing athletes.
Less than 30 seconds behind the leaders came GB’s Beth Potter who had shown immense speed on the final run when she burst onto the scene in Wuustwezel. Having exited so close to the leaders, she would be a real threat if the bike went well.
The five athletes who led the swim maintained their lead on the tough and technical bike course that took athletes up hills, through tunnels and then back down along twisting roads.
Coming in to T2, it looked as if there would be a great race to the line with Feuersinger and Ribeiro fighting for the top position. Soon enough it was the Austrian athlete leading the race and for her an amazing moment as, in her first Elite race, she was out in front and perhaps had done enough for the win.
Behind her, Potter had ridden well and now, with her best discipline saved until last, she simply ran down everyone in sight. A look at her run time shows that she would have beaten 28 of the Elite Men!
She cruised past everyone in front of her and, having grabbed the lead, took an easy victory in only her second international race. Feuersinger held on to silver and the bronze went to a delighted Ribeiro.
Potter comes from a powerful running background, having raced in the 2014 Commonwealth Games (5k and 10k), in Rio in the 10k and can knock out a 32 minute 10k. Her PBs of 3000m - 8:53.94, 5000m - 15:28.32, 10,000m - 32:03.45 and her ability to swim and bike well, has made her a promising contender for GB’s 2020 team and now, training in Leeds, she can be expected to feature regularly in future races on the ETU and ITU calendar.
Feuersinger was thrilled with her race and has grown over the past few years into more than just a triathlete who can swim. “Das Rennen verlief für mich anfangs nicht nach Wunsch, da ich mir beim Schwimmstart die falsche Seite ausgesucht habe und ich dann zusehen musste wie die große Gruppe mit der Strömung an mir vorbei schwamm. Irgendwie schaffte ich es aber dann doch mit der ersten Gruppe aus dem Wasser zu steigen und wir konnten den Vorsprung am Radausbauen. Beim abschließenden Lauf fühlte ich mich gleich zu Beginn sehr gut und mir gelang es zumindest in der ersten Runde den 1. Platz zu halten, jedoch gegen die überragende Läuferin Potter hatte ich keine chance.
Bin super zufrieden mit dem Rennen und freue mich über den ersten Podiumsplatz in der Elite.
The race did not initially go as planned for me, as I chose the wrong side for the swim and then had to watch the whole group head off past me with the current. Somehow I managed to catch them up and get with the lead group and we were able to build a lead on the bike. On the final run I felt good right from the start and I was able to hold first place in the first lap, but against the amazing pace of Potter I had no chance at all. I am really delighted with the race and happy to get my first podium in an Elite race.”
Ribeiro was delighted with her first bronze in the Elite category and gave the Portuguese Federation something to celebrate.
With the Women’s race over, the focus moved to the Men.
Things did not quite go as planned and the start was in all honesty a mess. From one angle it looked like a mass false start but from another it looked like only the athletes closest to land had heard the “Take your Marks” and the horn. On live TV it really was not what we had hoped for. Those nearest land appeared to take a real advantage at the start; those further long the pontoon fell into the water and some stood in astonishment, hands raised as they watched the main field take off down the 750m course.
One athlete, Oliver Gorges LUX, gave an honest opinion after the race, “The start was really s***, I was the last one who jumped into the ocean due to some problems with the start signal! But then, I was (finally!!) able to swim like “always”. I came out of the water at 11th position and found myself in the leading group!” So there is always a positive to be found.
A clear breakaway was established, led by Michał Oliwa POL and this took just two athletes away from the pack. Joining Oliwa was Portugal’s Pedro Afonso Gaspar. The pair easily found their way to the blue carpet and, 12 seconds ahead of the chasing athletes, made their way our onto the bike course. Gaspar immediately set about creating as big a gap as possible over the Pole, who appeared surprised by the early breakaway.
Ideally, the two would have worked together and the enthusiasm of the Portuguese athlete could well have denied them the chance of a breakaway that could have worked on this challenging bike course. It did not take long then for the chasing peloton to see Oliwa and Gaspar and that is when the power was turned on to try and catch them. Two solo athletes against a massive and determined group meant that soon enough two became over twenty and lit looked like it would be a thrilling final 5k.
Thousands of people lined the streets as the athletes sped around the course on great quality road surfaces and in the glorious sunshine of Madeira and the very tough, cold and wet conditions of Rotterdam were soon forgotten.
The men’s field had fragmented but at the front, it was full on for the men and they pushed hard to create as much space between themselves and the athletes behind them.
A breakaway from Mikki Taagholt DEN quite early on the bike was not immediately controlled by the peloton and he led into T2 looking comfortable and with quite an advantage. The main group followed and were soon out on the 5k run course, with the heat beating down upon them and with the distinctive red Danish uniform in their sights.Some fast runners in that group would test the Dane whose stride soon shortened as the lactic from the bike in his legs began to take effect.
Delian Stateff ITA and Belgium’s Erwin Vanderplancke were looking relaxed at the top of the lead group and soon kicked gently to drop the athletes behind them. Following the shortest line on the run, they were soon alongside and then went past. Stateff led and Vanderplancke sat on his shoulder. Stateff, looking strong, pulled away and Vanderplancke was in soon fair game for the chasing athletes. Dropping off that lead made him vulnerable and without looking back, Stateff pushed the pace, extended his lead and looked great.
Liam Lloyd GBR and Valentin Wernz GER were the only ones who had any pace to keep him in sight and they established a lead on the chase group. Lloyd running with long strides and Wernz with shorter paces.
On the run turn, Stateff was able to see what lead he had and his pace increased. At one point it looked like his lead was under threat, as Lloyd and Wernz were not finished. Lloyd seemed to be doing all the work, with Wernz on his shoulder for so much of the run. Both were focussed on the Azurri uniform ahead of them, who looked so in control.
The Italian did what was needed and held his pace all the way to the finish line for a final and quite unique attack on the finish tape. Italy took the honours. Wernz had placed himself well and had just the control at the finish to take silver ahead of the tiring Lloyd.
Despite his awesome run, Stateff still had enough energy to deliver a fantastic rendition of his national anthem on the podium.
After the race, Stateff explained his race, “It was hard after Rotterdam where I had a good run and knew I was in good condition and I came here to win. The bike was really technical. I am happy because I had a really good tactic on the bike to stay at the front where it was technical and the back on the flat and I had more energy than the others. I was stronger on the run and tried to do the best. It paid off. I enjoyed the race, Madeira is beautiful – I’d like to come back – even for a holiday.”
For Germany’s Wernz, “It was really good. I knew I was in good shape but didn’t know what to expect. Stateff had such a good t2 – he was away quickly and I couldn’t catch him. The hill is tough. After the swim I had a gap but could close on the hill and as I am really light I could catch up.”
For Welshman Lloyd, “My first podium on an ETU race. I couldn’t quite get 2nd. He (Wernz) went at the right time. I left it a bit too late. His sprint was really good. I’m really happy with the race and the podium.”
It was good to see racing back on the island. The backdrop is impressive and with the warmth of the water and the late summer sunshine, it is really a destination for triathlon fans.
Come back next year Funchal!!
Related Event: 2017 Funchal ETU Sprint Triathlon European Cup
|Results: Elite Men|
|Results: Elite Women|
|5.||Madalena Amaral Almeida||POR||01:03:19|
|10.||Diana Vizcarra Montes||ECU||01:04:08|