Summer - sea, sand, Portugal - it must be Quarteira.

Summer - sea, sand, Portugal - it must be Quarteira.

By Paul Groves on 29/03/16 at 6:09 pm

Quarteira really does herald the arrival of summertime for us in the northern parts of Europe. Of course, it has been warm down on the beautiful Algarve for a few weeks now and what better way for the town to prepare for the summer season than hosting once again this fantastic event.

Having been fortunate to see this race first-hand I really can assure you, it is a great location, close to Faro airport and with many hotels to choose from. It is also a really tough race.

The sea swim is never easy but has produced some fast times over the years. A look back through the records shows that 2009 had good conditions as we did for the last couple of years but when the wind hits the coast then the stronger open-water swimmers have the true advantage.

Out onto the bike course and after a twitchy start, the laps begin. Nice and flat they may seem until you hit the central climb and this is where it hurts. It doesn’t hurt just once though. This course has 6 laps, the hill and three dead turns on each lap. It is here where a strong group of cyclists can escape.

The run is relatively flat and over four laps. The crowds have been huge in the past and we all know, they can really help the athletes with their cheers of support.

The comprehensive Athletes’ Guide has all the information that you will need if you are racing here and makes a good read if you are perhaps planning a trip out to support.

The host hotel, Dom Jose could not be better placed and has looked after the athletes, coaches, managers and officials now for many years.

The weekend sees not only the Elite race but also the Juniors and we will have a look at their start lists first to see who is racing and who we might expect to see on the podium.

Amongst the Junior Women we have 51 starters from 18 nations with one athlete racing under the ITU flag, who is based in France. GB is sending 7 athletes, Israel 6 but the host nation has a massive 9. Coming from way over the water are two athletes from South America. Brazil and Chile have representation and a hope for early season points.

The junior athletes collect points during the season. These points are then added together to provide a ranking standard. 2015 saw Germany take top place, with Hungary in second and Great Britain in third. Click here for the 2015 final rankings.

For the Junior Women there is no German representation but Hungary and Great Britain have entered athletes. Highest-ranked from the top three federations is Olivia Mathias. A strong performance from her in Tiszaújváros last year shows that Team GB still has depth and strength in its junior ranks.

Heading the race however, is French athlete Cassandre Beaugrand.  A strong athlete and the 2014 winner here in Quarteira, she has had a collection of medals and having raced against the French Elite in October she is on form and the one to beat. Wearing number 2 is Denmark’s Alberte Kjær Pedersen. She has made Alanya her event, with back to back wins over the past two years and narrowly missed the podium in Chicago, where she took 4th, just one second away from the bronze. It is another French athlete who wears number 3, Emilie Morier. Her bronze medal here last year and her bronze in Alcobendas is a solid foundation upon which she will be hoping to build. Portugal’s hopes will rest upon Madalena Amaral Almeida.

For a full start list please click here.

Amongst the men, the clear favourite who was listed, Britain’s Ben Dijkstra is now not on the start list. There will still be 75 athletes from 20 federations will toe the start line.

Wearing number 1 will be Matevž Planko from Slovenia. For him Chicago was not a good day at the office but that followed on from a bronze and a silver at Bled and Tabor. His 6th place in Zagreb was against the Elite and so, with a strong swim and a tactical bike he is on paper the man to beat. Wearing number 2 is Denmark’s Emil Deleuran Hansen. A top ten place in Geneva and a silver in Tiszaújváros where he was beaten by Dijkstra. Wearing number 3 is a man to watch. Israel’s Ran Sagiv stormed to the podium in Alanya and will be keen to perform well. With big teams from Belgium, Great Britain and of course Portugal, there will be loud and enthusiastic cheering from the crowds along the roads. Portuguese hopes rest Tiago Leão.

For a full start list please click here.

Moving on to the Elite and we see a massive 75 on the start line for the men. This beach start event will see the athletes sprint down to the surf before hitting the waves.

This year will see athletes from Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and Venezuela make the trip to Europe but they will face very tough competition. Over the years it has been the French men who have won more golds (in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015). The event was first run on the ETU schedule in 2009 and their domination has been impressive.

This year they arrive with 8 male elite athletes and one of them, unsurprisingly, is wearing number 1.

Aurélien Raphaël won this race in 2012 and 2014. He won bronze in 2015, silver in 2013 and will be keen to collect some more silver this year after a rather quiet 2015. Wearing number 2 is GB’s Matt Sharp. Having been denied a chance to race in Rio, his bronze in the Mixed Relays in Geneva and a stunning gold in late October in Tongyeong, where he cruised to victory and posted the fastest run of the day, shows him to be in good form. No stranger to Quarteira, Sharp narrowly missed the podium in 2015. Will his extra motivation prove to be too much of a challenge for Raphaël ? Well, on paper Sharp certainly has the edge on the run but Raphaël’s swim is stronger. These two will be the ones to watch but the rising star from Spain, who took silver in the U23 in Chicago and then won silver behind Sharp in Tongyeong, David Castro Fajardo is going to be able to show his cycle and run pace. His swim time is similar to Sharp – will they work together ? The host nation will be hoping for a good race from Alexandre Nobre.

For a full start list please click here.

The women’s race will be no less exciting. 56 athletes representing 19 federations, with guest appearances from Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines. Once again, the visiting athletes from outside Europe will face a very stern test if they hope to get to the podium. Although never taking the gold, it is once again France who has the best record with podium places in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and in 2015 with that fantastic race to the line between Gillian Sanders RSA and Audrey Merle FRA.

Neither are here in 2016 but topping the bill is Ireland’s fast-paced Aileen Reid.

Although she has failed to get onto a podium for a while, her consistent top ten performances in 2015, including 9th in Chicago, 6th in Baku, 4th in London, 6th in Yokohama and 7th on the Gold Coast shows us all that she is one mighty athlete. Chasing her will be number 2, from Brazil, Pamella Oliveira. Her disappointing performance in Abu Dhabi will be incentive enough for her to use her bike power to try and get onto the podium but against them both are some younger and exciting athletes to watch out for.

Wearing number 3 comes Alexandra Razarenova RUS . In hot conditions in Alanya last year she missed the podium by seconds. She will be flying in from Kyrgyzstan and as current Russian nation al champion, with a 7th place in Baku she will be putting behind her the nightmare of her 2010 visit to Quarteira and thinking perhaps more about her 2013 gold in Istanbul and 2014 bronze in Antalya.  Lucy Hall GBR and  Lisa Sieburger GER are both ones to watch out for and Portuguese fans will be cheering on Helena Carvalho.

For a full start list please click here.

Find more details about this event - 2016 Quarteira ETU Triathlon European Cup