By Paul Groves on 06/10/17 at 11:39 am
Writing about an event is always exciting but being at an event and having to opportunity to see the course, to meet with the athletes and organisers, talking to people in the street and getting to feel the “buzz”, the atmosphere … well, that is so much better.
Getting to Melilla is relatively easy. With flights from “The Peninsula”, as the inhabitants of this tiny piece of Spain on the northern Moroccan coast refer to Spain, are frequent but with quite small planes, you might have to wait for your luggage (as we are now doing) but a more leisurely way, by luxury ferry, across the Mediterranean is a real treat and the organisers managed to secure really good deals this year for athletes and their supporters.
So, what about Melilla?
Lovely architecture. Really nice weather. Fantastic restaurants and bars and a beautiful city centre that came alive last night as people set off to meet up with friends and family to enjoy a spectacular mix of Spanish and Arabic food options.
The Romanian Team travelled in with us. 5-strong, with three elite and two juniors. The Polish Team looked smart at breakfast, their white eagle very much in evidence and during the day more and more athletes will arrive to bring the total of nationalities racing here up to 18.
Now at the ETU Melilla Cup Final, the athletes, who have been racing all over the European Circuit will have a final chance to collect points for the ETU Ranking Series. Having raced at our European Championships in Kitzbühel and Düsseldorf and our three Regional Championships (Balkan, Baltic and Mediterranean) as well as the 9 European Cups (including one Premium European Cup) and 9 Junior European Cups, in 14 different countries. This weekend will see the final opportunity for points.
As a series, this year has provided variety, balance, excitement and amazing performances as well as giving National Federations all over Europe the chance to see their athletes race with the best. We will provide a retrospective later in the year.
Melilla is delighted to have the race here and in particular to be able to host the ETU Cup Final. Jorge García, Director of Events for FETRI, Federación Española de Triatlón, explained, “Melilla is one of the 2 cities that Spain has in the north of Africa; 86.000 inhabitants living in 11 km2. When we, as Spanish Federation came for the first time in Melilla, we discovered a potential city for an International event and this is what we have been working for since 2014, in order to host in 2015 the first European Cup.
We are in an ancient city, where sport is an important pillar inside and where Triathlon plays an important role, with a regional Federation that organizes their own events in multiple disciplines and where we saw, as part of the legacy, that bringing the sport to this part of Spain, was something that would leave legacy and increase the number of athletes.
In a way to design an emotional event, we planned a design where the spectators can understand what triathlon is nowadays, working in a spectator friendly course and venue. This is why the second transition and the flows through the main venue, create an atmosphere, as we understand triathlon, pure Elite Events. Melilla is Triathlon and Triathlon is part of the history of Sport in Melilla.”
When you look at the programme of events that is delivered by the Federación Melillense de Triatlón alone, you can see that, per capita, this small part of
Spain probably delivers the highest level of sporting opportunities for any location in Europe.
ETU President, Renato Bertrandi, arriving here on Friday afternoon, said, “It has been a long season of racing and our athletes have endured a variety of weather conditions. With many parts of Europe getting ready for the cold winter months and with some of our athletes still remembering the terrible weather we had in Rotterdam, we arrive at this final race in Melilla to see blazing sunshine, blue skies, warm seas, warm welcomes and a great finale to our ETU Rankings Series.
ETU has provided a bumper prize-purse of €40,000, which will be shared amongst the athletes who have raced the series and who race here this weekend. The top ten athletes in the ETU Rankings Series will be rewarded for their hard work and dedication to our ETU Race Calendar. The Junior Athletes, racing for Federation points, will provide us with a thrilling final race to decide which three federations top the ranking table and for all, it will be a fitting finale to our 2017 racing season.
I am delighted that the Spanish Federation, working so very closely with the Melillense Triathlon Federation has hosted this race and has moved this year from its springtime date to October. I have seen the reports, photos and video imagery from the two previous years and know that the atmosphere here will be just perfect. The people of Melilla not only know about triathlon, they have embraced our sport and as athletes themselves and supporters, they live and breathe our swim, bike, run culture.”
The Head of Education, Youth and Sports in Melilla, Antonio Miranda, was particularly happy that two young Melillense athletes would be racing in the Junior men’s category. For Álvaro Martínez and Juanjo Montoro there will be especially loud support for them all around the course. There was considerable interest from Melilla Media, who covered the Press Conference.
So, who is racing this weekend?
Well, for the Elite we have both ETU Ranging Series leaders.
A tough race in Rotterdam, where Russia’s Anastasia Abrosimova was carrying an injury, initially made her appearance here in Melilla look doubtful but at the last minute the Russian Federation agreed to her starting. She has a huge lead but will be facing stiff opposition from an athlete who has had a great sequence of races in recent months. Vendula Frintová CZE, has every incentive to go flat out for the win here. A victory will bring her significant rewards and possibly the title.
Belgium’s Claire Michel is well-placed to collect points and prize-money this weekend and with her strong finishing run, she can expect a top five finish and perhaps a podium. Watch out too for the two Spanish athletes, Ines Santiago and Anna Godoy Contreras. Their presence will inspire the cheering crowds lining the streets.
The Men’s race will be full-on from start to finish. Competing here this weekend is the man who did the double. An historic sequence of racing delivered both Standard and Sprint European titles to Portugal’s João Pereira. He has a commanding lead over previous winner, Uxío Abuín Ares ESP, who is currently showing better form than both Pereira and Azerbaijan’s Rostislav Pevtsov, who lies in third place in the rankings.
Having delivered a stunning performance in Rotterdam, Raphaël Montoya, the spectators in Melilla have the chance to watch the Reigning World Champion race against the reigning European Champion. What a race this will be.
If you really want to get involved and see how the results will change the final ranking positions, then check out this simulation.
The Juniors will also be racing for their own Cup Final and as in previous years, the final rankings will be determined by the performance overall of each federation. With Austria currently leading the rankings and with their star athlete, Therese Feuersinger here, there will have to be impressive performances from other athletes to push her off the podium. Feuersinger has had a series of solid races this year. Her immense power in the water, added to her biking skills has taken her to a level where she can dominate a race. If she builds a big enough lead then she can run home to victory and secure a “top of the podium” finish for ÖTRV Triathlon Austria.
France, currently lying in second place in the rankings, will have to rely upon just two athletes for their points and it is quite possible that Hungary, laying in third place at present, will seize this opportunity and, with their athletes racing here this weekend, push the French down the table. Csongor Lehman had a top ten finish in Rotterdam and Junior bronze in Kitzbühel can be expected to really push the pace here. With Dorottya Petrov and Dorka Putnóczki on the Junior Women’s start lists, the Hungarian team is in a strong position.
Team GB has come to this event with a small team but with no Portuguese presence in the Juniors, may still find themselves in the top three if the Italian athletes have a bad race.
We will have live-tracking for the events, so you can follow the athletes on Sunday.
Don’t forget to follow ETU on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We will try to provide you with as many updates this weekend as possible so that wherever you are, you will be able to follow the athletes and feel part of the race.
Find more details about this event - 2017 Melilla ETU Triathlon European Cup Final