The city of Punta Umbría, steeped in history, saw a small army of duathletes, their families, coaches, trainers and team managers for the ETU 2020 Punta Umbría European Duathlon Championships. With last minute concerns about travel to the venue, it was feared that the impact upon the event, if it even went ahead, would be significant but with confirmation from the highest levels that all was good, the party got the green light.
The Parade of Nations was well-attended and, with the glorious weather, made a colourful spectacle. Of course, Team GB was there in big numbers but so too was the host nation and for those smaller contingents, the lack of numbers was more than made up for by enthusiasm and the volume of the cheers.
Saturday saw the Sprint Races, with the Age-Group waves going off in quick succession ahead of the Juniors and then the two big Elite events. At the top of the afternoon, it was the Elite and U23 Women who raced first and then, with the sun beginning to slip down towards the Atlantic, it was time for the Elite and U23 Men.
We will be running a feature on the Age-Group races in due course but first up, the Elite and U23 titles. We brought you the preview a couple of days ago, bearing the exciting news that due to the cancellation of the WTS Abu Dhabi event, a number of top-ranked triathletes would being joining the ranks this weekend.
The presence on the start line of these athletes certainly got the media interested and this delivered extra numbers of spectators to line the course. For the established duathletes, a challenge but for the WTS gang, no certainty of a victory as many of the hard-core duathletes had never been met before.
Nobody was surprised to see GB’s running ace, Beth Potter set the early pace. Reigning ETU Triathlon champion, her pace on the run is legendary. What came as a bit of a surprise, was that Jocelyn Daniely Brea Abreu kept up with her and then even edged ahead to lead out of T1.
Brea, originally from Venezuela but now having relocated and settled in Spain racing under Spanish colours, has an impressive history as a duathlete; 2011 Junior World Champion being her best performance but here, she was keeping pace with one of the fastest on the circuit.
Behind them and over 15 seconds down, came Austria’s, Sandrina Illes and Lisa Perterer. Perterer, with a European title as a Junior in Winter Triathlon and a world bronze back in 2009 in Gaishorn am See, is clearly a tough athlete. She moved to full-time triathlon racing in 2011 and is Austria’s most successful athlete on the circuit but duathlon was a step into the dark. Alongside the vastly more experienced Illes, it would be interesting to see how it all panned out on the bike.
Illes lost valuable time in T1 and was passed by France’s Garance Blaut. It looked like Potter, Brea, Perterer and Blaut would make a strong chain-gang team but it didn’t gel and they were down to three.
The group broke and for a while it was Potter and Perterer but then the Austrian put on more power and accelerated away.
Potter, alone and without anyone to work with, lost touch.
Coming in to T2 with a sizeable lead, Perterer lost no time. She was 17 seconds down when she started the bike but now an amazing 18 seconds up. Could she possibly hold off the pace of the Brit? It was a one-lap closing run and she knew that Potter had the pace.
Further back, Blaut had been dropped by Brea, who was running like the wind in her first ever appearance for the Spanish team. Illes would not get a medal this time and so all eyes at the front to see if the title would go to Austria or Great Britain.
On the final few hundred metres, Perterer kept looking over her shoulder. Had she blown up? No, she was simply checking to see how far ahead she was and finding her feet on the blue carpet, she enjoyed every step down to the finish tape to take her first ever Duathlon title at her first ever international duathlon event. “Champion of European Duathlon! What a race, what a crowd!”
Potter held on for silver, looking dejected as she crossed the line. Her race was lost on the bike in no man’s land but behind her, with the biggest smile of the day and grabbing the high fives all the way to the finish was Brea. “No tengo palabras para describir lo que siento, estoy muy contenta, muy emocionada y muy satisfecha de cómo luché hasta el final, fue una carrera muy dura de principio a fin, di lo mejor de mi y esta medalla de Bronce me sabe a oro. / I simply cannot express how I feel, I’m really happy, full of emotion and really satisfied with the way I battled all the way to the end. It was a really hard race from start to finish. I gave the best I could and this bronze medal, well, it rally tastes like gold!” Looking at her final run split of 8:19, which was 8 seconds quicker than Potter, her future within the Spanish team looks pretty golden too.
The Elite Men’s race, with the U23 athletes mixed in to add spice was all set to be a thrilling one. The reigning world and European champion from France, Benjamin Choquert headed down to the start line to the cheers of the crowds. Behind him came a succession of seasoned duathletes, with the biggest cheers coming for hometown boy, Emilio Martín. We had to wait quite a while for the name of Great Britain’s double Olympic Champion, holder of European and World triathlon titles, Alistair Brownlee to be heard.
He was soon rubbing shoulders in the second row at the start, with others giving him sideways glances and all wondering if he was going to repeat his Cagliari kick and claim this title. Alongside Ali Brownlee came Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk. As this is a European Championship, the Canadian would not be entitled to medals or titles but would get a share of the prize-money and points.
In the first 5k, a lead group of athletes formed and, with the pace being set by a variety of stars, including Choquert, Martín and Brownlee, the pace stayed high. In the group was the reigning U23 European champion from France, Krilan le Bihan and the 2019 Junior European Champion, Vitalii Vorontsov. Having been swept along in the lead group, could they possibly hang on all the way through the 20k bike and closing 2.5k run?
The bike saw several attacks off the front. Brownlee tested them, Choquert led them, Mislawchuk gave them a scare but it was GB’s Mark Buckingham who had the final word as he led them into T2 with a clear line and a lead of a few seconds.
Martín had a dreadful transition, struggling with his shoes and, having seen him showing signs of lower back pain in the closing stages of the bike, it all looked bleak for the local hero.
Buckingham led. Mislawchuk, Choquert and Brownlee chased. Le Bihan was there too and so it was that the final, “blink and you’ll miss it” 2.5k was on.
Choquert looked so easy on the climbs and was in free-fall on the descents. Brownlee looked stressed in the first seconds but eased into his stride. Buckingham was caught and the pack at the front end was a mix of France, Canada and Great Britain.
Then it came. Unbeaten since April 2019, Choquert kicked and nobody could respond. Mislawchuk tried to keep pace but could not match the Frenchman’s speed. Brownlee looked good for third and the ETU silver but in the final seconds of the race down the blue carpet, Le Bihan found something from nowhere and powered past the double Olympic Champion to add extra weight on the podium for France.
A truly thrilling race and a great finish had the crowds on their feet. Celebrations for the French duo. For a moment they had lost Alistair Brownlee, who had spotted a young fan close to the mixed zone who asked for a special “selfie”. Without hesitation, Alistair posed for the photo and made the lad’s day.
The finale to the race was a great photo as Emilio Martín called everyone together for the best group finish photo you could imagine.
The U23 Women’s race was a focus for the home crowds, with three athletes on the start list. As they came into T1, with the reigning European Champion, Marta Pintanel Raymundo in the lead by almost 50 seconds, it looked set for a home gold. Chasing her and stronger on the bike, was Belgium’s 2018 Junior European Duathlon Champion, Laura Swannet and, just a fraction behind her, Marina Muñoz Hernando. Swannet hammered away on the bike to try and catch the race leader and, with superior bike skills and power, just managed to bridge that gap but with the closing run, it was the faster legs of Pintanel that would ensure gold for the host nation. Further behind, Muñoz was dropping back but still in bronze position.
It was the final run that saw Pintanel accelerate away to claim the title and, crossing the finish line, the crowds were going wild with their support. Gold to Spain, silver to Belgium and bronze, again, to Spain.
For the U23 Men, the runaway victory was for Le Bihan. His performance, claiming a silver in the Elite race and an “I am the best” gold in the U23 is easily his best performance ever. Arnaud Dely with a silver last year on the city-centre circuit in Târgu Mureș settled once more for silver. He was fractionally stronger than the younger Ukrainian, Vorontsov, who claimed bronze.
Dely will soon be moving up from the U23 ranks and with his proven track record will certainly ensure that the Elite athletes have to keep the pace high. Vorontsov has used his pace to great effect on the ETU Triathlon circuit, with an end of season victory last year in Alanya. Another one to keep an eye on but Le Bihan. What a performance!
For the junior athletes, a strong women’s field came to fight for the title. No defending champion.
A new line-up of athletes but with strong racing backgrounds; some in cross-triathlon, some in aquathlon.
The early pace was set by a breakaway of two Spanish athletes. María Casals Mojica and Carla Domínguez Torner came into T1 and, stride for stride, made their way to their bikes, fastened their helmets and set off together on the bike.
They maintained this lead and looked sure for the top two medals but it was the Netherland’s Kim Van ‘T Verlaat working with Marilena Kuster SUI on the bike that brought the pair into medal contention as they caught the leading Spanish duo.
Four athletes and only three medals. All looked set for a thrilling closing run.
Domínguez kicked early and was away for gold. Casals held on for silver and it was Van ‘T Verlaat who was quickest in the scramble for the final place on the podium. Gold and silver for the host nation and a bronze for the Dutch team. For all three athletes, this was their first taste of an international podium. For the Spanish, today’s results are a clear signal that in the senior ranks as well as in the junior ranks, that they have every right to be pleased with their development programme.
The Junior Men’s race once more gave Spain a selection of medals, with gold going to Jose Ignacio Galvez Ponce.
He had teammate, Nicolás Heredero Carazo alongside for the first run but once out on the bike, his power was too great for Heredero to keep up and it was Galvez all alone into T2 and then holding his lead to the finish.
On that first run, Portugal’s Alexandre Silva had kept the pace high with the two Spaniards.
Once the bike started, nobody could match the power of Galvez.
Along with Heredero, the Portuguese athlete slipped back.
Galvez powered away and was assured of the title. Behind him, Silva used his run speed to ease ahead of Heredero over the final stages of the run to claim silver and split the podium.
Day one over. The Federación Española de Triatlón promised and indeed delivered a great race and for those of you who missed out, you can still watch the Elite Men’s race here. A technical hitch meant that not all the Elite Women’s race is available.
Photo credits to Stephen Smith. Check out his own page, with many more images from the weekend, here.
Related Event: 2020 Punta Umbria ETU Duathlon European Championships
|Results: Elite Men|
|3.||Krilan Le Bihan||FRA||00:52:20|
|7.||Yohan Le Berre||FRA||00:52:35|
|Results: Elite Women|
|3.||Jocelyn Daniely Brea Abreu||ESP||01:00:01|
|8.||Marta Pintanel Raymundo||ESP||01:00:44|
|10.||María Varo Zubiri||ESP||01:01:05|
|Results: U23 Men|
|1.||Krilan Le Bihan||FRA||00:52:20|
|5.||Axel Badia Celma||ESP||00:54:04|
|6.||Nicolas Regidor Serrano||ESP||00:54:42|
|7.||Diego Mentrida Zamarra||ESP||00:55:23|
|Results: Junior Men|
|1.||Jose Ignacio Galvez Ponce||ESP||00:56:14|
|3.||Nicolás Heredero Carazo||ESP||00:57:03|
|4.||Olaf Jan Bosscher||NED||00:58:22|
|5.||Joan Reixach Abril||ESP||00:58:41|
|Results: Junior Women|
|1.||Carla Domínguez Torner||ESP||01:02:34|
|2.||María Casals Mojica||ESP||01:02:56|
|3.||Kim Van 'T Verlaat||NED||01:03:28|
|5.||Carla Guisande Vieito||ESP||01:04:56|
|6.||Silke De Wolde||NED||01:05:09|