Britain continues its medal-winning run at the U23 Championships

By Paul Groves | 08 Aug, 2017

The U23 Championships in 2016 was shortened to a Sprint Distance to ensure the safety of the athletes on the bike course. Once again the race was over the Sprint distance this year, but this time, perhaps the roads might have been melting but it was the incredible heat that swept the region, pushing up temperatures to over 40C that caused the real concern.

To ensure the safety of all who were at the event, volunteers and Technical Officials included, the LOC delivered 200kg of ice and 6,000 bottles of water, installed showers on the run and added extra aid-stations on the run course.

With these additional measures in place and with adjustments to the start times, coaches, athletes, officials and medical teams agreed that the 2017 U23 Championships could go ahead and what a race we had!

For the U23 Women, it was a clear lead for Zsannett Bragmayer HUN, coming to this race all fired up after her win in Astana at the end of July. After a disappointing result last year in Burgas, she was hoping, in front of a home crowd, to deliver and she did just that with her domination of the swim.

Close behind was Siân Rainsley GBR and Anastasia Gorbunova RUS. Portugal’s Helena Carvalho and race favourite, Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown followed.

They worked hard out on the burning circuit of the bike course with Gorbunova and Carvalho slightly off the back of the pace of the three leaders.

The five eventually formed into a cohesive group and they established a good lead over the peloton to enter T2 with space behind them.

Bragmayer, cheered on by the local fans, was fast out of T2. For others, Daryna Moskalenko AZE, a crash in T2 meant valuable seconds were lost but with determination and perhaps additional adrenaline after the impact, it jolted her out of the stupefying heat and she eventually finished with a 6th place.

Taylor-Brown edged ahead of Bragmayer and behind them a battle was on between Gorbunova and Rainsley.

Rainsley eventually shook off the threat from Russia but ahead, it was Bragmayer who watched as Taylor-Brown pulled further away as the shouts of encouragement came from the vocal Brits who had lined the closing section of the run course.

Gold and the title to Taylor-Brown, GB’s double Junior Champion from the 2012 and 2013 Championships in Eilat and Alanya. With the Nancy World Duathlon junior title also in her collection, this U23 win, following the Madrid victory, further declares her dominance. Silver and a huge cheer for Bragmayer and for Rainsley a true indication of her move up from the Juniors as well as a massive confidence boost ahead of the Mixed Relays, which were set for the Sunday.

The medical teams, officials and volunteers worked overtime to keep the athletes cool and to assist them in their post-race recovery and the data collected by the various medical teams will be invaluable for future races.

The U23 Men were up next.

It was the hope and expectation of all the Hungarian fans that Bence Bicsák coming here with that amazing win from Tiszaújváros, would take the crown. The athletes kept under cover as much as possible; kept hydrated as much as possible and, if it is humanly possible in such heat, to chill out before the race.

As they strode out onto the hot blue carpet to take position on the pontoon it was certainly not going to be a wetsuit swim as the water was over 30C.

The spectators were close enough to put out their hands to greet the athletes and the atmosphere was amazing.

Lined up. Ready. And they were off.

The reduced distance did not favour the stronger swimmers but Márk Dévay still led them out of the water with his powerful and technically beautiful swimming.

He had a clear run to T1 with Spain’s Antonio Serrat Seoane and Sam Dickinson following some paces behind. Bicsák had them in sight but initially it was Dévay leading a small group before the packs joined.

Dévay led into T2 with Bicsák behind and Swiss athlete, Sylvain Fridelance in contention. Dickinson, hitting some rough stuff on the bike course, had punctured and that looked like his race was over but a superfast change of wheels gave him just the slimmest chance of getting back into contention for a top 5 place.

Dévay and Bicsák rushed through to the run with Fridelance chasing and Serrat Seoane fighting to retrieve something for Spain. Behind them, way back, was Dickenson. The Brit would have to produce an amazing run if he were to stand any chance now.

Serrat Seoane dug deep and challenged the Hungarians, taking the lead and making the pace hurt but in the final stages, Dévay broke loose and the Spaniard was dropped.

Ahead of him Bicsák was having yet another supreme race and it was he who took the European title.

Gold to Hungary but Switzerland’s Fridelance pushed hard for the silver, dropping Dévay to bronze medal position and behind him, closing down the gap and with the most amazing finish, came the Brit, with cycle grease down his legs from changing the wheel, having posted a final run of 15:40.

No medal for Sam but plenty of applause and a cold bottle of water to help him cool down.

After the race, Bicsák was buzzing, “Nem minden nap van lehetőségem Európa Bajnokság győzelemről beszámolót írni, úgyhogy most megteszem. Idén hazai pályán, Velencén rendezték meg az U23-as EB-t, melynek mi, magyar versenyzők, nagyon örültünk. Persze emiatt egy kicsit jobban izgultam a verseny előtt, na jó, nagyon izgultam, ami nem jellemző rám. Először volt rajtam nyomás, tudtam, hogy sokat várnak tőlem, és én is sokat vártam magamtól. Részt vettem sajtótájékoztatón, rengeteg interjút csináltak velem már a verseny előtt is, bár ilyen szempontból egész laza fej vagyok, azért új volt ez még nekem. Szeretném megköszönni mindenkinek, aki ott volt velem, vagy követte a versenyt, vagy csak gondolt rám, nagyon sokat jelent nekem. Az edzőmnek, Szilard Tothnak, aki bajnokot csinált belőlem. A családomnak, akik mindvégig támogattak, egészen pici koromtól kezdve. És persze a barátaimnak, akik nélkül az egész életem nem lenne élvezetes. Köszönöm a Magyar Triatlon Szövetségnek, hogy mindig töretlen volt a bizalmuk felém, a szponzoraimnak, az 575 by ILB Factorynak, a HIGH5 Sports Nutrition Hungarynek, a Tuttobici kerékpárbolttnak, és mindenkinek, aki bármiben is segített nekem eddig, és tudom, hogy ezután is fog, nagyon sokan vagytok. Köszönöm a Pécsi Sport Nonprofit Zrt.nek, a csapatnak, ami nélkül nem sikerülhetett volna ez az egész, és külön köszönet az edzéstársaimnak, legfőképpen Noémi Sárszeginek.

Not every day I have a chance of winning the championship of Europe. This year, in Venice, the-as, which we, Hungarian competitors, was very pleased. Of course, I was a little bit nervous about the competition, okay, I was really nervous, which is not like me. It was my first time. I knew they’d expect a lot from me. I’ve been in a Press Briefing, and I’ve been doing a lot of interviews with me before the competition, although I’m pretty cool in this way. I’d like to thank everyone who was there with me or followed the race or just thought of me. My trainer, Szilard Toth who made me a champion. For my family, who supported me all along. And, of course, my friends, without whom my whole life wouldn’t be enjoyable. Thanks to the Magyar Triatlon Szövetség for always being towards me, my sponsors, the 575 by ILB Factory, the HIGH5 Sports Nutrition Hungary, the Tuttobici kerékpárbolt a, and for everyone who has helped me so far, and I know it’s going to happen.  Thank you for the Pécsi Sport Nonprofit Zrt. for the team that I couldn’t have done with all this and special thanks to my sparring partners, especially for Noémi Sárszegi who is with me every practice.”

The athletes had no time to relax or celebrate because the very next day it was the U23 Mixed Relays and although it would be the super-sprint distance, the temperatures were not dropping and it would be hot, hot, hot out there.

Day 2 and it was the Mixed Relays.

This format is so wonderfully inclusive and so visually exciting it is certainly going to be a big hit in Tokyo and with these athletes, racing in the U23 category, we can be pretty sure that a few of them will be wearing their national uniforms in Japan in 2020.

The women started and as expected, it was Zsannett Bragmayer HUN, who led them out of the water. Close behind was Anastasia Gorbunova RUS. Sara Papais ITA was close by and in there was Portugal’s Helena Carvalho. Pretty soon the peloton had formed out on the bike and inside was Britain’s newly-crowned U23 Champion, Georgia Taylor-Brown, working hard at the front of the pack but also taking time to rest inside the group.

GB led into T1 but Hungary flew out onto the run with Italy just behind, then GB and then Russia. Over this shorter distance, could the advantage go to the host nation?

Well, as the run unfolded, Taylor-Brown soon took control and moved to the front. Once there, she simply pulled away and created more and more distance as the handover neared. A few glances over her shoulder and she knew that she had put her team in a commanding position for the next leg.

Behind, Papais had overtaken Bragmayer and on the out and back course, the athletes could easily see the advantage that had been created. Bragmayer kicked back and Italy dropped into third with Gorbunova hanging on and then overtaking Papais to edge Russia into third place for the handover.

So GB led, Hungary second and Russia third at the start of the second leg. Dickinson for GB, Dévay for Hungary and Andrey Moissenko RUS, in third.

We had seen Dickinson’s immense power on the bike in Cagliari. We saw him in the U23 race, a puncture but then recovery and the super-fast run. He would be the man to beat on this leg and he did everything to make it hard for others to follow with a powerful swim.

Against Dévay it would be a tough call for the Brit but he held the Hungarian off enough to be able to get onto the blue carpet first and up into T1. The two could then work together on the bike and create distance between them and the chasing athletes from Russia and Italy as Giulio Soldati caught Moissenko in the water.

Dickinson and Dévay worked well together and created a good lead. Suddenly on a chicane, Dévay’s rear wheel slipped and he ended up losing control of the bike and Dickinson was alone. It was his turn a few seconds later to lose control and hit the deck on the roads, which had become quite slippery in the heat and although he lost only a couple of seconds, mechanical problems slowed him down.

Out in the lead and alone now Dickinson had to focus and get to the handover.

Dévay changed the damaged wheel in superfast time and now found himself not leading the race with Dickinson but chasing the back of the group.

The Brit was out in front. Way, way out in front and with his run pace, Dickinson took Team GB into a lead that would last. His easy, long stride looked effortless and behind him Moissenko and Soldati would have to work very hard to regain any time. Italy led out. Russia followed. Great Britain was far ahead now.

The handover went smoothly and it was Rainsley for GB out in the water alone. Ekaterina Matiukh RUS was pushed into second place by the final run of Moissenko.  At this point Italy had been caught by a strong running Serrat Seoane and it was Camila Alonso Aradas ESP who led out Verena Steinhauser ITA.

Rainsley is strong in the water and by the time she had left Transition for the bike she was over a minute ahead of Matiukh. Steinhauser had edged ahead of Alonso Aradas but Team GB was comfortably leading. Rainsley rode and ran alone, holding the lead but behind her Matiukh was catching up and the Russian could clearly see the uniform of the young Brit.

Entering the handover zone and the lead of over a minute had been reduced to 37 seconds.

James Teagle would be racing against Alexey Kalistratov RUS and the final leg for the chasing team from Italy would be run by Delian Stateff.

Teagle raced sensibly and got his team to the gold medal.

Taylor-Brown, Dickinson and Rainsley were there to greet him over the line. Kalistratov was welcomed by his teammates as was Stateff. Gold to GB, silver to Russia and bronze to Italy.

All athletes had raced hard and in the most difficult conditions imaginable. The memories of Velence will last long.

After the race was over, it was time for the Brits to reflect. Dickinson was frustrated with the Saturday puncture but delighted with his recovery and performance in the relays, “Gave it everything this week in Hungry but after a puncture I couldn’t find those 9 seconds to get me onto the podium. Thanks to the professionalism of the medical team to get me recovered for the relay the next day. It was a pleasure to race with such talented athletes and relay gold was a perfect way to end!”

To watch the live feed (unedited) please click here - it starts at about 25:00. The Award Ceremony is at about 2:40:00.

Big thanks to Lili Hajdu for the photos for this page and to Alastair England for the photos we used on the ETU Facebook page.

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Related Event: 2017 Velence ETU Triathlon U23 European Championships
05 - {entry_finish_date format="%M, %Y"} • event page
Results: U23 Men
1. Bence Bicsák HUN 00:55:54
2. Sylvain Fridelance SUI 00:56:18
3. Márk Dévay HUN 00:56:29
4. Samuel Dickinson GBR 00:56:38
5. Antonio Serrat Seoane ESP 00:56:41
6. Roberto Sanchez Mantecon ESP 00:56:44
7. Amitai Yonah ISR 00:56:46
8. Delian Stateff ITA 00:56:49
9. James Teagle GBR 00:56:58
10. Ran Sagiv ISR 00:57:05
Results: U23 Women
1. Georgia Taylor-Brown GBR 01:01:55
2. Zsanett Bragmayer HUN 01:02:14
3. Sian Rainsley GBR 01:02:42
4. Anastasia Gorbunova RUS 01:03:10
5. Verena Steinhauser ITA 01:03:42
6. Daryna Moskalenko AZE 01:04:13
7. Estelle Perriard SUI 01:04:17
8. Jana Machacova CZE 01:04:28
9. Ekaterina Matiukh RUS 01:04:34
10. Camila Alonso Aradas ESP 01:04:38
Results: 4xMixed Relay U23
1. Team I Great Britain GBR 01:42:29
2. Team I Russia RUS 01:43:08
3. Team I Italy ITA 01:44:09
4. Team I Spain ESP 01:44:56
5. Team I Hungary HUN 01:45:45
6. Team I Portugal POR 01:49:17
7. Team I Ukraine UKR 01:50:05
8. Team I Romania ROU 01:54:18
DNS. Team I Slovenia SLO DNS
DNF. Team I Czech Republic CZE DNF