This weekend in deepest Transylvania, the bears stayed hidden amongst the bushes but it was the duathletes from 28 nations who raced on the newly-designed course in Târgu Mureș.
Last year’s event was a massive success and, listening to the constructive comments from many Age Group and Elite athletes, the LOC delivered a much-improved and still tough run and bike course around the forests that surrounds the city Zoo.
Reports about bears were true – as the ban on hunting has allowed the bear population to increase, more and more are to be seen in and around the forest. This certainly made it more exciting for the athletes as they raced the run / bike / run course over the last two days.
First up it was the Age Group athletes and with overall victories going to Great Britain, with Nik Tarrega taking the overall women’s title.
Johannes Franzky GER, returned to win the men’s event outright for the second year and with our oldest athletes in the 70+ category getting cheered all around the course, it was clear for the spectators, team mangers and athletes that 2017 was better, so much better.
The Junior Men raced next, with the Junior Women setting off just two minutes behind them, and the Para wave a two minutes later.
In the Junior Women’s race the defending champion, Sofiya Pryyma UKR was seeking to retain her title, but would face stiff competition from Slovakia’s Lydia Drahovska. Also there was last year’s bronze medal-winner, Ema Filipović but added to this mix of true talent came the 2016 Vallée de Joux ETU Cross Triathlon Junior European Champion, Marta Meditto, from Italy.
She edged ahead on the first run and once out on the bike, built her lead but not by much. Pryyma dug deep and kept her in sight but the final run was what she needed to break away from the defending champion and she came home to victory, looking over her should to see Pryyma entering the home run. Gold and silver decided, it was bronze to one of Russia’s new athletes, Alexandra Levkovich.
The Junior Men’s race was dominated by Spain and with Miquel Riusech leading them through the first run and holding on to his lead on the bike, the only person near him was Miquel Valls Alemany. Valls made a crucial error as he left T2, by grabbing the barrier to assist his turn and this cost him a time penalty. He failed to stop at the penalty box and, despite finishing second, his error resulted in a disqualification. A tough lesson was learned by the young Spaniard but this opened the door to Luca Patris and the 2016 Vallée de Joux ETU Cross Triathlon Junior European Champion, Filippo Pradella who took silver and bronze.
The Para race was going to be exciting, with two great athletes racing. In the PTS4 Category, from Romania, we had the winner of the 2016 Târgu Mureș ETU Cross Duathlon European Championships, who had also won silver at the 2017 Otepää ETU Winter Triathlon Junior European Championships and a bronze at the 2017 Soria ETU Duathlon European Championships, Robert Tamirjan. Alongside him on the start line in the PTS5 category, from Hungary, was gold medal-winner and European Champion in the 2017 Herning ETU Challenge Middle Distance Triathlon European Championships, gold medal-winner and World Champion at the 2016 Snowy Mountains ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships, multiple World and European champion, Peter Boronkay. Their finish times, over the sprint distance, were impressive for anyone who was here and who had walked out onto the course.
Thursday done and dusted. The LOC had a special treat for the families, friends and athletes who still had some energy. The 5k Dracula Night Run started off quite easily but as darkness fell and as things moved in the bushes and as the only way to see where you were going was to use a headlight or flashlight, the organisers added a further level of fear to the show. Dotted around the course were volunteers wearing horrific masks. Hidden in the bushes they did their best to keep the heart-rates up in the max. Over 100 people ran through the woods at night. Some … when they finally went to bed … had nightmares ….
Friday was race day for the Elite. They raced the standard distance and it was the women first. With defending champion, Margarita Fullana Riera coming back to see if she can make it “three in a row”, there was a whole line-up of strong athletes who were there to see if they could snatch the crown. Looking strong, with enormous experience on the Cross Circuit, was Austria’s Carina Wasle. Her history of racing, over sand, rocks, mud and snow is impressive and she was going to be a real threat to Fullana. The 2016 silver medal-winner, Kristina Lapinová was back, as was Russia’s bronze medal-winner here last year, Yulia Surikova.
The U23 athletes raced with the Elite and as the run was ending, the Slovakian athlete was running strong and looking relaxed. Behind her and running pace for pace, were Wasle and Dutch athlete Sanne Broeksma, who has moved from her Age Group World Champion days to full Elite and who really looked at ease. Surikova was a few paces behind and Russia’s U23 athlete Daria Rogozina made up the leading 5.
Out on the bike and Broeksma took to the front. She climbed the massive hill easily and led Lapinová, building her lead with each lap.
Wasle dropped back and was soon overtaken by Rogozina. Surikova had a puncture and lost so much time trying to get to the Wheel Station and then had to change the tyre. Fullana dropped back through the field and could not reproduce her bike power. Her title was lost out on the bike and suddenly the race was in the hands of the Dutchwoman.
But behind her, the U23 athlete, Rogozina, who had lost 50 seconds on the bike, was suddenly powering along the final 3.1k and Broeksma had to focus on the finish line to get the title. As the finish tape dropped from her hands to the ground, the officials had only a few seconds to rescue it and get it back into position for the victorious U23 athlete who so nearly took both crowns.
Lapinová’s bronze was hard-earned. Rogozina was delighted and the Dutch supporter went into overdrive.
With the U23 crown decided, silver went to Bulgaria’s Hrista Stoyneva and bronze to Romania’s Andrea Ciolacu.
The excitement for the race had not had a chance to subside when the Elite Men came to check in. The crowds had grown and the sunshine, obscured by the trees, pushed the temperature up towards 30C.
Belgium’s Kris Coddens knows the terrain here, having raced last year. Brice Daubord FRA, was new here and, as he missed the Elite Athletes’ Briefing, was subject to a time penalty on the first run of 15 seconds. He was not the only one to miss the briefing and so the Penalty Box had a list of numbers. The athletes can serve the time penalty on the first or second lap of the first run and as the men came into view on the first lap, it was Andreev just behind Daubord. Coddens was behind them and the U23 athlete from Bulgaria, Aleksandar Srandev BUL, came through in 4th. Daubord had served his 15 seconds on that first lap, having broken away in the woods. Into T1 it was Daubord who led, with Coddens in second and Andreev in third. Srandev was just behind Bogdan Damian ROU but comfortably leading the U23 wave.
Out on the bike, Daubord pushed and pushed the pace, gradually applying the pressure until he was secure in first place. Despite putting in a huge bike leg, Andreev was unable to break the lead of the Frenchman but had established a strong silver-medal position that he would hold all the way to the line. It was gold to France and silver to Russia but behind it was once again a bronze for Coddens.
The U23 crown went to local athlete, Szabolcs Kovacs, who had been helping with the race organisation and, when not training out on the hills, works in the city at one of the restaurants. Silver went to Srandev and bronze to Russia’s Kirill Tarakanov.
With the schedule crammed with activities, the weekend is going to be the chance for the cross-triathletes to show their skills. They will race the bike and run course, but first have to swim down by the river and then climb a massive 1.2k hill to start their bike laps.
Related Event: 2017 Târgu Mures ETU Cross Duathlon European Championships
|Results: Elite Men|
|Results: Elite Women|
|6.||Margarita Fullana Riera||ESP||01:56:47|
|9.||Aina Picas Zorilla||ESP||02:03:46|
|Results: U23 Men|