Quarteira lived up to its expectations this weekend and delivered a great series of races. For both days the sun shone, the roads were dry and the crowds out along the course. In some places, around the base of the climb, heading towards transition and of course on the finish straight, the spectators crammed together to get the best views and to shout and cheer the athletes on.
Quarteira, been there, seen it and we definitely want more.
The Elite raced on Saturday and yes, the British duo of Hall and Learmonth were not there but instead we were treated to the outstanding performances of many new and younger athletes, all keen to show that their winter preparations had gone well.The seas were big. This coast is open to the Great Atlantic and the waves, when they turn up, can be huge. Swim familiarisation was spectacular as we can see from this impressive image from TRIMES.
Race day dawned and the seas had calmed but only a little and it would be a day for the expert swimmers, where they could create an advantage on the two lap swim. The crowds on dry land had huge video screens to watch and follow the athletes and for anyone unable to get to the race, it was shown live, on-line.
We predicted that GB’s Sophie Coldwell would have a good swim. She was joined by Portugal’s, Melanie Santos, who placed 8th in Cozumel. The two know each other from racing U23 and with the current Russian champion, Anastasia Abrosimova they managed to create a small gap leaving the water.
It was Coldwell who led onto the blue carpet, with Abrosimova chasing a few paces back.
Santos made it out onto the bike first and as they mounted their bikes, Anna Godoy Contreras ESP was close behind.
The bike course is well-designed and allows the athletes to settle into their shoes before anything too technical begins. A long run eastwards before the turn and then back to the noise of the crowds who know that the best location is just around the roundabout at the base of the hill.
It did not take long for some of the stronger cyclists to catch them up and soon we had a pack of over a dozen athletes working hard to attack the hill, keep ahead of the chasing pack and to build in preparation for the run.
Russia’s Ekaterina Matiukh and Mathilde Gautier FRA made them work hard on the bike and the leaders pulled away from those chasing them. It was clear that the medals would come from within this group if 13 but who had the legs for the final run?
In that group was the highly experienced Mexico-born Michelle Flipo who, when racing for France, became the ETU Cross Triathlon champion. This race, however, was not knee-deep in mud but instead, would see a final run on the flat in the wind and with the Atlantic as a backdrop.
Coming in to T2 and real focus was needed to avoid any penalties, crashes or lack of focus. The 13 athletes poured into T2 and, bike racked, hat in the box and shoes on, it was Coldwell, who had manoeuvred herself to the front of the peloton, who had a clear run once she had the bike in place. Could this possibly be a repeat of last week’s Gran Canaria race, with a British victory?
Coldwell had to dig deep because behind her were some athletes who have shown greater pace. She was able to gauge her pace at each turn point and despite that fear building up that they would catch her, there was nothing the others could do to catch the fast-paced Brit. With her mum out on the course shouting and cheering her on, hardly able to believe her eyes, watching her young daughter leading this important early-season international race, Coldwell began to pull away. Behind her and Abrosimova was doing battle with another GB athlete, Georgia Taylor-Brown. As a junior, Taylor-Brown had shown class in Eilat when she won the 2012 European Junior crown. The same year she took command in Nancy with the ETU duathlon crown and successfully defended her Triathlon title in Alanya in 2013. In tough conditions in Cozumel last year she missed the U23 podium by one place and here in Quarteira, she was making it very uncomfortable for the #1 ranked Russian.
It was Taylor-Brown’s run pace that broke Abrosimova and as Coldwell, by now comfortably over the line, finish tape clutched tight, British voices cheering out, waited, it was Taylor-Brown who surged ahead and ran in to take silver. Bronze to Russia and the crowds had seen a truly great race.
After the excitement had died, we had a chance to speak to Coldwell, “I was nervous for the race, as it was the first one of the season and when you haven’t raced for 6 months it’s always a bit of a shock! Plus in the swim recce the day before the sea was really rough and I can panic in those situations but thankfully on race day it was much calmer.
I tried to break away out the swim but with a big group behind I couldn’t stay and away and was caught just after a lap. There were some really strong riders in the pack, Gautier and Matiukh were really good and the gap to the next pack just kept growing.
I managed to get in and out of t2 first and just decided to push the run on from the start, I was waiting for the others to catch me up but they didn’t and I started to pull away. I didn’t think I’d definitely won the race till the last lap, I tried not to think about until I was close to the finish!
It was great out on the course as there were loads of brits on holiday who came out to watch, plus my mum came out to watch and it’s the first time she’s watched me race abroad for 5 years so it was good to be able to win for her.”
For Anastasia Abrosimova, “First I have to say I just falling in love with Portuguese. Beautiful country! And I liked this race. A lot of participants. My plan was to check some training things and it was done. Was happy to swim off on the second place. We were reached by the chase group then. Run wasn’t easy for me that’s why I am happy with my third place.” Гонка мне понравилась. Я влюбилась в Португалию. Народу было много .наверное больше чем на мировой серий. План был тренировочный. Выплыла я второй, на втором круге нас догнали и ехали большой группой. Было тяжело, поэтому осталась довольна и третьим местом.
So, two top ten places for GB, for France and for Italy. Sara Papais came home in 6th, with Ilaria Zane in 10th. The French women; Justine Guerard and Mathilde Gautier came home in 9th and 7th place. With only two races completed, the ETU Rankings Series is looking good.
The men’s race was big. Very big indeed. A huge line up of athletes made the race announcer work hard as the clock ticked away and as the start time neared.
The athletes stretched across the beach and with a long run down the surf line, it was a golden opportunity for spectators to see, close-up, a massive beach start.
The waves had indeed subsided somewhat from the day before but it was still a case that the stronger and braver swimmers would benefit.
Right at the start, wearing #1, João Pereira had told everyone, “Follow me, I know the way”. Would this be a comment he would later regret?
It was not easy out there. The swell was strong and getting around the turn buoys was never going to be easy unless you were leading or wide, wide outside the racing line. With the swim over two laps, there was also the risk of losing your goggles as you re-enter the water and of course the wall of water that would hit you if you timed the re-entry badly.
It was Frenchman and previous multiple winner, Aurélien Raphaël who was in the leading group. He lost his timing chip in the tussle with the Atlantic and it was Dorian Coninx who led them over the timing mat. A series of DNFs had to end. For Coninx, this would be more than just a race. He had to break that series of poor results from last year and here, in Quarteira, he was leading them and knew that behind him the powerful riding team from France would be working hard to make an impression on the race and to possibly pull them away from any threats of the faster runners.
Coninx was accompanied by teammate, Anthony Pujades, Hungary’s Márk Dévay and David Luis to the delight of the Portuguese fans. Their lead was just over 5 seconds, but at this high level of competition, that could have been the break that was needed.
As they set off on the bike it was indeed the French trio of Coninx, Raphaël and Pujades who kicked hard out of T1 and started the 40k with a determination that was thrilling to watch. With powerful bikers in the chase pack and the massive numbers there, the inevitable happened and the three Frenchmen were caught. It was now that extra caution was needed. With Gordon Benson, Britain’s European Games winner now showing good form, it was the Brit who pushed at the front, testing the others. As the men neared the end of the bike course, it was a breakaway initially by Benson and Dutchman, Marco van der Stel that disrupted the pack. A massive group had stamped its mark on the race, leaving the chase group trailing by over 2 minutes.
The hill is where the attack traditionally comes but Benson and van der Stel had broken away and then, pushing the watts more, it was Benson who dropped the Dutchman and had the crowds wondering if he could manage a repeat of his performance in Baku. A return to gold after a sorry season where back problems held him away from success? He showed good form in Las Palmas but against the determined run power of the French, Spanish and of course, the home town boys, Benson must have realised that his time in the lead was limited.
As they entered T2 his lead that had hovered at around 11 to 12 seconds was trimmed and the pack could see him ahead of them. Lightning-fast transitions saw Benson fade and it was soon a leading group, amongst which was Pereira and Coninx, who had taken control. GB’s Grant Sheldon was there now instead of Benson. The young Frenchman, Simon Viain was there to potentially assist Coninx and former ETU Ranking Series winner, Uxío Abuín Ares, fired up after last week’s return to form was there and tucked in too was Raphael Montoya FRA, 4th in Cape Town, there to add fuel to the French attack.
A four-lap course that looks flat but which has some leg-sapping inclines, saw Coninx and Pereira break away. Neck and neck, tactical racing as they neared the turns. At the end of the first lap, they had a lead of about 9 seconds and it was impossible to tell who had the strength that could break the partnership. Montoya dropped off the pace as the second lap continued at its relentless pace, leaving the chasing athletes, Abuín, Sheldon, and Viain to sow seeds of doubt amongst each other. Abuín certainly has the form, after last week but Viain would be determined to share the podium with Coninx. Sheldon too, would want to be there and without doubt want to show his federation that he has “come of age” after his World University victory.
Lap three started with the leaders now 12 seconds ahead but it was out at the very far end that the real attack came. Pereira, on home soil, determined to bring home gold for his nation, kicked and Coninx had nothing to offer.
The final run back to the finish line must have felt like the longest ever for the Portuguese athlete but he had done enough.
Coninx could not reply to this attack and it was Pereira, cheered all the way to the line, who took gold.
Behind him the excitement had reached fever pitch with Coninx struggling and Abuín, poised to pounce, chasing him down. For Coninx the final moments must have been awful. With nothing left to give, he was pipped at the post by Abuín, with Sheldon coming home in 4th and Viain in 5th.
Having announced that this year would see his return to the circuit, following injury in 2016, Abuín was understandably delighted with his race, “I am very, very happy to be on the podium again following the bronze last weekend in Las Palmas. This silver medal is even better because in this race the level of competition was much higher and I was at the front all the time, fighting against those regularly race WTS and it was a battle right up to the last few metres and the sprint where I had to give everything. It was a really close thing there. I gave 100%. I hope that I now will be in for a chance to enter the WTS and also to fight again for the ETU Rankings Series after winning it in 2015. For this reason I am setting my focus on the Europeans in Kitzbühel if the Spanish Federation gives me the chance to race there.”
From Dorian Coninx, “Thanks, I am really pleased with my race. I had planned to race at the max and to use this as preparation and that is exactly what I managed to do. I tried and tried to get away on the bike but that didn’t really work but nevertheless I still had enough left in the tank for a good 10k. I just ran out a bit in the final 1k, otherwise I could have finished with João.”
Our winner, João Pereira – “The sea conditions, the swim was pretty much OK for me and the cycling segment was controlled and without surprises. I started the run with confidence and was supported by the idea of being at home. Dorian Coninx made it tough but I was determined. I have to say something about the organization; it was super nice and I really have nothing to complain about. I have raced at some events that were not so well-organised but what really made me happy was hearing from my family and friends that this one, in Quarteira, was super well-organized, easy and nice to watch. I think that what’s triathlon needs — spectators.”
As for the women, this was a really exciting race and has set the scene for the rest of the season’s races as the athletes focus on the ETU Rankings Series.
There is a substantial pay-out for the Elite in Melilla in the ETU Rankings Final. If athletes want to have a chance for the end of season bonus, then they must race that final event. The winning points will be made up of the points for that race and the best scores of a maximum of 4 other races in the series.
As the season progresses we will keep you up to date with the Rankings. Saturday done and dusted. Sunday and the Juniors to come.
Photos have been provided by Yossi Rubanenko and ETU treasurer, Alicia García Pérez.
Videos kindly provided by TRIMES
Related Event: 2017 Quarteira ETU Triathlon European Cup
|Results: Elite Men|
|2.||Uxio Abuin Ares||ESP||01:48:50|
|Results: Elite Women|
|4.||Anna Godoy Contreras||ESP||02:01:48|