ETU Middle Distance Championships.
This weekend saw yet again a great event delivered by the Challenge-ETU partnership. In the most beautiful of settings athletes from all over Europe raced the middle distance (1.9k / 90k / 21k).
It was a chance for the Elite once more to lock horns with each other and for the Age Group athletes to test their pace against international friends. The beauty of these events is that the Age Group athletes bring the host city to life with their enthusiasm for the sport and their national uniforms. After the race, the aches and pains and sometimes cuts and bruises will be part of the memory and the “never again” soon becomes a “when is the next one”.
Early morning - time to reflect.
For the Elite Women it would once more be a chance for the record to be set straight by honest hard work. It was Italy and Germany who featured first as Margie Santimaria ITA and Julia Gajer GER emerged almost together and made their way through T1 and out onto the non-drafting 90k bike. Santimaria just missed out on the podium in Rimini with 4th and would be hoping for an improvement. Gajer took the double ETU title in 2012 over middle and long distance and has since then been invincible in Germany, holding the national title for long distance in 2013, both long and middle titles in 2014 and the middle distance title in 2015. On paper she would be the one to beat.
An amazing swim saw Italy’s Sara Dossena come out of the water in 4th place and just 40 seconds down on the leader. Her biking power and run speed, now that she has returned from injury, has been impressive over sprint and standard distances and now she was going flat out over the much greater distance. 2 minutes back was Denmark’s Maja Stage Nielsen. She has been a consistent performer over the middle and longer distances and after her bronze in Paguera in 2014 would be hoping for a good day at the office.
Out on the bike and the positions started to change as the more experienced and powerful riders worked the gears on the hills and hugged low over the bikes on the descents.
Gajer took control of the race and the earlier leader from Italy, Santimaria dropped back. Over the longer distance Dossena did not quite get the advantage that she so easily does on the sprint and standard races but she knew that her running would be a major threat to anyone in front. As the pace became too much for some and as their day did not go to plan there were some DNFs ahead of Stage and soon she was in a familiar place and ready for the attack on the final run.
Gajer, in front and in command. Stage with Lisa Hütthaler in her sights and with the determination to enjoy a clean payback after Paguera and behind, Dossena chasing them all. Dossena’s pace was truly impressive and she was spinning past athletes on her way to the top.
Gajer held her lead to take the 2016 title and the gold medal and to the cheering delight of the crowds Stage ran well to take the silver medal. Dossena’s pace was not quite good enough to catch the Austrian and she narrowly missed a podium but has shown everyone that her injury is a thing of the past and that she is back. And back in great form.
After the race Gajer said, “I am more than delighted with the race and have really fuelled up with self-confidence before Hawaii. A big thank you to the whole team for their perfect support, as always. Also, a big thanks to everyone who supported me along the course today and of course to Andreas Klingler and his team for such a great race!” She is a great advert for the local food, the Kaiserschmarrn, having fuelled up well on this delicious food at the pasta party.
For Stage, “I’m very happy about the race. Walchsee had put on an AMAZING event the atmosphere was fantastic and the course is SO COOL, it might sound a bit over the top. BUT it was really a great race. Well organized and a beautiful location. We were running around the lake and that run course suited me very well. Not only running but also biking the time was flying as you had to adapt to the varied terrain all the time. I like that! - and will recommend the race to everyone that like a challenge. I’m looking forward to defend my podium spot (and will try to climb the last step up, now I have a bronze and silver medal ;)) in Herning next year, sure the Challenge Denmark Team will set up an incredible event.”
For Dossena, “4th at the European Championships, Middle Distance. Every race is an emotion, an experience that makes you grow and that you always carry inside of you regardless of the result!! Only a few months ago I was injured and never thought I’d be able to do a half in so little time. Instead… It is really true that ‘desire is power!!’ The swim went well and the bike was a real challenge. On the run I really thought I was in with a chance to get to the podium. Thanks for all the messages of support and the cheers from home!”
Kaiserschmarrn, the fuel for ETU-Challenge athletes.
For the Elite Men, the battle was always going to be featuring Giulio Molinari ITA. He is in top form and having lost lout on home soil in 2015, he would be fired up to claim back the title he held in 2014. Not known for his swim pace but certainly feared for his bike and run power, it was no surprise to see him not leading the swim but tucked into the chasing group.
It was Florian Angert GER who led out of the beautifully clear waters. Those chasing him were less than a minute behind and, over this distance, that spelled danger for him. He could not afford to rest. Aside from Molinari, there was a great threat from British athlete David McNamee. Angert headed off onto the bike, giving the chase group something to focus upon.
Molinari, focussed, was soon well-placed to attack and take the lead.
He arrived in T2 ahead of Angert and, with a slim lead over the stronger runners, the race, title and gold medal was his to lose.
Behind him Angert dug deep. McNamee’s fast run pace would not be enough to compensate for the time he lost on the tough bike course but it was local hero, Thomas Steger AUT. With a 2014 Age group victory in Kitzbühel, he moved up a distance and into the Elite for the 2015 race in Rimini and a top-five placing showed his potential. With solid preparation he came to this race in form and knowing how strong he could be on the bike. Around 30k, hitting a rut in the road, his saddle dropped a few centimetres. A quick attempt to re-set the position and height more or less succeeded but the mechanical problem meant that for the remaining 60k he had to sit dead-centre to avoid further problems. Despite this his relative bike-split was 4 minutes faster than in 2015 and even with a time penalty for an infringement he was still able to focus and attack those in front.
For a pretty technical account (in German) click this link and then the data in this picture will make more sense.
Molinari had done enough on the bike and held on to take back his title. Angert, thrilled, took silver and Steger, fired up after the penalty, came across the line to take bronze for Austria.
After the race, Molinari found time to thank his team, “YES. It’s been a hard day. Race tactics at race pace. I’m really satisfied to have won for the second time the European title over the Middle Distance at one of my favourite races the Tyrol Challenge Walchsee-Kaiserwinkl. I want to thank my wife, my coach, my staff, all my sponsors and everyone who enabled me to start here at the European Championship and to re-take the title. Together we are a close-knit team working for one common goal. But even more I thank my team, the c.s. Carabinieri who have supported me, supports me in my every request and who have allowed me to undertake periods of training away from home.”
The Elite were cheered but some of the biggest cheers went out to those racing in the Paratri categories. Ahead of this week’s opening ceremony in Rio, public awareness is greater than ever.
In the PT1 category, gold went to Alexandre Paviza FRA. This gold was his best ever international performance and is added to his Kalkar bronze.
PT5 saw gold go to Iain Dawson GBR who once again showed true power on his Matrix tandem. Fast running from Lazar Filipović SRB gave him his first gold since Pontevedra in 2011 and bronze went to Hungary’s Csaba Orbán.
For the women, it was gold to Hungary in the PT4 category with Petra Lévay having the best championship result of her career. Silver went to Germany’s Andrea Thamm. This saw an end to her running sequence of 5 international golds since 2014.
As we await the full set of results for the Age Group athletes we can see that once more the ETU-Challenge partnership has delivered a great season of races. Quality events, beautiful locations and happy athletes.
Great photos from Marcel Hilger.
Related Event: 2016 Walchsee ETU Challenge Middle Distance Triathlon European Championships
|Results: Elite Men|
|Results: Elite Women|
|2.||Maja Stage Nielsen||DEN||04:19:49|
|Results: Men's PT4|