A massive success in 2017, it will be a fast and furious race in 2019 as British athletes target the event on their way to Tokyo. 37 nations will be racing for points and prize-money, with visiting athletes from Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, USA and Venezuela. For some of these athletes, it will be their first trip over to Europe and we know that for them, the thrill factor will be high.
Last year the race was held, the crowds were out to support the athletes from the very moment the athletes lined up all the way through to the finish.
With fine weather forecast for race day and with the sea temperatures at Punta Umbría, where the swim takes place, currently at 16.7°C / 62°F and with sea conditions not really giving the stronger swimmers any advantage, we can expect to see only the smallest breakaways in the water.
With a split transition, there is a chance that a couple of strong swimmers can breakaway. There were attempts at this tactic in 2017 but nobody was successful. As the 20k route takes them to the city fort the laps, this is where the crowds get bigger and the intensity of support rises. Laps around the old city will bring them up to the 40k and then it is out onto the run.
A dead turn on the run course is another chance for the crowds to really urge the athletes on and we know, from experiences that by the time they are nearing the blue carpet and the finish line, the excitement will have been whipped up by the live commentary team and DJ to make that moment the finish tape is in the hands of the winner, one to remember.
So, who might we expect to feature in the race and who might be on the podium?
Having raced here in 2017, Italy’s Ilaria Zane. This time last year, racing in Quarteira, she had a top ten finish. This solid start to the season saw her continue with top ten finishes in Cagliari, Antwerp and Tiszaújváros. 9th here in 2017, she can expect to be close to the podium on Sunday. We saw some explosive performances in Liévin and the French team came to this event fired up for points. Margot Garabedian wears #2 for France. 2018 saw her finish in 4th place in the ETU Rankings and her 2019 season started well in Northern France. Her three races in the indoor triathlon showed real early-season pace and we saw her race well in Funchal at the close of the ETU season last year. Leading the swim, she showed power and control on the bike before losing out to the faster runners. She will need to keep a close eye on the younger Olivia Mathias GBR, who swims so well and can ride away with the best. If she can work with teammate, India Lee, using the technical part of the bike course, then we might see once again a British breakaway on the run and this is where Lee could earn big points. With a silver medal in Antwerp and a closing run over the 5k of 16:37, Beth Potter reminded everyone of her devastating pace on the final discipline. With this race giving her even more advantage over a full 10k, she really needs a good swim to put her into an attacking position. If Emmie Charayron FRA can keep close to Garabedian in the swim, then the pair of them can easily work together on the bike and see how the run pans out, putting France into a good position on the table.
The host nation has Cecilia Santamaría Surroca, with her silver medal in the U23 Championships last year. A massive success for the young athlete who outpaced Mathias on the final run. Another young athlete to watch is Russia’s Valentina Riasova. Her bronze in the indoor triathlon event in Liévin was a moment that gave her pure delight. After winning a bronze medal winner as a junior in Melilla in 2017 she returned the next year to race against the elite and was rewarded with a top ten finish. On that course, she posted a 33:40 10k and with pace like that added to her swim ability, there are points with her name on them. Santamaría will have Sara Pérez Sala with her. Rounding off the 2018 season with a silver at the 2018 Dakhla ATU Sprint Triathlon African Cup, she opened her 2019 account with a top ten finish in Cape Town but all athletes needs to keep an eye on the immensely experienced Lisa Nordén from Sweden. The 2012 Olympic runner-up has been selective in her races, taking silver on home soil in 2018. She comes to the race relatively fresh and, if in form, will be a serious threat to everyone else on the start line.
The men’s race will see the coaches and team mangers from British Triathlon glued to their stopwatches as for them and their athletes, this is one of the events that will be critical for selection to Tokyo but wearing #1, is Frenchman Simon Viain. His good form of 2017 seemed out of his grasp last year and with the home crowds fully behind him, it will be Roberto Sánchez Mantecón ESP, who will be determined to use his present good form to thrill the crowds and claim points. His performance in Liévin showed him to be sharp. A silver in Alanya and then a bronze at the U23 Championships in Eilat in quite tough conditions was followed by a good swim and bike in Cape Town. Sadly, he lost pace on the run there but with the partisan crowds, he will be one to watch. Add to this mix, David Castro Fajardo who, now recovered from his injury, returned in style with a top ten in Valencia and then a victory in Salinas. If he, Sánchez and teammate, Kevin Tarek Viñuela González can work together, then the faster run pace of Sánchez and Castro, with the crowds behind them, could take them all the way to the podium.
Of all the nominated athletes for the ETU Athlete of the Year Award at the recent Gala in Dublin, it was Hungary’s Márk Dévay who got the biggest cheer. The fact that he was there to receive the applause made it even better and, as an athlete who had supported the ETU race calendar throughout the season, he was rewarded in Funchal with the highest number of points. A great payday for him. His performances over the season were always opened with a big swim. In fact, he had the distinction of even beating Richard Varga out of the water at the Tartu European Championships. He will no doubt lead them out of the water and then, if anyone is near him, push hard to consolidate that lead on the bike. His 33:02 10k in Eilat and 15:33 for the 5k in Funchal show that there is pace. This is likely to see his early season points account opened with a good balance. Germany has hopes for Maximilian Schwetz who came away with a rather nice silver in Troutbeck recently and for the Netherlands, Marco van der Stel had a good race indoors to sharpen up for the 2019 season.
Now, looking at the Brits and here we have a problem. The problem is … who is on form at the moment? It was Chris Perham who absolutely stole the show in Liévin. His domination was really impressive and has surely set the alarm bells ringing, not only on the ETU circuit but also amongst the British team. Barclay Izzard got a top ten finish in the U23 Championships in Eilat and then raced his heart out in the relays, diving for the finish line just a fraction of an inch behind Max Studer, who took the title for the Swiss team. Izzard has shown again and again that he has good pace over the final run but against Ben Dijkstra there are few who can beat him when he is on form. Returning to racing after injury, the former YOG gold medallist will be looking to set down a good set of splits for the selectors, being all too aware of the recent performances of Alex Yee. With Calum Johnson clocking a 10k time two minutes ahead of Dijkstra last year in Karlovy Vary and with Izzard’s 6th fastest 10k in Glasgow, it could be down to Grant Sheldon to inject early pace to upset the mix. His superb bronze in Alanya was a clear sign. Team GB – looks like you are going to be going flat out for places here.
We can expect a tight race between Russia’s Ilya Prasolov and Belgium’s Christophe de Keyser following their battle in Miyazaki late last year. A sprint for the line saw the Russian beaten by just one second, despite his faster run.
Related Event: 2019 Huelva ETU Triathlon European Cup and Iberoamerican Championships
|Results: Elite Men|
|2.||Ignacio Gonzalez Garcia||ESP||01:52:24|
|10.||Kevin Tarek Viñuela Gonzalez||ESP||01:53:31|
|Results: Elite Women|
|2.||Cecilia Santamaria Surroca||ESP||02:07:10|
|7.||Sara Perez Sala||ESP||02:09:26|