With the temperatures rising to high levels of “Scorchio” this weekend, the start times were brought forwards. The water temperature was over 25C. The air, just under 35C. Water supplies were increased and athletes took on extra hydration in the build-up to the race.
The Men were first to race and it was Austria’s Jan Bader who led them to the swim exit.
A close-packed group headed to T1. Žiga Hutter and Jan Škrjanc from Slovenia were a step ahead of Máté Jankov HUN and home favourite, Erick Rogoz Lörincz.
Behind them, it was a frantic rush to try and get to transition before the bus left.
By the time they had settled into the bike, a strong leading group, joined by Israel’s Shachar Agur, led by Bader, was making it tough for the chase group. The group worked well but further back, the attack was being made and within that group was Thomas Guilmot BEL. He knew the course, having placed 5th here last year but this year, a whole new Guilmot was racing. Stronger and more savvy. He used the pace of the group to his advantage and, once the leaders were in sight, it was inevitable that his group would catch them.
Now the group had two Austrians, the Slovenian athletes, two Hungarians, two Israelis, the home favourite and the Belgian.
It looked as if it was going to come down to the final 5k run … in the heat but Guilmot attacked and broke away to get a clear run into T2.
Bader gave chase but the incredible power on two wheels from the Belgian had given him a clear advantage and Guilmot was running away.
The heat was intense and Bader was not going to give up easily. The Austrian was running well and had created a gap between him and the pack. Silver now looked certain for him but could he catch the leader? Bronze was being fought over by the two Hungarian athletes, Botond Józsa had worked hard in the chase group and Jankov had the advantage.
Gold to Belgium and a greatly improved result for Guilmot. Silver to Bader. Bronze to Jankov, giving him his first international podium.
After the race, Guilmot, in his final year as a junior reflected on his performance, “What did I just do yesterday? Unbelievable… I came back to Tulcea this year to change my mind because it has been a bit difficult for me since the start of August.I had a very bad swim. I don’t know why but I thought my race was already done so I came back out of the water in the 2nd group. I started the first 500m on the bike with really crap legs but I loved this technical bike ride so I tried to close the gap to the first group (30”) in solo. When I caught them my legs were on fire and after 1 or 2km with the group I had a little gap after the dead turn. So as Tom Boonen told it once: “Sometimes you don’t need a plan, you just need big balls”. I finished the bike with a lead of 20 seconds over the other athletes. I wasn’t sure if it was enough for the win and my legs started to hurt a bit… I was afraid of the Austrian Jan Bader so I gave everything to get my first ever podium on a European cup and it’s so much for me because it was my last junior European race.Big cheers to Jan and to Máté.”
The Technical Team and Organisers worked flat out for the quick turnaround and within no time at all, the Women were ready to race.
For one athlete, the tension had been there building up to the race. Her bike did not arrive at the venue until just 2 hours before the race. With great support from her team mates, Plan B was in place but with her bike now there and the pressure off, she gave the performance of her life.
Márta Kropkó HUN put all the worry behind her and led them out of the water, looking set to run away with the race. Her previous racing suggested that she was more than capable and once out on the bike, she simply powered away.
Tjaša Vrtačič SLO could see at the turn point she could see how far ahead she was from those chasing her.
She was being chased by three Hungarian athletes and Rebeca Pojar ROU but the pace was going to get quite intense, pretty soon. A crash ended Pojar’s hope of a podium but, with injuries very visible to her arm, she carried on the race.
Dóra Fruzsina Kovács HUN looked best-placed and strongest.
Back down the course and Israel’s Roni Cohen had joined forces with Estonia’s Merli-Mai Kivimets and they were working hard to try and find a way forwards towards the leaders.
Back at the front and Kropkó had seen where the chase group was. It was also very hot. The chase pack now had Cohen leading, Bernadett Józsa and Kovács for Hungary, Vrtačič and Kivimets trying to keep contact at the back.
Cohen did a great job at the front and the leader was gradually reeled in.
Once they had caught up with Kropkó, Cohen attacked off the front and led them into T2. A brave move against the super-fast Kropkó who had Cohen in sight when she landed on the blue carpet, a few paces ahead of Vrtačič.
It did not take Kropkó too long to use her run power and move to the front again. Now leading and with every pace edging away, she looked relaxed in the heat and was taking on fluids at each aid-station. Teammate, Kovács had moved up to silver medal position but was still some way behind.
An impressive race and victory for Kropkó. A great day for Hungary with gold and silver and for Cohen, who ran herself way into the red, a great bronze.
After the race, Kropkó said, “First time the National Hymn was played for me. … I was shaking on the podium. So, finally my bike arrived 2 hours before the race but anyway, very big thanks to Fanni Soós who offered me her bike. … First out of the water. 3 laps alone on the bike and then changed my tactics to wait for the group of five behind me for the last 2 laps. After 500m on the run, I led the race to the finish line. Huge thanks to my Austrian trainer, Clause Bader who helped me though these days and all the race.”
A very big thanks once again to Radu-Cristi for his great photos. You can see the entire album here.
If you use any of these images, please do not forget to give credit; “Photo by Radu-Cristi. All rights reserved.”
As soon as we get the updated Junior Rankings they will be posted to our pages. Three athletes on the podium and Hungary have collected some serious points this weekend.