Loutraki welcomed athletes from all over the world to race last Sunday. The weather was excellent, the sea looked lovely and with the end of the year so close now, for many this was their final race of the season and for many, an important one with Baku now only 8 months away.
The men’s race was going to be a battle as we had the Dutch swimming machine, Marco Van Der Stel up against the Norwegian Jørgen Gundersen. Gundersen exited the water in Cartagena on the toes of Richard Varga SVK and in Edmonton he led the Junior Men out of the water with a 14 second advantage. That gives an indication of his ability. Fellow Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt has not yet found full pace in the water but has shown the world that he can bike with the Brownlees and not just as a passenger.
So it was that the Elite Men lined up, were announced to the crowds of spectators and made their way into the sea for a sea start, rather than a sprint down the beach. The 750m one lap course opened up an immediate advantage for the young Norwegian and Gundersen led Van Der Stel out, with Albert Parreno ESP, Jonas Breinlinger GER and Aliaksandr Vasilevich BLR following. Over the next 27 seconds 23 athletes streamed out of the water. Amongst them was Blummenfelt, who had some problems with his goggles in the water and Shachar Sagiv ISR who placed well and after a not so successful debut year racing Elite had a great swim. The chase pack was some 12 seconds adrift.
Out of T1 and onto the bike course the 20k would soon be eaten up by the determined riding of the lead group of three. They were soon joined by the biking powerhouse, Blummenfelt. With lots of communication with that combined lead group they managed to pull away on the final lap to provide them with a commanding lead of 35 seconds into T2.
The run was a spectacular one, taking the athletes over the Corinth Canal before leading them to the old town finish. Starting on a gentle incline, the athletes ran about 1km to the top and then after a short downhill section climbed again before the flat run to the finish. The lead group of six, with Van Der Stel, Blummenfelt and Sagiv, slowly sorted itself out. Van Der Stel stayed with Blummenfelt and Sagiv and upped the pace at 3km but the Norwegian and Israeli held firm. From then onwards it was a shoulder to shoulder battle of wills between Norway and Israel as Blummenfelt and Sagiv tested each other. It was only about 800m from the finish that the move was made to secure gold and that came from Blummenfelt. Sagiv could not respond to the Norwegian’s kick and cruised in to take silver with the Dutchman Van Der Stel taking bronze.
For Sagiv, “I felt really good on the day and wanted to have a good race here after not such a good year. I’m so happy that in my first year as Elite level I have a medal. The race was very important for me with Baku next year and the need to qualify! I’m really happy to finish this year with such a good test!”
Van Der Stel gave his thoughts after the race, “It was a good race. Before the start it was a bit cold before everyone got in the water. Once the start was given I felt quite good in the swim and got out in second place comfortably. On the bike there were first three of us and we were soon joined by a group of about 8 including Blummenfelt. We worked pretty well together and once chase groups 1 and 2 got together we established a good lead in the final lap on the bike. With the run I started in second and was running there for about 2km, after 3km I tried to get away but Blummenfelt and Sagiv held on and accelerated with 1km to go and I could not follow, but am happy to secure my first ever international podium. I am done for the season and for 2015 I will chase my dream to see if I can make it to Rio. So most likely I will race WTS and World cups over the year with maybe some points races to get some points and get the race feeling back.”
For the Elite Women the field was smaller but there was still representation from all over the world.
The swim saw an early lead from Zsanett Horvath HUN, with Italian Alessia Orla just behind her and Tereza Zimovjanova CZE on her toes. They had a small lead over Polish athlete Hanna Matysiak and Julie Nivoix FRA. A few seconds behind them came Elena Maria Petrini ITA and it was pretty much decided then that the medals would be shared out between them as they had 40 seconds on the remaining athletes.
Out on the bike the two groups of three soon joined up to work together and settle any doubt that the medals belonged to this group. Three laps later and into T2 it was going to be flat out and victory to the fastest runners. Orla kept the pace high and led the pack for most of the run. Her final sprint to the line was beaten by teammate Petrini with Nivoix taking a well-earned bronze.
For Orla, “The race was really nice. A nice location, nice sea and good weather conditions! I had a good swim, we were 3 out of the water then other 3 girls included my teammates and friend Elena Petrini caught us on the bike. Then on the run I just kept pushing on the front of the pack and we sprinted at the end. I'm racing in Morocco an ATU cup in two weeks and that would be my last race!”
This performance marks the end of a great weekend for the Federazione Italiana Triathlon, with gold at both ends of the Mediterranean. As we say goodbye to the summer and look towards an exciting 2015 season in the hope that someone will step in with some traditional winter triathlon events, we can look back on a year of great racing, great victories and great memories.
Many thanks to Panagiotis Mouzos, Physical Education teacher & photographer and to the Italian Triathlon Federation for kind permission to use their photos
Related Event: 2014 Loutraki ETU Triathlon European Cup and Mediterranean Championships
|Results: Elite Men|
|3.||Marco Van Der Stel||NED||00:54:50|
|9.||Casper Stenderup Korch||DEN||00:55:18|
|10.||Anders Lund Hansen||DEN||00:55:19|
|Results: Elite Women|
|1.||Elena Maria Petrini||ITA||01:03:31|
|6.||Laura Gomez Ramon||ESP||01:04:46|