Much warmer now, the tide further away from the blue carpet, where the athletes line up and with the women’s race only just finished we move back to the beach for the start of the men’s race.
The crowds had increased and all along the back of the start line, spectators got the chance to feel the buzz that goes with the start of a triathlon. The music cranked up – loud, impressive, commanding and the athletes were introduced. Definitely one to watch was Hungary’s Márk Dévay. A top swimmer and the 2018 ETU Rankings winner, he will be perfectly at home in these sea conditions but the crowds will be cheering loudest for Roberto Sánchez Mantecón ESP. Taking their positions on the carpet, some focussed and in their zone, some joking with the cameraman as they swept along the line. Thumbs up from Calum Johnson GBR, who showed no signs of the pressure that Tem GB was under as they race here today for a chance to be selected for Tokyo.
A massive line-up that filled the carpet.
The tide, having obeyed the commands of the Technical Delegate, had receded, leaving the athletes with a run to the water of almost 75m.
Heartbeats booming across the beach.
An anticipation of the start signal by one athlete sent the officials to the CCTV monitors to try and identify who was guilty. At this distance, a time penalty of 15 seconds awaits him in T1, if they can identify who went early.
It was Dévay who once again showed everyone that pool swimming is one thing but open water is a whole different “kettle of fish”. His stroke, power and style is enviable and he made it look so very easy in the rolling waves of the open Atlantic.
A completely different race to the women, with the Hungarian leading a long line of athletes. The, quite unexpectedly, he was on his own, taking a direct line to the beach with Ander Noain Lacamara ESP making a youthful challenge to his left.
Onto the beach and Dévay was happy to let Noain enjoy the glory. Back out for the next lumpy 750m. Video reviews showed that the 15 seconds in T1 would certainly go to José Ángel Hernández Ileo.
Back to the front and Dévay had pulled away into a comfortable lead. Behind him, a pack of almost 20 athletes. Waiting for the wave to body surf up the beach, he looked perfectly relaxed, wetsuit down to his waist, running up to T1.
As he set off, no rush, onto the bike course, the others were filling up T1 and within that group were some hard-hitting Brits who would certainly be upping the pace on the first 20k towards the city.
A powerful mix of athletes, with plenty of Spanish uniforms, sped along the highway but the co-ordination we saw with the women’s race was missing from the mix and the frustrations of some athletes was evident.
After a few minutes of pretty disorganised riding, they got their act together and with Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Hungary, France urged on we got to see the Brits,
Chris Perham, Barclay Izzard, Ben Dijkstra and Calum Johnson – all vying for the attention of the selectors for 2020, were there and the leading group was now powering along.
The Spanish were also under pressure. They have to make the top eight to stand a chance to be entered in future races. This pressure was clear to see as they kept the pace up. As they arrived at the city, Jordi García Gracia ESP tried to escape. He was soon reeled in by Martin Demuth AUT. The pack stayed solid. The crowds were now 6-deep along some sections of the course and the support they shouted to the athletes was as impressive, if not more so than when the ITU World Cup was held here in 2017.
Dijkstra tested them, with a brief attack. Perhaps to show his teammates that he was back on form; perhaps to see how the other athletes would react. Perham sat tight at the back, taking no turn in the work but attracting the attention those pushing the pace. Emilio Martín, commentating, had no praise for this tactic. Dévay pulled them through the finish, past the grandstands and stretched out the peloton. 4 seconds from nose to tail. The leaders were looking good. Tom Richard FRA, was working hard and taking his turn at the front to keep the pace up. On the hill, it was again Dijkstra who attacked, making sure that the peloton had to work. With Richard, they headed the peloton on the fast descent and into the turns.
Dévay clearly liked the buzz going through the finish area and past the grandstands, as he attacked once more to lead them through. This constant power from the leaders had taken them 60 seconds clear of the chase group.
One lap to go and the leaders, 20-strong, sped past the crowds who were enjoying not only the sunshine, but also the great show that the athletes were putting on. Some were asking, “Having shown such pace in Liévin and having had such an easy ride today at the back of the pack, would Perham be the one who would run to victory?”
Dévay tried to pull some along with him to break up the pack on the final lap. Nobody seemed interested so he kicked and established a lead ahead of the hill. Taking on fluids ahead of the run, he was now almost 20 seconds away and leading. His attacking style attracted the attention of Emilio Martín, himself an awesome cyclist.
The Hungarian athlete, on his own now and with a clear run to T2, had put a huge amount of space between him and the chase group but in that group were the real threats of Izzard and Dijkstra.
Coming to the dismount and Dévay ran easily to his position at the far end of the carpet. He had racked his bike and was away before anyone was near to the carpet. Richard came in to lead the pack and a throng of athletes followed.
The Frenchman was quickly out and trying to catch up with the leader. Izzard on his heels, a real threat. It was Izzard who was setting the chase pace, with Richard close by. Izzard snatched a mouthful of energy gel, carefully putting the sachet back into his uniform to avoid a penalty for littering and upped the pace. Richard could not match this and so it was Izzard into second place, with work to do.
Dévay was urged on by the crowds as Izzard, now only 26 seconds back, was attacking, Behind him was Dijkstra and to the delight of the Spanish, Nacho González García and Genis Grau just behind Richard.
The gap was shrinking. 23 seconds at the next timing point. Dévay showed no signs of slowing down but Izzard was flying and kicking off the dead turn, was now just 12 seconds adrift. Far from being a dead-flat uninspiring course, the organisers have created a really testing 10k, with twists, turns, climbs and descents. This was exactly what the more accomplished runner, Izzard, was suited to. With the tall Hungarian in his sights, he reeled him in, came alongside and eased past. The pair were now quite some distance ahead of Grau and González, who had Dijkstra on their shoulder. Somewhat further back, Johnson and Maximilian Schwetz had caught and passed Richard.
The crowds were now behind González, as he broke away from Grau and Dijkstra. Bronze medal was for him but if he could catch Dévay then it would be even better. The supporters along the course were going wild as they saw him edging ever closer to the heels of the tall Hungarian. It looked inevitable and for Dévay it must have been an abject misery to see all his early hard work hacked into by the attack.
Meanwhile, back at the front and Izzard was showing no signs at all of easing up and knowing that the bell would lift him for the final lap, it was time to enjoy the party. But there was no chance to ease up as González was now in second place and just 19 seconds behind. With the home crowds, with the speaker urging the spectators to cheer on the Spanish athlete and with the bell having sounded, it was going to be close.
Dévay, now in bronze, could see that Grau was just behind Dijkstra, who looked like he was suffering. Taking on water for the final push, the athletes were delivering a thrilling race to open the 2019 season.
The streets were lined with people. Up close and really getting to feel the excitement, this will be an event that has to come back next year, As the sun had pushed the temperature up to 26C, the athletes were now racing into the red for the final stages of the 10k.
Izzard’s pace remain the same; easy, efficient and commanding. González could see the Brit and was giving everything to try and catch him. A glance over his shoulder from Izzard and he could see the red uniform of the Spaniard, Exocet-like, coming closer but he had done enough and hearing the PA system and the speaker going wild, he knew that he was close to the finish.
Dijkstra had found an extra gear and had dropped Grau. He edged past Dévay in the final stages but at the front, it was glory, gold, points and prize-money as well as a better chance for Tokyo for Barclay Izzard. Silver and the Iberoamericano title went to González. Bronze to Dijkstra but an amazing sprint in the latter stages of the race took Simon Viain FRA, into fifth place.
After the race, the commentary team and race pundits were full of praise for Dévay. Leading the swim, working hard all around the bike course, breaking away well before T2, leading the run and pushing harder than anyone could believe, it was a real shame he was out of the medals.
Dani Márquez, Spanish Media and Communications Officer interviewed Izzard after the race and praised him for running so fast that he seemed to set the course alight. “I had an early problem but then kept the pace alive and saw waited to see what would happen. It was amazing – the cheering from the public, cheering you all along the course, Incredible.”
For González, “The second lap on the run was where I was able to get going. Happy with silver and the public were simply amazing. Such support around the course. Right from the very start, all the way to the finish and I say a big thank you to all the people from Huelva.”
Dijkstra was happy with bronze, “Very tough. Chasing, chasing the whole way – tired for the first half but felt better in the second half. Felt that I had it about 200m from the finish. Barclay’s a good friend, I’m happy for his victory.”
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|