The morning sunshine developed into blazing heat in the afternoon and with the heat came the winds. The sea conditions changed dramatically and the Technical Official in charge of the swim, having spent almost the whole day out on the water ensuring the safety of the athletes was by now suffering quite badly with sea-sickness.
Made of strong stuff, Ivan Mihajlovski battled it out and stayed to the very end. He deserves a medal.
Under the welcome shelter of the Red Bull tent, the athletes lined up. It was Kirsten Nuyes NLD who was first out onto the sand to choose her place and on paper she was the one to beat.
Nuyes chose a position closest to the pier and soon they were racing to the sea.
The waves were not that high, that would come later, but they were frequent, small and quite powerful and this soon allowed the more experienced open water swimmers to take control.
It was Maria Bibicheva RUS who led confidently out of the water and up the steps.
Some way behind her came Rianne De Croock NLD and a few strides behind her came Simona Šimůnková CZE.
Nuyes and Beatrice Mallozzi ITA, followed.
Out on the bike, Bibicheva held her lead and with a solo effort completed the first lap alone.
Behind her the chasing group of five had been joined by Madalena Amaral Almeida POR, so the group working to catch the Russian was a combined effort from Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic and the Netherlands. They had quite a lead over the rest of the pack and worked hard on the second lap to try and reel in the lone Russian.
Sure enough, by the end of the bike they had caught her and six athletes raced into T2. It was Almeida who took pole position as they ran down towards the Sea Casino before the 180 degree turn to rack their bikes.
She took advantage of the clear space in front of her and was swiftly out onto the run, followed very closely by the two Dutch athletes, Šimůnková and Mallozzi at the back. Bibicheva was just half a pace off the back of the group but with the 2-lap, 5k run ahead of them under the shelter of the trees in the Sea Garden, the race was far from over.
Almeida did not wait.
She kicked early and it was only Mallozzi who could still see her as lap one was completed.
Behind her Bibicheva and Nuyes were locked together with Nuyes choosing to run right on the heels of the Russian. It looked as if two of the medals were sorted but the real battle would be for bronze.
Almeida had done enough.
She had built upon her lead and to the delight of her team mates who cheered her along the blue carpet, she took the gold.
Mallozzi crossed the line, offering her hand to the winner, taking silver.
It was Nuyes, with a final burst of speed, who took the bronze.
For the President of the Portuguese Triathlon Federation, Fernando Feijão, this victory came soon after news that the Lisbon Championships had raised some €2.5 Million from media alone. He was a very happy man, made even happier by this great victory.
With only one race left on the packed Saturday schedule, the weather decided it would present a real test for the U23 men. The winds increased and the waves got bigger and bigger. Fortunately there were no adverse currents and the swim course, although a challenge, was quite safe. The Swim Technical Official was by now a delicate shade of green.
The athletes had time to try out their attack on the surf and between the waves crashing onto the beach they launched themselves again and again at the water.
Then it was time for the final wishes of good luck and the clock ticked slowly towards the start.
Lined up, under control and then they were released by the start signal and out into the sea.
Just as they hit the water, the waves retreated and for some, it was a fresh attack that took them into deeper water.
Throughout the activities on the beach the athletes, officials and spectators were kept entertained by some great music from the DJ. Dancing Technical Officials? Oh yes.
Having negotiated the outer turn buoy, the athletes headed back towards the beach using the central buoy as a marker and choosing to swim either side of it as permitted. It was clear that the stronger open water specialists were using the sea conditions to their advantage but with the 77 steps and then the very technical bike course, would any advantage in the swim be enough to take them away from the stronger cyclists and faster runners?
It was Hungarian Márk Dévay who led out of the water and all the way up into T1. Not far behind him came Jørgen Gundersen NOR. We need to watch out for both in future, as their swim pace was truly impressive.
As the athletes appeared at the top of the steps, their supporters shouted them onwards, urging them to get close to the leaders and not to miss the pack.
With transition completed a large group of athletes headed out together on the bike.
Race favourite, David Castro Fajardo ESP, was some way off the pace and would clearly have to work hard to get to a safe position.
As the athletes continued to race into T1 it was clear to all that we would see a large peloton form. This would make the race more exciting, for sure, but with just the slightest lapse of attention, or some imperfection on the roads and there could be danger out on the closed road bike course.
The chase group were led up the steps and in to T1 by Pierre Balty BEL.
Transition had to be done without error. A ten second penalty for badly placed equipment would ruin any chance of a medal.
At the front of the race a small group had broken away and was desperately trying to keep that small advantage over the chasing pack.
The leading group of Jonas Schomburg TUR, Jonas Breinlinger GER, Dévay, Gundersen and Gianluca Pozzatti ITA did their best to keep away. Sadly for Breinlinger, a pothole saw him crash later on. A smashed handlebar and a trip to the local hospital was the result. Luckily for him, no broken bones but a bad case of road rash. ETU would like to wish him a speedy and full recovery.
The huge chase pack negotiated the dead turn carefully and shouted instructions from within the pack ensured that they upped the speed.
By the time they had finished the second lap, the lead pack had been caught and it was one massive peloton.
The turns were amazing to watch and the noise from within the pack, all the shouted instructions, was incredible to witness.
Schomburg led them into T2. He had a clear run, nothing in front of him.
Castro was in the middle of the pack and would face a struggle to get a clear run through transition after racking his bike.
As Dévay racked, Schomburg ran.
Behind him and well-placed, was Italy’s Dario Chitti who was having a great race. Castro was way back. Could this race be an upset for the favourite?
Shachar Sagiv ISR was strong on the bike and had found a place in front of Castro as they left T2.
As lap one was completed, it was just four athletes from that massive peloton that had pushed to the front. Castro, Schomburg, Chitti and Sagiv were stretching their lead but they knew, their coaches and managers knew and the spectators knew that only three could win medals. Burgas was being treated once again to a great and exciting race.
It was Castro who kicked at the right moment and with the greater pace just edged in front of Chitti. The Italian gave everything but as they neared the blue carpet he just had nothing to match the Spaniard.
Castro wins. Chitti settles for silver and setting history, Sagiv wins the first bronze medal at this level for Israel.
A tough race. An exciting race. An ETU U23 Championships.
A title for Castro.
Medals for Spain, Italy and Israel.
Of course, no U23 or Elite is complete without the champagne celebration.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your winner.
With the celebrations over and a good night’s sleep, it was back to the beach. The heat was still there. The wind was stronger than the Saturday and the Chief Swim Official had been out on the water for the Open Youth event. He really looked ill and was relieved of his waterborne duties to command the swim course from the beach.
The whole relay was over a short “super-sprint” distance. 375m in the water, one lap on the bike and one lap of 1500m on the run. However, for the first three athletes of the mixed teams, they had an additional 400m to run down to the beach for the hand over. Tactics came into play and the Coaches and team mangers were checking their athletes’ performances to ensure that they had the right athlete in the right position for each team.
Everything ready and we had 12 teams in the start list. Italy and Russia fielded two teams each.
The athletes lined up.
Those who were not racing took advantage of the sunshine.
Those who were racing hit the water for the fast, furious and tough swim.
Olmo, racing for ITA 1 and U23 Champion from the Saturday, went hard from the very start.
But it was Anastasia Gorbunova RUS who with Zsanett Bragmayer HUN used their open water skills to take control in the 375m swim. There was not much separation out on the bike and all athletes came back without any significant lead having been established.
Back down on the beach, the next athletes kept out of the sun, loosened up their muscles and listened to the instructions from their coach.
Then the call came and they lined up ready to take the handover.
Ekaterina Matiukh RUS had a great run and had taken the lead. Her handover to Ilya Prasolov was clean. Angi Olmo, yesterday’s birthday winner of the U23 handed over to Italian teammate Pozzatti and so it was Italy chasing Russia. Some way back, Zoe Thomas handed over to Christopher Perham for Team GB but as we know in Team Relays the positions change with great frequency.
Prasolov led out of the water on the second swim with Pozzatti chasing and Perham not far behind having made up places in the swim.
Pozzatti worked hard and overtook Prasolov.
Perham was catching Prasolov and so then the handover was complete, it was Verena Steinhauser leading Yuliya Golofeeva and Sophie Coldwell.
Coldwell and Steinhauser began their climb of the steps together. Golofeeva kept them in sight.
Prasolov urged on his team mate.
Coldwell led at the last handover and set Morgan Davies off for the final swim, bike, run that would lead to the finish line. Steinhauser kept the Russian behind her and handed over to Dario Chitti. Golofeeva handed over to Alexey Kalistratov.
Out on the bike, Davies and Chitti worked hard to make up as much distance as possible over the Russian and they entered T2 with a comfortable time advantage. Davies lost much of that when, as he took off his helmet and dropped it into the box and it bounced out. If he had simply picked it up and put it back in, then he would not have got the ten second penalty.
Not knowing how far behind the Russian was and not knowing how fast Chitti could run after yesterday’s race, this was a massive blow to the British team. Chitti set off as fast as he could. He had only 1500m to run and was determined that he would, along with his team, hear the Italian anthem once again.
Chitti had more than enough pace to take him away from Davies whose penalty, served with the finish line in sight, had done enough to ensure that silver would go to the Brits. Kalistratov did what he could and saved the bronze for Russia.
Team Italy were jubilant.
Mixed Team relays. It doesn’t really get any better.
Related Event: 2016 Burgas ETU Triathlon U23 European Championships
|Results: U23 Men|
|1.||David Castro Fajardo||ESP||00:59:51|
|4.||Antonio Serrat Seoane||ESP||01:00:05|
|Results: U23 Women|
|10.||Laura Gomez Ramon||ESP||01:06:28|
|Results: Mixed U23 Relay|
|1.||Team I Italy||ITA||01:39:10|
|2.||Team I Great Britain||GBR||01:39:30|
|3.||Team I Russia||RUS||01:40:12|
|4.||Team I Hungary||HUN||01:41:35|
|5.||Team I Portugal||POR||01:41:48|
|6.||Team I Spain||ESP||01:41:49|
|7.||Team I Belarus||BLR||01:43:57|
|8.||Team I Norway||NOR||01:45:35|
|9.||Team I Slovenia||SLO||01:45:49|
|10.||Team I Ukraine||UKR||01:45:58|