As the sun rises above the beach at Punta Umbria, the seas look good, the beach looks stunning but the hidden chill of the sea, at 16C means it will be a bit of an early wake-up for the wetsuit-wearing athletes. 48 women lined up (with a late withdrawal from AUT – Strohschenider).
The sea was trying to lap at the blue carpet but, as the tide was going out, the athletes knew that they would have to use their powerful run techniques in the first moments of the swim before they reached deeper water.
- Heartbeats echoing along the beach.
- The crowds are silent.
A strong start, reading the waves, saw the advantage being taken on the far left-hand side of the pack. The breaking waves close to the shore created enough of a challenge to the athletes that those who could read the water and who were not afraid to attack, were able to create a lead within the first 2 minutes.
Ilaria Zane ITA, wearing #1 went to the lead as they approached the first turn buoy. Heading back towards the beach and she was joined by the pack and no clear advantage was to be seen.
With the run along the beach between laps, this would give the stronger swimmers a chance to see who was with them but the run would really break up the rhythm.
16 athletes had managed to create a small breakaway but it was Lisa Nordén SWE, who led them out over the timing mat to complete the first 750m. Zane was still in contention and France’s Margot Garabedian was well-placed. If this group of 16 could hold it together, then this would be the pack that could really do some damage in the early stages of the bike course, before hitting the city-centre laps. Whether this was a plan, or pure luck, the group was pulling away.
As they neared the shallow water, the pack of 16 broke up, with three making a small break at the front, four behind and a smaller group closing in for the attack up the beach. Leading them out of the water for the run up the beach was GB’s Olivia Mathias. The group she led, was 14 seconds ahead of the chase pack. Nordén was there as was Zane, Garabedian, Sara Perez Sala ESP.
Garabedian was first out onto the bike.
The lead pack on the bike gave a great demonstration of chain-gang riding but Nordén soon took command at the front, urging them to keep the pace high. Each athlete, taking a few seconds at the front, worked hard, pushing the watts and doing their very best to keep the speed as high as possible, pulling away from the chasing athletes.
The top-quality road surface allowed them to make the most of their lead and as the sun pushed up the temperature, their bodies could warm up after that rather chilly swim.
Nordén allowed no passengers, shouting commands and ensuring that the pace stayed high. The lead pack was down to 11.
A chase pack, containing Beth PotterGBR, Valentina Riasova RUS and Marta Łagovnik POL, all good runners, was working hard to keep in contention. Nordén, Olivia Mathias, Zane, Emmie Charayron, Cecilia Santamaría Surroca, Célia Merle, Perez, Anja Knapp GER, Edda Hannesdóttir ISL. Maria Czesnik POL. Sophie Alden GBR, Garabedian and Pauline Landron FRA.
As they entered the city, the buzz went up a few notches as the crowds increased and the noise from the speakers and the live commentary echoed between the tall buildings. The hard push on the long drag to the city now over, it was time for the riders to show their bike skills on the technical sections around the city. 13 now in the mix and pulling ever away from the chase group, which entered the city at least 1:40 down. Potter was in the second chase group and with her pace significantly greater than anyone in the lead group, they had effectively shut her race down.
Perez began to attack on the hills, Charayron, did her best to bring the pack back into contention. At the back of the pack, the pace began to hit and athletes started to suffer. Nordén gave nobody a chance to ease up. If not leading, then she was commanding, organising and urging them on. The pack was now down to 11.
Perez, Mathias, Nordén, Knapp, Hannesdottir, Charayron, Merle, Surroca, Landron, Zane, Czesnik.
Dismount was done and it was the 2018 Junior ETU Champion. Landron out first, with Surroca chasing. The air temperature had climbed now and with 18c was perfect for a 10k run in downtown Huelva. Landron looked back over the shoulder to check out the opposition, Surroca was there but about 20m back. She was not alone there for long, as Charayron joined her, threatening to make it at least two French athlete on the podium. Mathias was in 4th
Running on the cobblestone surface gave the athletes’ feet a change of scenery. Then it was back to the smooth asphalt. Twisting, turning, climbing. A real runner’s course. Landron held her lead, pushing to create a 26-second advantage over Surroca and Charayron. It was the French athlete who led, with Surroca sensibly staying on her shoulder.
The live speakers were doing an excellent job to animate the crowds who were of course, cheering the Spanish athletes louder than anyone else. Surroca looked like she needed all the support there was, as she dug deep into the hurt zone to keep pace with Charayron. Bronze medal position but in a painful place too. Despite her effort, she stayed sensibly behind the French athlete; watching her stride, taking advantage of the little shelter there was.
Ahead of them Landron kept the lead. She kept the lead and kept the pressure up to increase those 26 seconds. Nearly doubling that advantage by the start of the last lap, Landron looked like she had pulled off the best result imaginable; moving up from Junior to Elite, she was supreme.
Surroca’s play was a cruel deceit to Charayron, a kick from the Spanish athlete and she dropped her opposition in a breath-taking attack. A truly intelligent 10k from her was now putting the silver medal firmly into her grasp. No chance of catching Landron but for the crowds, Surroca’s attack was the best thing they had seen.
The crowds, now filling every available space along the final stages of the race, were cheering, shouting and urging on Surroca but she was unable to reach the victorious Landron. This victory for Landron was one made from solid swimming, sensible riding and an amazing run. Silver medal for Surroca and the Iberoamericano title was hers. Flag flying high, cheers echoing in her ears, the moment was hers. Charayron came home for bronze to make it an incredibly successful day for the Federation Française.
After the race, not showing even the slightest signs of tiredness, Landron was smiling from ear to ear, “It was my first Olympic Distance and I’m very happy to win here in Huelva. Happy and surprised. It’s amazing.” Surroca was over the moon and full of praise for the course, for the support along the course, her fellow athletes and gave an interview that the Spanish Federation will no doubt want to use again and again to promote the sport. She said the right things, with maximum passion. For Charayron – “I’m really pleased with third. Especially with the swim after working hard in the winter. Amazing to run with Cecilia – amazing crowds.”
Big thanks to LaLiga for the top-class Live-Feed. As soon as we get access to photos, we wil share to the page.
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|