With the sun shining but with quite stiff winds whipping around the course, the Juniors on Sunday in Tulcea had a challenging race.
This year the Romanian Federation has provided us with a series of rather good events. With the season starting in the depths of winter in Cheile Grădiștei, a fantastic Winter Triathlon European Cup was so good that it will be the venue for the 2018 ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships, then in July this year we had the four days of the ETU Târgu Mureș Cross Festival in deepest Transylvania and just this weekend we had the Tulcea event, forming part of a whole weekend of sporting activities.
The Delta Rowmania ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup uses a different course to previous years and now presents a quite technical bike course for the juniors but with much better spectating opportunities.
An old-fashioned “in the water” start was used due to safety reasons.
With the focus in the Junior Women’s race upon Ukraine’s Sofiya Pryyma, who won silver last year and upon her main rival, Hungary’s Fanni Soós. We rather lost sight of some of the others who were in with a chance for medals.
Out of the water first was Dorka Petrov. With a silver medal behind her at the 2017 Astana ASTC Sprint Triathlon Asian Cup and Central Asian Championships and a strong performance in Wuustwezel in the Elite field over the Sprint distance, she looked good as she left the water, having created a significant lead over the chasing athletes.
Pryyma and Soós were 20 seconds back and were unable to catch her on the very short run to T1.
Out on the bike it was Petrov who set the pace and who indeed held the lead as they entered T2. Nobody could match her power on the 20k bike course.
Entering T2 Petrov was now in the sights of Pryyma, reigning ETU Cross Triathlon champion, who knew she had the extra pace and who has been showing an ability to run hard off the bike not only on standard triathlon events but also off-road.
Further back in the field was Germany’s Annika Koch. Her debut last year in Holten showed that she has potential and as the Hessen athlete kicked out of T2 her running style looked good.
At the front end of the race, Pryyma had Petrov in her sights and it was inevitable that the Ukrainian athlete from Lviv would catch up. Running past Petrov did not give her the fastest run split of the day because behind them was Koch and she was running through the pack.
Pryyma made the blue carpet and took the title in style.
Petrov held on for silver but the fast-finishing Koch, with a spectacular 17:39 for the final windy 5k was the deserved winner of the bronze.
We spoke to the President of the Romanian Triathlon Federation, Peter Klosz.
He explained that the wind was so strong that they had to remove the branding and banners from many of the barriers to ensure the safety of the athletes during the race. The ETU branding in transition had been blown back up over the barriers and it was a very blustery day out there. Knowing just how tough the conditions were makes the performances of these young and very talented athletes even more impressive.
The Junior Men’s race would also see a defending champion return. Hungary’s Gergő Soós HUN was back and his Federation would be hoping for a strong performance from him, not only for the medals but also for the valuable points in the ETU Rankings.
Getting into the water was fun ...
A top ten finish in Kitzbühel, a bronze in Tiszaújváros and a silver in Astana, he was rightly the race favourite and right from the start he imposed his control on the race.
Never easing up, he pushed hard for the entire 20k.
Entering T2 with a comfortable lead, Soós just had to focus on his pace and make sure the faster runners, tucked in the chasing group, did not surprise him with an attack from behind.
Kamil Damentka POL and Klemen Bojanc SLO, were led out of T2 by a fast-moving Velizar Velizarov but the Bulgarian’s pace dropped in the final kilometre as his back muscles started to cramp in the tough conditions.
It was now up to Damentka and Bojanc to chase and of the two it was the Pole who had tremendous off-the-bike pace and who posted the fastest run of 15:30.Such run pace is impressive but it was not enough to catch the defending title-holder Soós.
To the delight of the Hungarian supporters along the course and at the finish, he came home just 11 seconds ahead of Damentka. Bojanc took bronze and his first ETU podium.
Great thanks to Delta Rowmania Triathlon for their photos.
The results from these races have dramatically changed the ETU Junior Nation Standings.
Coming to this race, it was France, Austria and Great Britain leading
Now, with Soós getting gold and Petrov taking silver, we see Hungary tipping the Brits off the third place.
With only Zagreb (10th September) and Melilla (8th October) left, the battle for those top three places will be intense.
In Zagreb, the Austrians have a huge men’s team. Hungary too but Team GB is pretty thin on the ground. The Brits are absent from the women’s line-up but Hungary, Austria and Italy are there.
With double points on offer in Melilla, it could be down to the line for the Juniors to get those valuable top three slots.
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