Sun shines on Coddens as gold is shared between Belgium and Spain

By Paul Groves | 12 Oct, 2015

Cross Triathlon – yes, we’ve seen that and it is growing in popularity every year.

Cross Duathlon – yes, we’ve seen it but never before has there been a chance for the most determined “off-roaders” to get together and see who is best. ETU has been listening to the athletes and is quite aware that the popularity needs to be recognised and so the Executive Board took the decision to hold the very first ETU Cross Duathlon Championships. The Federación Española de Triatlón took the courageous step of agreeing to host the event and, at a venue never before used for such an event and with new and determined local government backing, the LOC set about finding a suitable run and bike course. There was indeed a little trepidation – will there be enough taking part to make it look good ? Will enough come to make it worthwhile? Well, by combining the Spanish National Championships with the European Championships, effectively running the Spanish event within the ETU event, it provided a huge amount of athletes that rather took the city by surprise.

The Mayor, Ángel Díaz-Munío Roviralta, although a basketball player himself, was delighted along with Zara Urzuguía Gómez, Director General of Sport for Cantabria. The event would form part of a weekend of multi-sports activities where apart from the European titles, the Spanish would race for glory over quadrathlon and cross-triathlon. 860 athletes were expected to participate during the three days of sport over a holiday weekend with glorious weather forecast for the first couple of days. In order to ensure that the event achieved the “look” that was needed for a first event, the Spanish Federation were allowed to enter its top domestic athletes into the ETU Elite waves. With only a few non-Spanish athletes racing, this at least meant the start-line looked good.

The two Belgian athletes, Kris Coddens  and Seppe Odeyn arrived quite late on the eve of the race and had to rush to fit in a recce of the bike course. For Coddens, “This race was not even on my list because getting here is not easy with my full-time job. You see, I work on Fridays until 16:00 but it was in Sardinia that I made my mind up. Having a flat tyre there really was annoying and I found a flight to Bilbao, talked my team-mate Seppe into coming with me and of course, with our bike sponsors, Orbea, so close it was a no-brainer. Also – European Championships, Cross Duathlon – a dream come true ! Could not miss it. I wasn’t really sure what to expect because I have been out of duathlon for a while but we both fancied the race. So, arriving at 22:45 in Bilbao the night before the race was not ideal but with a 16:00 start on the Saturday we at least had the chance to look around the course. We were certainly surprised by the exceptionally tough climb and I really didn’t have the right gears so it was going to be tough out there. I was pleased that the descents were tough too as that can make a huge difference. It was a really varied course indeed but so tough ! The run was far from flat too. Really worth the title of “cross”!

For Pavel Andreev RUS it was a leap in the dark as he arrived so late he had only time to set up his bike before the off.

The LOC had spent hours out in the hills marking the course to allow athletes to check the climbs, descents and general difficulty. Over the days leading up to the race many came back from the hills covered in mud and shaking their heads in amazement at the toughness of the whole course. The day dawned and everyone was perhaps caught out by the intensity of the sunshine so late in the year.

It was the Juniors who started the day along with the ParaTri athletes and, by special arrangement, the oldest athlete racing, 76-year-old Günter Birnbaum. He was the only athlete racing over the age of 70 and so it was agreed that in the interests of safety he could race the shortened distance. His journey to the event had not been without incident. First his bike was lost in transit and then his hotel reservation was not honoured and, after finding perhaps the past hotel vacancies in the town, he had to change hotels on the eve of the race.

Not to be beaten, he was first athlete at the venue on Saturday, much to the delight of the crowds and the TV (TVE) who were filming a 50-minute special, which will be shown on the main Spanish TV channel soon.

The majority of athletes were Spanish but the Croatian Team sent Luka Duma Dumančić, the Dutch sent Youri Keulen and Great Britain sent Martin Brooks. For the Junior Women it was an entirely Spanish race.

In the women’s race, there was a neck and neck first leg between Sara Ruiz Serrano ESP and Raquel Mateos Gil ESP but once into T1, Ruiz made it out onto the road quicker than Mateos and then, on the so tough hills, put another 30 seconds into her lead. With a quicker T2 and then clear sight on the run, she built her lead to dominate the race. This victory is a major breakthrough for her at the end of the season. 2016 looks good for the young Spanish athlete.

Amongst the men it was a fierce battle between the first 14 athletes who sped into T1 in the first minute. Amongst them was Carmelo Urbano Fontiveros who put in the fastest bike split and then held it all together to take the European title.

Further down the field came young Dutchman Keulen. His comment, after the race, “I aged 120 years today. 9th place in the toughest of tough tests.”

For race winner, Urbano, “It was a race for which I was not really fully-prepared but I wanted to give 100%. A fast start and I got to the lead. I tried to keep clear from the pack but after 2k we were a small group coming into T1. I lost 2 places putting on my helmet but made that up on the bike. I caught them up and then pushed and made it away from them to take the lead. It was not going to be easy as I was not comfortable on the bike and suffering. On the downhills I felt better and catch my breath and that would make the final 1500m easier. T2 was good and I saw that I was way ahead of 2nd and 3rd. Only 500m from the finish though I started to believe it, Yes, I was Spanish and European Champion. A very, very tough and technical course. The perfect mix for Cross-Duathlon.”

For the para-athletes there was massive respect from the crowds and from the Age group athletes who had come down to watch the event before their race later in the afternoon.

Gold went to Spain in each of the three categories raced. PT2 gold went to Miguel Coca. After the race he said, “Beautiful place. Stunning location. The run course was more difficult for me but the bike was tough from the very start. I feel better on the bike and it was on the last run that I felt I was losing time. Apart from that I am very happy. This year I said to myself that I would go out to win everything and to this day it has come true! My big motivation is to encourage people with such limitations to take up sport. For me Multiple Sclerosis left me in a wheel chair for years but thanks to sport I have improved my health and my quality of life and triathlon is something that gives me passion. My biggest wish is to get to the Olympics but I know that is the hardest thing to achieve. I want to say thanks, a big thanks to all Organisers for allowing these events to take place. Let’s make ParaTri even bigger. Winning is my motivation and to be able to finish every single race drives me on.”

PT3 saw gold go to Joaquin Carrasco and in the PT4 category, it was gold for Jairo Ruiz López.

It was also in this category that Rafael Solis Torres raced, finished and won silver. Impressive ? Yes. Even more impressive is the fact that when racing in Zofingen, just over 4 weeks ago, he crashed and has had a complicated operation on his left shoulder. Rehabilitation and determination has taken him straight to the podium. “Try always!! Today I made it happen. I showed that if you want something really badly you can always get it. Many people could not believe that I had made it to the start line after my collarbone operation. There were even some who would not believe that I’d been under the knife !  But there was a huge amount of people who supported me and I felt very proud indeed for at least making the effort. A little bit of madness yes, but also willpower. I was in pretty bad shape, physically and for that reason I was pretty cautious right from the beginning and from the very start of the hill on the run my team-mate and rival Jairo was attacking and pushing the pace. He started the bike with a 1:30 advantage over me and my heart was working at the max. we were then pretty much away from our rivals. On the climb and my head wanted to but my body could not. I started the descents and went for it. I could not see or catch Jairo. I took about 20 out of his lead after the bike but still could not catch him. At the end, silver medal – with such a taste of gold – so close, yet so far. I was the only one who could imagine that I could be here and that is in itself a great luxury. It was also a silver in the Spanish Championships. I will recover as much as possible ready for the Cross Tri Championships on Monday. A big thanks to all those who helped me and to all those who support me !”

Amongst the Elite there was again a dominant Spanish theme but for them, it would not be an assured podium as there were athletes with great experience joining them from Belgium, Croatia, Great Britain, Norway, Portugal and Russia.

The women started first and it was Spanish Mountain-biker, Margarita Fullana who established a marginal lead as they entered T1. The run course starts on the flat but then rapidly rises along a steep climb before levelling off for a short distance. It is here that you get a breath-taking view of the bay before you start a long loop along the edge of the cliffs leading up to the turn point before the descent and the dead turn to start the second lap.

Arriving in T1 it was Fullana in the lead with two more Spanish athletes. One was to DNF but Miriam Muñoz González would carry on in the hope of a medal. Britain’s Louise Fox was just a few seconds off the lead. She takes us inside the race, “The first run set a quick pace – this race doubled as the Spanish champs and the national rivalry was tangible! I knew what was coming on the bike though, so I did my best to stay in contention without burning too many matches.” Indeed the European Championships did incorporate the Spanish Championships and despite the variety of uniforms that were visible in the Elite Waves, the added numbers certainly made the event look good. The Spanish were determined to go for the podium and their rivalry on the course and amongst their supporters was intense.

The bike course is easily the most challenging on the circuit. Tyres came off rims, athletes came of bikes, race uniform was torn on the rocks and many scrapes and cuts were seen as athletes came back down for their first turn. Many simply rode on towards Transition, shaking their heads in dismay.

Again it is Fox who takes us into the heart of the race, “I headed out on the bike in 4th place, still struggling with a high core temperature up the first climb. I just had to pace myself and maintain concentration - I was relieved to find I rode further up it than most before pushing! Just before the top I witnessed - as if in slow motion - the girl in 3rd place tumble backwards off her bike and down the slope… Quickly checking if she was OK, I reminded myself keep focussed so you don’t do the same!”

With one of the Spanish athletes out of contention Fox moved up to 2nd place by the end of the first lap but the years of mountain-biking was taking the former Olympic Bronze medallist into a strong lead. Fullana may have the biking skills but would she be able to put enough distance between her and Fox to keep the fast-running and increasingly Muddy Fox away?

With a three-lap course and some 399 athletes racing over this closed circuit there were concerns about congestion but Fox was able to catch some of the tail-end “Elite Men”, while herself being caught by some of the very strong “Age Group Men”. An already challenging course was getting an additional demanding element that required athletes to choose the right line to ride. Thankfully, the severity of the course meant that the spread of athletes was fairly good, although there were some small pockets of congestion where people were walking.

Second place changed to 3rd for Fox as the cat and mouse game started with Yolanda Magallon Vallejo but the final run would be where the real battle would start. Fullana had taken three minutes out of her compatriot and five out of Fox but her running was her weakness and both Magallon and Fox knew this. Fox pushed and then had Magallon in her sights. With a third of the 3k course done she opened up the throttle and with only 400m to go she edged past the Spaniard to move into silver medal position. With no penalties to serve after a good clean race Fox raced along the front to the sharp right-hander into the finish straight. Fullana was home and dry. She had taken the gold with her powerful biking but after a very brief interview she was ushered back to the blue carpet to greet Fox and then the two of them stood waiting for the bronze medallist, Magallon.

After the race, the new European Champion Follana said, “As far as the organisation is concerned I congratulate them for everything. It was certainly not easy to combine such different segments. The course was very tough but at the same time had its own beauty. For three years now I have held the Spanish Title and apart from biking I really love running. The girls ran very hard and I managed to keep the pace, arriving with the British athlete, Louise Fox and two other Spanish athletes. It was out on the bike that the race was decided for me. I gave everything to create as much distance as possible between me and those chasing. This would enable me to relax a bit on the final run. I really enjoyed the reception from the public here in Castro as they supported me very well and I am very proud to be the very first title holder of the European Championships. Very happy indeed! I trained specifically for this event and I can see that all that hard training has paid off. Thanks, a big thanks to everyone.”

The Elite Men had started 5 minutes before the women. It was a big start and the excitement as the 69 men surged away from the start line got a massive cheer from the crowds who were lining the streets around the start area.

As the technical officials were marshalling the Elite Women and Age Group Athletes into position for their starts, the Elite Men were powering up the hill and jostling for position.

Coddens got into a good position in the initial stages and to the delight of his bike sponsors, Orbea, who are based not far from Castro-Urdiales, he was looking relaxed along with Jesús de la Morena as they pulled away. It was a bit of a battle to get through the huge Age Group pack that was making its way around their first lap but careful and determined running saw them cut through the masses and, entering T1 they were neck and neck. The run from T1 exit to the bike mount line was perhaps a little longer than usual and directly after the mount the athletes had about 100m before the start of the big climb on the road that would take them high, high above the town. Coddens mis-judged the mount line and picked up a penalty that would have to be served on the run course.

Out on the three-lap course, with that mix of rocks, clay, puddles, climbs and descents the Belgian was holding onto his position well despite feeling as if his legs were not working too well. He was sat in behind two Spaniards; Julen Larrucea Loroño and De La Morena. The three of them worked the lead and to the delight of the crowds on the sharp turn they stayed together for the final part of the bike section.

This meant of course that T2 and the run would be critical and that the 15 second penalty for Coddens could change the entire race.

A clear dis-mount and Coddens chased one Spaniard out of T2 with the second having to dig deep to even catch sight of the tall Belgian. Running up the long hill, past the aid station and the penalty box, it was Coddens who took command. He would need to dig deep and create a huge amount of distance between himself and the two Spaniards if he were to have any chance of a medal. The run almost completed and Coddens skidded to a halt in the penalty box. “The time penalty seemed to last forever”, he said “and I could see the Spanish guy coming towards me”. He sprinted away from the penalty box, using the downhill to his advantage and to the massive crowds he raced to the line and to victory.

“What a great way to finish the season. Organisation was good and the course, well, fantastic; a real test.” He had some good and constructive ideas on how the course might be improved and from someone with so much experience, his views are always welcome.

Proudly standing on the podium wearing his national uniform, the Belgian national Anthem rang out loud. Kris Coddens, European Cross-Duathlon Champion. Sounds good, doesn’t it !

Larrucea, holding his silver medal, his Basque heart beating under the Spanish uniform said, “A big thanks to ETU and to the city of Castro for bringing this Cross Duathlon to life. This success not only from the point of view of sport but also for the organisation has to be able to show that such a race can get the recognition it deserves and to be allowed to grow. This is a new format but such a great one. I am sure people will get hooked once they try it. From the very start of the race we could see that victory but also the podium places were going to be tight. It was just like that. It was only in the last few metres of the race that the final positions would be decided. Coddens from Belgium, Morena from Spain and me. So a well-deserved victory for Coddens who used his experience and took control in the run in that very last bit before the finish. I was training hard for MTB and getting more strength. This helped me in the race.  I hope that ETU can continue with this format of race in the years to come.” Echoing Coddens opinion, he added, “But perhaps next time to separate the races into categories”

For Morena, the bronze in his hands, “The race was very exciting. Such beautiful surroundings. A nice big amount of athletes to race against. The first run we started so fast – Coddens and me together having a bit of an advantage in T1. The bike course was amazingly tough and sorted out our order. We raced together for the first two laps on the bike until Larruped joined us. The three of us got to T2 and this was where the fight for the podium would start. It was a neck and neck race and I think the public had a great show from us athletes. I feel really very welcomed here in Castro-Urdiales and am very, very happy with my result.”

For the Age group athletes this was a race right on the limit and nobody escaped the mud. Some crossed the finish line with no scratches or cuts, some crossed and made their way directly to the medics. Some didn’t even finish but for the vast majority, this really was a magnificent test. Dutch athlete, Linda van Vliet has recently left the Elite ranks to focus more on her work as a guide in ParaTri. Her convincing victory in her Age Group put a huge smile on her face and after the race she was full of praise for the course.

Rita Lopes PRT made the journey here with her father Joaquim Carlos Lopes. She got a medal but her father had to battle in the highly competitive 45-49 category and had to settle for a fifth place.

The rest of the Portuguese team had a great day out, with U23 silver going to Renato Teixeira and a further silver to Sérgio Santos saw the Portuguese team go home in high spirits.

Spain, with so many athletes, easily topped the medal table but next up was Team DTU their small team got extra media coverage with Günter Birnbaum. Two silvers and a bronze were added to Birnbaum’s gold.

Team GB is usually very visible but this time only a small contingent of 25 athletes came. With Elite silver in the hands of Louise Fox it was up to the Age Groupers to show their strength and depth. They did well, with a gold, a silver and two bronze medals.

The LOC had planned a busy weekend and with very little rest between events, the beach was crowded the next day for their Quadrathlon Championships and a planned Cross Triathlon Championships on the Monday. Something for everyone then and a great way to showcase multi-sport in a beautiful location.

Goodbye Castro-Urdiales, adios y muchísimas gracias.

Related Event: 2015 Castro Urdiales ETU Cross Duathlon European Championships
10 Oct, 2015 • event pageall results
Results: 20-24 Female AG
1. Rita Lopes POR 02:31:02
Results: 20-24 Male AG
1. Javier Goitia Omaechevarria ESP 01:53:00
2. Jonatan Chavarrias Izquierdo ESP 01:54:43
3. Francisco Javier Perona Ogallar ESP 02:02:17
4. Javier Quintanar Paris ESP 02:02:27
5. Manuel Jesus Palop Gonzalez ESP 02:03:11
6. Arturo Bernardo Losada ESP 02:05:55
7. Álvaro Crespo Labrador ESP 02:09:15
8. Alfredo Valle Seldas ESP 02:18:34
9. Marti Verdejo Amengual ESP 02:33:46
10. Antonio De La Peña Calleja ESP 02:35:51
Results: 25-29 Female AG
1. Beatriz Escribano Moya ESP 02:28:39
2. Nicola Noble GBR 02:29:41
3. Kirsty Vogan GBR 02:38:14
4. Isabel Olmos Figuerola ESP 03:21:35
Results: 25-29 Male AG
1. Gregorio Diaz Fernandez ESP 01:45:15
2. Mario Saez Mateos ESP 01:51:33
3. Francisco Alonso Alvarez ESP 01:57:39
4. Jorge Gil Rodriguez ESP 02:05:40
5. Unai Rodriguez Antoñana ESP 02:06:41
6. Brais Cupeiro Perez ESP 02:08:09
7. Borja Rodriguez De Marcos ESP 02:15:13
8. David Bowkett GBR 02:17:30
DNF. Mario Herrero Galan ESP DNF
DNF. Roberto Mohedano Rubio ESP DNF
Results: 30-34 Female AG
1. Soraya Garcia Alvarez ESP 02:26:07
2. Cristina Gutierrez Gómez ESP 02:58:07
DNF. Judit Cuevas Diaz ESP DNF
Results: 30-34 Male AG
1. Jose Daniel Borrego Ibañez ESP 01:39:06
2. Gabino Dorta Gonzalez ESP 01:44:35
3. Guzman Zapateria Munarriz ESP 01:46:13
4. Bernardo Rubio Herrada ESP 01:48:07
5. Rafael Toro Martinez ESP 01:48:32
6. M. Alejandro Saborido Alconchel ESP 01:49:59
7. Roger Vicente POR 01:52:27
8. Eduardo Luengo Gadea ESP 01:52:40
9. Diego Herrera Mora ESP 01:53:35
10. Juan Antonio Garcia Fernandez ESP 01:55:33