Thrilling race for the Elite Women in Quarteira

By Paul Groves | 24 Mar, 2018

Following some early morning rain, the winds blew hard to dry the roads and of course, this meant that the seas became, well … interesting.

Quarteira has always provided athletes with a testing swim.

An amazing photo, taken by TRIMES, from last year showed the exciting inshore waters but as soon as the athletes swim away from the beach, the waters settle down again.With occasional sunshine for the rest of the day, the Elite athletes looked set for a fast race.

A wetsuit swim that will mean the athletes will sit higher in the water and be thrown around more by the waves. We can expect a few of them to be quite dizzy as they leave the water.

The introductions over and the athletes, lined up, looked out towards the Atlantic and the big waves crashing onto the beach.

A long run down to the water and it must have been like hitting a brick wall for those who missed the split second of broken water that would take them away from the beach.

A strong leading swim to the left of the field showed an early breakaway by Portugal’s Helena Carvalho. She struck out towards the turn buoy with a clear view in front of her and a pack of athletes strung out behind her.

The technical officials, safety teams and media out in the boats were really feeling the waves. The accompanying safety kayakers must have been enjoying themselves. From the beach, the spectators could see that Carvalho had created a 3 to 4m lead as she rounded the second buoy but with the benefit of wind and current she was caught by two by the third turn and suddenly her early lead had gone. She still took the pack around the final buoy before the first lap was over but could feel the hands near to her feet as they chased her.

The run up onto the beach would be a critical moment. Trying to find “land legs” after a battering in the sea, running along the uneven sand and then diving back into the rolling waves for lap #2 would be a real test.

It was Carvalho and Spain’s Anna Godoy Contreras together who gained the smallest of advantages as they headed out for the second lap. For one athlete, that was enough as, she gave up and walked sadly back up the beach.

As the athletes headed away from the beach, the crowds began to fill up all available spaces to get a view of the Elite Women on their run up the sand and into T1.

Quarteira is a great venue for spectators and the course design gives you many chances to get close to the action without having to cross roads or walk a long way. The race commentator was keeping everyone up to date with how the swim was going and the excitement was building as the crowds waited to see who would be first out of the water.

Carvalho and Godoy still held the advantage and were creating a solid lead over the chasing athletes.

It was Carvalho and Godoy who led into T1 but for the Portuguese athlete a technical problem on the mount-line robbed her of the advantage and Melanie Santos POR caught her teammate to begin her attack on the bike.

Out onto the bike course and it was Godoy with Santos on her new Trek who had created a small gap of about 30m but soon they were joined by French athlete Mathilde Gautier, who came in 9th last year. Santiago chased as they attacked the hill and broke away as she tried to bridge the gap. Her attack left her in no-man’s land as the leading three pushed hard at the crest of the hill to make the best use of their advantage.

The base of the hill, always a threat to the over-enthusiastic athlete, was well-padded by the organisers and the leading three hit the turn at pace with no problems. The chasing pack, now numbering about 20 athletes, came through too but had a huge task ahead of them to catch the powerful riding lead group.

Around the base of the hill was the greatest concentration of spectators. A great race was before them and the sun had come out to warm them up.

As the leading group headed along the bottom section of the course, Santos was shouting out orders to keep the chain-gang working. The massive 26-strong chase group had the potential to catch the leaders but would need a lot of organisation. A big call unless someone in there could take control.

Santos, Godoy, Gauthier … they pushed hard and increased their lead. Behind them, as they came to the right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill, the pack slowed to avoid that sudden visit to the grass on the central reservation and the lead increased.

Some of the 40k bike courses we see are described as “flat and boring” by the top athletes. Quarteira is never going to be described as flat and boring. It is one of the most challenging courses on the circuit and one where a determined breakaway can take athletes directly to the podium. The Brits showed us that in the past and now, with France, Spain and Portugal looking comfortable at the front, it was beginning to look like they would share the three medals and the biggest share of the €12,500 Prize-Money and ETU Ranking points.

Gauthier was well-placed. Her swim/bike combo last year gave her a great start for the final 10k run but she suffered out there against the faster athletes. In the French championships she upped the pace and seemed strong over the Sprint Distance.

Despite their hard work the leaders were caught by the peloton and now, the race was on. Gauthier sat up, the lead was over and the three were now just at the front of a rolling group of athletes.

This was risky, as inside that pack were Dodet and Derron, both of whom were proven runners. The speed dropped and the group bunched. Time to focus. Time to make no mistakes, especially on that descent.

21 athletes.

Gauthier made the sensible move of breaking away before the top of the climb to ensure a free ride down and around that right-hand turn. The pack followed and re-grouped.

Some great riding was seen from the Filipina, Marion Kim Mangrobang who is trained by the great Sérgio Santos up at the Rio Maior complex.

Sharon Spimi ITA took up the lead and headed down from the hill for the turn. She dug deep and established a nice breakaway as the last lap was started.  A series of top ten finishes last year and here she is leading the race.

She would have to create a massive lead to stand any chance of a place on the podium but behind her, the pack seemed to have hardly noticed that she had gone. Her glances over her shoulder to check on the chasing pack showed that they were nowhere in sight.

A 25 second lead as she started the final climb.

She held that lead on the climb and descent.

The pack followed along the flat lower section of the bike course. Just one more out and back and they would be heading to T2.

The crowds made their way back to line transition as the athletes headed in for the all-important second transition.

Spimi was first out but along the flat run course, lined with spectators, she was in sight of the strong runners.

Madalena Amaral Almeida, the powerful French athlete, Sandra Dodet, Spain’s Cecilia Santamaria Surroca and Santos were there and following her great race in Gran Canaria last weekend, came Julie Derron, only a few places back.

4 laps along the seafront, past the host hotel, Dom José Beach Hotel. Wind in your face and wind on your back. It was going to be a real challenge for the Italian athlete with the faster runners chasing her down.

Dodet used her experience to grab the lead and took Santos with her. The pair had created a lead of a few metres by the turn and behind them Emilie Morier FRA, Santamaria, Godoy, Sara Papais ITA, Romana Gajdošová SVK, Jeanne Lehair FRA. Derron led the second chase pack.

With penalties up on the penalty box notice-board, the athletes carefully glanced up at the end of the first lap and were no doubt calculating just when they would take their 15 second standing time-penalty.

Derron broke from the chasing group to try and bridge the gap. Dodet and Santos held their lead and fed off each other as they began to pull away.

Sitting back to watch the race, it becomes clear that the design of the course is as close to perfect as you can get and the mix of the tough swim, challenging bike and out and back run, is just the right test for our athletes.

With the wind blowing into the athletes face as they ran back towards the finish line, this was going to be a 10k to remember.

Dodet and Santos held the lead.

The small group of Godoy, Papais, Morier and Gajdošová were joined by Derron. Morier dropped back a few strides, carrying some painful-looking road rash from a fall.

The penalty board showed that none of the leading athletes would have to take that 15 seconds and so, halfway through the 10k, Derron was well-placed to attack the leaders but she would be up against Godoy, Papais and Gajdošová. Her bronze last week showed that she had pace and when you consider that she lost out to the Brits, Taylor-Brown and Stimpson you realise that her pace over the Sprint Distance was truly impressive.

Turning to face the wind once more, it was still Santos and Dodet and behind them Godoy, Gajdošová and Derron, who had broken away from Papais and further back was Morier.

As they took the bell, it was still Santos and Dodet but Derron had bridged the gap and led Godoy and Gajdošová to catch them and then take the lead. Dodet refused to give up and with Santos, she and Derron pulled away from the Slovakian athlete. Godoy fell back and with the wind on their backs, the leaders headed away for the final lap.

Gajdošová kept them in sight and put good distance between her and Godoy.

This was proving to be a dynamic race that gripped you from start to finish.

The final turn complete and it was going to be a difficult run back to the finish line. Wind in your face; tough all the way.

Coming onto the flat, the finish line a long way off but clearly visible and it was still Dodet, Santos and Derron. Gajdošová was still there, a few paces back. Who would break first?

Derron moved out and kicked. Taking the lead, Santos went onto her heels. Dodet dug deep to follow.

Santos went wide and the finish line in sight, it was going to be a sprint.

The crowds went wild for Santos but Derron had it.

A fantastic victory for the young Swiss athlete, with Santos coming home in silver and Dodet for bronze.

Slovakia can celebrate with Gajdošová’s great 4th place.

A truly thrilling race that has put Derron firmly on the map. “I am very happy about my race. I was far back after the swim but I just never gave up and just put my head down and tried to catch back up to the group on the bike. Luckily I managed to do so and then I made a few mistakes in transition 2 and lost some valuable time. So again I had to chase the leaders down. It was tough but i got there in the end and I’m really happy about how I never gave up in a hard race and obviously coming out on top in the end feels great!”

ETU Media would like to thank Filipe Pereira and ETU Executive Board member, Martin Breedijk for their photos during the race.

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Related Event: 2018 Quarteira ETU Triathlon European Cup
24 Mar, 2018 • event pageall results
Results: Elite Men
1. Dorian Coninx FRA 01:50:00
2. Léo Bergere FRA 01:50:45
3. Casper Stornes NOR 01:50:53
4. Antonio Serrat Seoane ESP 01:51:57
5. Kevin Tarek Viñuela Gonzalez ESP 01:52:44
6. Antonio Benito Lopez ESP 01:52:50
7. Christophe De Keyser BEL 01:52:56
8. Simon Viain FRA 01:53:31
9. Márk Dévay HUN 01:53:33
10. Bob Haller LUX 01:53:57
Results: Elite Women
1. Julie Derron SUI 02:07:56
2. Melanie Santos POR 02:07:58
3. Sandra Dodet FRA 02:08:00
4. Romana Gajdošová SVK 02:08:08
5. Sara Papais ITA 02:08:29
6. Anna Godoy Contreras ESP 02:08:48
7. Ilaria Zane ITA 02:09:11
8. Ines Santiago Moron ESP 02:09:44
9. Emilie Morier FRA 02:09:57
10. Cecilia Santamaria Surroca ESP 02:10:03
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