Thrills, spills, tears and cheers in Quarteira

By Paul Groves | 05 Apr, 2016

The weekend is over. The medals have been presented and the celebrations concluded. For some, this was a great start to the summer season and for their coaches, team managers and sponsors, the rewards were huge. Points have been won and the ETU Rankings are being updated by ITU HQ. However, for some it was a reminder of just how many risks must be taken to race our sport and how, even on the best-prepared course, accidents can happen that are way beyond your own control.

In the Elite Men’s race, just coming down from the superfast descent there is a bit of an adverse camber to the road. The organisers had cautiously placed protection on the roadside and this action alone certainly saved more serious injuries.

Jan Volár was one of the athletes who crashed but, incredibly tough guy that he is, he got up, carried on and even put in a 34 minute 10k at the end of the race to finish.

The drama was not just focussed on the crashes however. There was supreme racing to be seen and once again the seas off Quarteira proved a tough battle for some. The crowds were out in force and with the various groups of nationalities shouting and cheering on the athletes the town was never in any doubt; triathlon has arrived again in the Algarve.

The Elite women lined up. They knew what to expect, having had some time over the preceding days to see what the swim could be like.  The run down to the sea was as spectacular as ever and soon there was a break at the front as the more experienced and daring open water experts took control of the race.

Out of the water and with daylight between them and the chasing pack, came the two Brits, Jessica Learmonth, Lucy Hall, Pamella Oliveira BRA and Maya Kingma NLD. T1 was swift and efficient and this enabled Hall and Oliveira to take an advantage of the 180 degree turn, leaving Learmonth and Kingma to chase. Behind them a 20-strong group had to work but without anyone taking the initiative early on, the indecision allowed a break.

By the end of the first of 6 laps, the lead was 35 seconds but Kingma was struggling after the group of four had formed at the front and eventually found herself in the chase pack. The laps went by and the lead grew; 1:49, 2:14, 2:41. Learmonth and Hall had left the Brazilian and gave a masterclass in slipstream riding. It was a supreme lesson in how to share the work at the front and how to tuck in tight behind.

Suddenly Aileen Reid IRL, realising that there was a real danger even her fast run-pace would not be enough to bridge the gap, started to push off the front. The lead was 3:00.

As the 2 Brits entered T2 the lead was a stunning 4:10. It was all down to the run now.

Learmonth timed her kick to perfection and having left Hall, increased her lead to 20 seconds and then 43.

Britain secured the top two places on the podium but what of Oliveira ? She could do nothing against the Irish athlete and Reid carved her way through the field but ahead of her were two French athletes whose pace was even stronger. Fuelled perhaps by a pre-race inspiring talk from the coach, Sandra Dodet and Léonie Périault, were chasing bronze, points and prize-money. Dodet just missed out and bronze went to Périault.

Click here for a rather good video of the race.

After the event and once the excitement had reduced, just a little, Learmonth explained, “Quarteria was the first European Cup I did and that was back in 2013. It was nice to return as a full time athlete. Quarteira was a tough race, with tough athletes. The swim was difficult and I struggled to sight most of the buoys because it was choppy. I think this certainly favoured the stronger swimmers.” As we saw in the video, Learmonth was in that lead group out of the water and then it was a chance for the 2 Brits to get together on the bike and really create some damage. “Lucy and I pushed on in the first lap of the bike and managed to get a decent gap. We then kept the pressure on and made sure we took advantage of all the dead turns. It’s great to be able to work with Lucy and create a different dynamic to the race.” The different dynamic here was a 4-minute lead! “Thankfully we’d left enough in the tank for the run and I’m delighted to get my first triathlon win. I’d like to thank everyone that has helped me get here, especially TalyorMade Timber, Jackpot Racing and my Coach Ray Butters.”

For Hall, “First race of the season, and I couldn’t of hoped for a much better outcome!” The two athletes train in the UK’s centre of the Universe for triathlon and clearly this played to their advantage. “Jess and I train together in Leeds and both know that if we give 100% commitment right from the start its puts us in a better position going onto the run. I enjoyed racing in Quarteira for the first time. The swim was tough, very choppy and hard to sight. The bike course is great; it’s got everything, longs straights, hills and fast/technical corners. I’ll definitely race there again. I want to now work on my run for a few weeks before racing again, as it’s still early in the season.”

Third placed Périault, whose hotel room overlooked the venue, said that the bike had for her been pretty easy and she had rested her legs enough to deliver the fastest run of the day and take the last place on the podium. Here she is for all French-speakers.

There is a truly stunning selection of photos available from the Portuguese Triathlon Federation. Once again Clarissa Henriques has captured the moment.

Further excellent photos from TRIMES

The men’s race saw the beach packed with spectators. Beautiful golden sands were washed by the Atlantic breakers. The swim was once more going to be a real test for the athletes and many would emerge from the water without hats or goggles.

A clean start saw the stronger ones immediately break through the surf while others, caught by the waves, struggled to break into their stroke. As the first lap was almost complete there was clear water between the four leaders and the chasing pack. As they left the water for the run along the beach, the waves grabbed the tail end athlete and then there were three. By the end of the swim, it was France, France and Germany, in the form of Raoul Shaw, Aurélien Raphaël and Jonas Breinlinger

For Breinlinger this was a “really good swim in the choppy Atlantic”. The crowds had surged see the action in Transition and the noise must have been deafening.

Once through T1, he worked well with the two French athletes and they made their mark on the race but, with a hard-working peloton behind them, would they have enough to make it a clear run? Breinlinger explains, “I worked with the two French guys and it was great fun to be able to sweep along the streets in Quarteira. Sadly, the chase group caught us on the very last lap.”

It was during the chase to catch the leaders that Jan Volár crashed. Check this video at 3:22. He was lucky – he hit the kerb at just the right place to get the full benefit of the protection put there by the LOC.

So, with the leaders having been caught it was going to be all down to the run. On paper the French athletes had the strongest run pace but who would take those podium places and could Raphaël add another Quarteira medal to his collection from this race and improve upon the 2015 bronze?

To the delight of the home crowds it was Pedro Palma who went off on the heels of the Frenchman who had previously won gold, silver and bronze here. Winner of the race in Kyiv in 2014 when he kicked at just the right place on the tough city-centre run, he matched Raphaël pace for pace. The crowds were now getting eager for a Portuguese victory on home soil but in the final run for home, with the crowds going wild, it was Raphaël who just held off and, showing great respect for the sadly departed Laurent Vidal, the victory was dedicated to him.

Palma enjoyed the moment.

The crowds loved him. His was silver. Behind them three French athletes were storming to the blue carpet. Raphael Montoya, Raoul Shaw and Léo Bergère. It was Montoya who had the edge over his teammates but even a superb 30:08 for the 10k was not enough to get him to the podium.

It was Spain’s David Castro Fajardo who had done just enough to keep the French at bay.

For Raphaël the victory was sweet, “After a really great escape on the swim and then on the bike with Raoul Shaw we got caught in the last 10k by the chase group. The run was at my pace and I managed to get the win in 1:49. Big thanks to Mickael Ayassami.”

There is a truly stunning selection of photos available from the Portuguese Triathlon Federation. Once again Clarissa Henriques has captured the moment.

Further excellent photos from TRIMES

Amongst the junior women on the Sunday there were also crashes.

Dutch photographer Inge Huitema, who has previously captured great shots at ETU European Cup races, was there to capture the horrifying moment but also to report that Rani Škrabanja NLD was able soon afterwards to get up and continue her race. One thing that really caught my eye was that the ETU Technical Delegate, Vicente Sanchez Ros ESP, had identified this area and with his team of officials, was managing it as well as he could to reduce the risk level. Despite this, there were several crashes and DNFs. Lessons learnt at the start of the season will serve everyone well as the calendar pushes on.

ETU would like to wish all those athletes who are today carrying aches and pains and road rash, a complete and speedy recovery.

For the Junior Women, the preparations complete, the athletes were called down to the beach, the heartbeats started, the crowd were hushed and …. They were off. Sadly, rain had fallen before the race and although it was now dry, the road conditions were completely different to those of the day before.

Transition was set. The officials were ready and after one lap on this sprint distance, the athletes were out and of the water and on their way to T1. The swim was led by Dutch athlete Rianne de Croock.  Two British athletes made up the small lead group out of the water. Would this be a repeat of the Elite Women’s race? Megan Mcdonald and Elizabeth Hood were just a few strides ahead of the favourite, French athlete Cassandre Beaugrand. The local crowds were delighted to see Gabriela Ribeiro exit in the top group.

Ribeiro had a fantastic transition and led the athletes out of T1 and onto the roads that were in places still quite wet. The first lap seemed to have gone OK but then it happened. De Crook was in the lead group, “The swim was great and I was first out of the water. On the bike I was able to get to ride in the lead group and on the first climb my legs felt good and I thought this was going to be a good race. Sadly, due to the rain there was a patch on the road where the zebra crossing was that was as slippery as ice. I was leading at this point and I was first to go down. I got back up but then saw that the rear mech was smashed and that meant a DNF. Really hacked off about this but must be positive and look forwards to Melilla next weekend.”

The crashes made the rest of the pack race more cautiously. Well-placed still was the race favourite. The leading group of six, worked hard and were making Ribeiro dig deep to hang on. In the meantime, Denmark’s Alberte Kjær Pedersen rode carefully and managed to stay out of trouble. She was however in the chase pack.

Ribeiro, spurred on by the crowds, stayed with the leaders and to the delight of the Russian supporters around the course, a careful and tactical ride from Ekaterina Matiukh saw her come into T2 with a clear lead.

Behind her it was Kjær Pedersen leading them in and within that group the very fast-running Beaugrand. McDonald led the chase but soon Beaugrand was in her stride and leading the race. The sunshine came out, too late for the crashed cyclists, but it was a welcome bit of warmth and brought out more crowds. Matiukh was caught but was holding on to 2nd. Kjær Pedersen was behind her and hoping to catch and perhaps take silver but behind them Ribeiro was running stride for stride with GB’s Kate Waugh.

Beaugrand had done enough. Nobody could match her run pace and with a 16:59 she took the title with a ten second margin. Behind and with a final kick, it was silver to GB’s Waugh with Kjær Pedersen taking a well-deserved bronze just ahead of Matiukh. Ribeiro delighted the crowds and showed her federation that, on the say, in tough conditions, she was the best Portuguese athlete there.

Results for Junior Women

With the sunshine now burning off the wet and slippery patches on the road, it was the turn of the Junior Men to race. The Technical Delegate wisely consulted with the Team Managers, Coaches and LOC and the decision was made to make a slight adjustment to the course to ensure that the athletes were not racing over the slippery section where the crashes had taken place. It meant 4 laps and not 3. It meant that the junior men, on this one occasion, would have slower bike splits than the women but it was the right thing to do and the results show only 2 DNFs.

It was no real surprise to see the fantastic swimming of Poland’s Michał Oliwa lead the swim. He has shown good strength in the water in the past and in such conditions he was able to show everyone just how good an open water swimmer he is. With Miguel Tiago Silva PRT tucked on his shoulder, the welcome onto the beach and up into T1 was at full-volume.

Behind them the surge up the beach was impressive.

Silva just edged out onto the bike in front. Oliwa was close behind and soon the mount line was a scene of frenetic energy as the athletes rushed to get out onto the laps. The lead group was a small but determined one but behind was the huge peloton.

Tucked into the group was the young British athlete Alex Yee. He comes from a running background and has represented his country at the Commonwealth Youth games. He had a stunning race in Holten last year and now, comfortably in the pack, he could take it easy and then burst out of T2. Would that chase pack be close enough to the leaders for him to make a top ten ?

At the front the leaders were just about hanging on to their lead. Transition was ready. Silva led them in but as they racked their bikes, so the chase group came onto the carpet. The rush to get out onto the run was spectacular. The crowds were going wild as they saw the Portuguese athletes up there at the top of the race. At the front but with work to do was Vasco Vilaça Yee was back in the centre of the chase pack and could see many athletes in front of him but this bit was easy. Had he left it too late ?

Vilaça and Samuel Dickenson GBR were pushing the pace at the front. Behind them Yee was cutting through the field.

The blue carpet came too soon – it was a sprint for the finish. Both Dickenson and Vilaça wanted the gold.

It was to be a Portuguese victory and a delighted Portuguese President Fernando Feijão was there to welcome him. Dickenson received help from the officials and behind him with the fastest run of the day, came fellow Brit, Yee.

Fantastic photos once more from the Portuguese Federation’s photographer Clarissa Henriques

Results for the Junior Men

Article gallery
Related Event: 2016 Quarteira ETU Triathlon European Cup
02 - Apr, 2016 • event pageall results
Results: Elite Men
1. Aurelien Raphael FRA 01:49:42
2. Pedro Palma POR 01:49:47
3. David Castro Fajardo ESP 01:50:27
4. Raphael Montoya FRA 01:50:42
5. Raoul Shaw FRA 01:50:47
6. Léo Bergere FRA 01:50:54
7. Christophe De Keyser BEL 01:51:00
8. Antonio Serrat Seoane ESP 01:51:06
9. Marco Van Der Stel NED 01:51:14
10. Ricardo Hernandez Marrero ESP 01:51:33
Results: Elite Women
1. Jessica Learmonth GBR 02:01:55
2. Lucy Hall GBR 02:02:47
3. Leonie Periault FRA 02:04:39
4. Sandra Dodet FRA 02:04:59
5. Aileen Reid IRL 02:05:07
6. Pamella Oliveira BRA 02:05:11
7. Margot Garabedian FRA 02:05:18
8. Sara Papais ITA 02:05:46
9. Justine Guerard FRA 02:06:14
10. Zoe Thomas GBR 02:06:34
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