The “Blaue Meertje”, the Blue lake of Weert was impressive last year but this year, with the re-designed transition, a 2,000 square metre wooden floor and with the new location of T2 took this test event for the 2019 ETU European Championships to a new level.
With Friday hosting 1,200 school children, racing run/bike/run and swim/bike/run on their special day of sport (no school, just Multisport), Saturday seeing a similar number of hobby athletes and Sunday morning the Age Group athletes racing sprint and standard distance to get a feel of the course, the highlight was the ETU European Cup for Men and Women.
Racing first a thrilling start saw an early breakaway captured by powerful cycling and then a stunning closing run by Russia’s Alexandra Razarenova RUS to take the title, with Jasmin Weber SUI coming home for silver and Nina Eim GER for bronze.
The Men raced in the hotter afternoon and following a tough and disappointing race last year, it was local favourite Jorik van Egdom who provided a masterclass of tactical racing to take the title ahead of Frenchman Maxime Hueber-Moosbrugger who added a 2018 silver to his 2017 silver. A great race from Iestyn Harrett made Wales a proud Principality as he ran through the field to claim the final medal.
But how did it really happen?
Well, you can watch the entire race again on this link
For the women, the two lap swim saw a break-way on the first lap with GB’s Sophie Alden pushing the pace.
Recently moved up from the junior ranks, she pulled Lotte Wilms NED and Bianca Bogen GER to the beach exit on the first lap and then, once back in the water, the three powered away to create a lead of just over one minute. A smooth T1 saw the three head out onto the 6-lap bike course with a commanding lead.
Behind them, it was Rani Škrabanja NED, her bike repaired after the damage in Cagliari, who chased and who, with determination, led the chase group and, listening to her father shouting commands as they gained ground, pulled the peloton up to the leaders.
The chase group and leaders now combined, it was impossible to predict who would have the fastest legs but within that group were some experienced and some relatively new athletes, including at least one who had never raced a standard distance before. Gal Rubanenko ISR had been here before, back in 2014 for the YOG Qualifier and today she was up there, with the leaders.
Germany’s Lena Meißner was tucked in there and race sharp after Nottingham a few days ago. Another athlete who knew the atmosphere from Weert was the young Swiss athlete Jasmine Weber, tucked in the pack and working hard. Riding hard and looking strong was Razarenova. Twice taking the European U23 title, she was there with fellow Russian, Ekaterina Matiukh who had swum well and who took her turn at the front of the pack to power the peloton along. With her recent form, it looked possible that she would take a place on the podium.
Australia’s Grace Musgrove was a real threat to the European athletes but a frantic T2 that saw Matiukh hit the ground and dislocate her toe, freed up the lead for Razarenova who stormed to the front and very soon had the entire race under control.
She ran well, looked strong and kept the pressure up all the way to the finish line to take her first victory after returning to the sport from maternity leave. With more than a minute lead over those behind her, a battle was unfolding for the remaining medal places.
Bogen and Eim looked strong but the Schleswig-Holstein athlete fin ally had more pace than Bogen and edged ahead but Weber found an extra gear and was able to bring silver home to Switzerland and take her first Elite medal.
Behind her, it was bronze to Eim but with Germany claiming 3rd and 4th, the signal has gone out that these two athletes are the ones to watch. Alden, had a great standard distance international debut to place 5th, to take some serious points and to watch her bank account grow nicely.
Amongst the men it was a similar swim, with three pulling away from the pack.
As we had predicted, the swim was led by Frenchman Raoul Shaw. His power was evident last weekend in Cagliari and he was joined by US athlete Alec Wilimovsky who had swum so well in the fast-running Dnipro only last Sunday. These two were joined by the reigning Junior World Aquathlon champion, Aiden Longcroft-Harris who dropped his swim cap as he ran to T1 but nevertheless caught the other two to power a three-up out onto the bike course.
Their lead of 33 seconds was soon eaten into by a chasing group of 17 but behind them was a larger chase group in which van Egdom was tucked and this time, the pack was working together really well to bridge the gap.
Half-way around the bike course, a slightly long 43.1km, the leading group was caught and the spectators were treated to a thrilling mass group of athletes who sped along the canal side, rushed around the turns and, pushing the pace, pulled further and further away from the remaining athletes.
So it was that Norway and Sweden came into T2 ahead of Finland and GB and with a sizeable lead over the massive peloton.
No crashes on the way in to T2 and no penalties so the run was going to be a clean run to the finish and well-placed off the bike, van Egdom looked strong as he set off to the 4-lap run. Fired up after Nottingham and wanting to set the record straight after last year, the Dutchman really was flying around the course and without mercy he overtook anyone in is sights.
Espedal and Sandör and then Roberts. Then Nathan Guerbeur and Harrett. Behind, Hueber-Moosbrugger pushed forwards through the runners. With silver last year, Hueber-Moosbrugger and Guerbeur with bronze here in 2017, they knew just what to do but, with the sound of Welsh voices from the spectators, it was Harrett who looked strong and he passed Guerbeur.
As the crowds went wild, cheering van Egdom, he loomed up behind Harrett, with last year’s silver medal winner watching from a few metres back.
Then van Egdom kicked and he kicked hard, dropping Harrett and passing everyone ahead to take the lead. The crowds cheered him all the way along the final lap.
The battle behind him was stunning. Guerbeur’s legs just could not give any more and Harrett had beaten him. The Welshman was now shoulder to shoulder with Hueber-Moosbrugger but Roberts, a few metres back kept them in his sights … just in case.
As van Egdom neared the finish line the noise was intense.
Gold went to the Dutchman and behind him it was silver once again for Hueber-Moosbrugger with Harrett just having enough pace to take bronze.
As a test for 2019, the result was a resounding success. It is not the same course as Kitzbühel and it is right that we offer a variety of courses to test our athletes. With a strong wind, those canal-side roads are pure torture and we saw last year that a chase pack does not always catch the leaders.
Wonderful support from the local community and positive feedback from the athletes and spectators made Weert the place to be. So, book your trip for next year.
Some more great photos can be found here, Taken by Johan Horst
Related Event: 2018 Weert ETU Triathlon European Cup
|Results: Elite Men|
|1.||Jorik Van Egdom||NED||01:50:02|
|Results: Elite Women|