van Vlerken’s gold and Skipper no longer the bridesmaid in tough Almere

By Paul Groves | 11 Sep, 2017

Any race that covers 3.8k of swimming, 180k on the bike and then 42.2k of running is going to be tough but add to that equation the relentless, flat course of Almere where you simply cannot take a rest and freewheel, add to that also strong and gusty winds and a bit of rain, well, to be honest, rain of Biblical proportions, and then you have a real challenge.

So it was that the ETU Challenge Almere Amsterdam Triathlon Long Distance European Championships delivered us two great winners.

Here is the Official Press Release from Challenge.

After an incredible exciting race, Joe Skipper (GBR) was crowned European Champion Long Distance Triathlon on Saturday 9 September during ETU-CHALLENGEALMERE-AMSTERDAM in Almere, the Netherlands. He finished with an incredible time – he went below the magical boundary of 8 hours: 7.59.39. The women pro field too went very fast, and Dutch Yvonne van Vlerken established a new race record: 8.51.13. The long distance triathlon – 3,8km swimming, 180km cycling and 42,2km running – was organized for the 37th time in Almere and Flevoland, making it the second oldest long distance triathlon in the world.

The weather was severe today – hard wind and a lot of rain – and Joe Skipper (GBR) noticed this early on. The swim course is not his strongest feat, he was a couple of calculated minutes behind when he left the swim course in the Weerwater, and started to catch up on the others right from the start of his bike laps. Danish Kristian Høgenhaug dominated the bike course, but eventually fell back in the race and became fourth. Skipper overtook one after another competitor, and finally fought back to the top of the competition. He started in fourth position on the run course, but that was also one of the hardest parts of the race for him due to Ukrainian Viktor Zyemtsev who gained time and speed on him. “Physically that was very difficult. But mentally as well, because you can’t free yourself” says Skipper. He freed himself eventually right before the start of the last lap of 7km. “It became even harder then because I knew Viktor was right behind me and also because I knew it would be difficult to finish within the 8 hours. I went full force and even managed a sprint.” Skipper entered the stadium full speed. “It’s great to win here. It was a beautiful race.” Viktor Zyemtsev became second (8.03.14) and the Slovakian Jaroslav Kovačič became third (8.05.40).

Dutch Championship
Evert Scheltinga became the Dutch Champion, after finishing fifth overall in 8.12.37. In the beginning, he was one of the favourites for a place on the podium, but the bike laps were hard on him. “Actually I never had good legs” says Scheltinga. “On the other hand, I was happily surprised that the run went very well. However, the other four guys were simply faster.” Of course he is happy with his fifth position and his Dutch title. “It was great to finish my third Long Distance this way.” Erik-Simon Strijk (7th overall) became second in the Dutch Championship race (8.21.05) and after him, with 8th position overall, Dirk Wijnalda became third (8.26.31).

Race record

Two Dutch athletes dominated the race for the women. As expected, Sarissa de Vries fought hard during the swim and bike courses, but after about 14km of running she had to make way for Yvonne van Vlerken who was catching up on a couple of minutes and overtook him. From that moment on, Van Vlerken did not give up her first position. “I was so nervous at the beginning, however” she said directly after finishing as European Champion, Dutch Champion and new race record holder (8.51.13). “The last time I felt this nervous was two or three years ago, at least. Before the race I boasted that I could do this, so it’s great that I could actually realize it all.” During the bike laps, Van Vlerken noticed it was very difficult due to rain and wind. “Typical Dutch weather. That’s when I decided to take it easy and to wait for the run. And that’s exactly what I did. Thank you Almere. What a great race.” De Vries eventually finished second (9.09.44). Hanna Maksimava from Belarus became third (9.20.02).

Best athletes from Almere
Tjardo Visser won the competition for Best Male Almeerder. Youri Severin gave up on the race earlier after getting a leak, and Visser finished in a great time of 8.43.34. Corine Nelen was the woman who finished after Yvonne van Vlerken and Sarissa de Vries in the Dutch Championship. With her finish time 10.11.05 she also became best female athlete from Almere.

Middle Distance
Furthermore, over 1200 athletes started the Middle Distance triathlon (1,9km swimming, 92,5km cycling and 21,2km running) today. This race was won by Milan Brons from Almere (4.08.00). Jeppe Hofman from Denmark became second and German Sven Wies third.

In the women field, Hanneke de Boer had the best time (4.38.35). Dione Allen (GBR) became second, Dutch Jorieke Casteleijn third.”

ETU Media has been busy, chasing the stories. After the race, Skipper said, “Over the moon to win @challengealmere today. European long distance champion sounds good! It was a very good race and I’m so happy to win this race, it’s been a long time coming as my one and only pro win up until now was challenge Weymouth in 2014. I’ve been the bridesmaid plenty of times and today I’m finally the bride! I made a pact with myself back in 2015 that I would get a coffee machine when I win my next pro race, it’s been a long time coming but now I’m finally getting my coffee machine! Thanks for all the support @enduraofficial @guerciotti_official @altocycling @zone3official @lukeroper @rotorbike”

His 2:41:05 for the run was the fastest of the day.

Part of his recovery the next day was a delicious bagel with a very special filling.

For Zyemtsev, 2005 ITU Long Distance World Champion, this was an impressive victory.

Born in 1973, the Donetsk athlete was the second oldest competitor in the Elite wave and from back in Ukraine, he received congratulations in a darkly humorous style, “Витя, красавец! От лица пенсионеров, поздравляю!” (Try Google Translate to see the joke.)

For Kovačič, a silver in Weymouth and then a disastrous DNF in Poznań after a great swim, bike combination, this result secures his place amongst Europe’s best. “From hell to paradise in impossible conditions - Iz pekla do raja v nemogocih pogojih!”

The women’s race was a Dutch delight for the spectators as a battle royal was going on between the two leading athletes. de Vries and van Vlerken were treating the crowds to a fantastically exciting battle that could only ever be decided on the final run.

van Vlerken dominated the final stages of the race and her emotions were only top visible as she clutched the finish tape. “Lekker thuis bij paps en mams, paar uurtjes geleden had ik in Almere nog een groot “bekkie” hoe goed ik me voelde, inmiddels helemaal kapot bij mijn oudjes op de bank en voel me ongeveer zoals ik op deze foto van Arjan Baggerman. Nicely home now at my parents’ place. A few hours ago in Almere I had a big smile , feeling so good but now, utterly knackered at my folks’ home and on the sofa, feeling pretty much how this photo shows. Great photo from Arjan Baggerman.” She added, “Big mouthed Vonsy wanted to become Dutch Champion, European Champion, go under 9 hours and brake the course records. I DID IT ALL! 8:51:13”, 5 minutes of the record and 6 minutes faster than my own time back in 2007…. Who says you get slower when you get older  :-)? Horrible weather conditions, a hard day but I pushed true! Thank you for the amazing support, what a joy in my home country!”

For de Vries, “What a great weekend at @challengealmere. Yesterday a 2nd place at European & Dutch championships in 9.09.49. High-fiving my support crew down the finishing chute was an awesome moment.”

Thanks to the great photos from: Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images and Arjan Baggerman Sportfotografie

A full report on the Age Group athletes will follow but for now, well done to the Elite and well done, Almere!

Related Event: 2017 Almere-Amsterdam ETU Challenge Long Distance Triathlon European Championships
09 Sep, 2017 • event pageall results
Results: Elite Men
1. Joe Skipper GBR 07:59:39
2. Viktor Zyemtsev UKR 08:03:14
3. Jaroslav Kovacic SLO 08:05:40
4. Kristian Høgenhaug DEN 08:08:40
5. Evert Scheltinga NED 08:12:37
6. Gustavo Rodriguez Iglesias ESP 08:19:09
7. Erik-Simon Strijk NED 08:21:05
8. Dirk Wijnalda NED 08:26:31
9. Christian Altstadt GER 08:27:57
10. Anton Blokhin BLR 08:34:55
Results: Elite Women
1. Yvonne Van Vlerken NED 08:51:13
2. Sarissa De Vries NED 09:09:44
3. Hanna Maksimava BLR 09:20:02
4. Lina-Kristin Schink GER 09:27:42
5. Lucie Zelenkova CZE 09:34:02
6. Simona Krivankova CZE 09:35:15
7. Sonja Skevin CRO 09:44:44
8. Julia Mai GER 10:01:50
9. Kristin Lie NOR 10:08:43
10. Corine Neelen NED 10:11:05
Results: 25-29 Female AG
1. Marieke Monsma NED 11:14:39
2. Nicola Sommers GBR 11:33:26
3. Nynke Bakering NED 14:18:05
Results: 25-29 Male AG
1. Sascha Hubbert GER 08:54:03
2. Jan De Clercq BEL 09:23:36
3. Koen Rutjes NED 09:24:06
4. Josh Holman GBR 09:27:51
5. Jean Julien Trinez FRA 09:32:46
6. Joël Cox NED 09:33:03
7. Henk Ruijssenaars NED 09:49:59
8. Jim Otter NED 09:53:58
9. Jorn Bagijn NED 10:19:05
10. Matthew Dewhurst GBR 10:32:45
Results: 30-34 Female AG
1. Sarah Ashcroft GBR 11:24:14
2. Olivia Thompson GBR 11:34:02
Results: 30-34 Male AG
1. Maarten Seghers BEL 08:37:39
2. Tijmen Smit NED 09:26:54
3. Mike Verbeke BEL 09:27:18
4. Rasmus Lindhardt Birkelid NOR 09:47:13
5. Ed Went NED 09:52:29
6. Dennis De Knijff NED 09:54:23
7. Jan Verhaeg NED 10:14:09
8. Tristan Griek NED 10:20:28
9. Virgill Mighorst NED 10:52:54
10. Danny Sijtzel NED 11:04:32
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