Tough day at the office for endurance athletes in Ibiza

The weather was truly awful in Ibiza for the longest endurance event planned in the week-long festival.

The organisers, working closely with the Technical Delegate, checked the weather forecast and with more storms rolling in, made the correct decision to shorten the course after delaying the start. Safety of the athletes is the paramount concern here and in order to offer at least something for those distance athletes who had trained so hard and travelled so far, this was the best way to save something from the plans.

  • Distances: Swim 1900m (1 lap), Bike 45.6km (Connection plus 1 lap of 41.2km plus connection), Run 21.2km (4 laps).
  • Water temperature: 21.2 ºC Air temperature 18º C

As the minutes ticked by, there was room for doubt.

But once the start signal had been given, the brain reminded the body of what lay ahead and it was all systems go.
The Brits continued their Age Group success at the Multisport Festival but there was not the same level of domination as with other events.

Quite unexpectedly, the fastest times for both men and women were posted by the youngest category.

In the 20-24 category, it was Dutch athlete, Leanne Fanoy who opened up the account with a strong swim. Heading into T1, along the rain-sodden carpets, she must have been wondering how bad it was out on the bike course. Athletes were taking the corners cautiously and remarkably there were fewer crashes than expected. Her bike was not strong enough to prevent the Swiss athlete, Julie Von Grünigen from catching her. Von Grünigen made good time in T1 and put in a superb bike leg to take her past the early leader. T2 came and went in a blur and it was now time for Fanoy to open up and accelerate away. She caught the Swiss athlete whose legs must have been shot after the bike leg and was back in the lead all the way to the finish. Silver looked secure for Von Grünigen but her legs, now suffering badly, were unable to match the pace of British athlete, Jemima Cooper who found just enough extra pace in the closing stages, to snatch the silver and finish just 7 seconds ahead on  Von Grünigen.

Step inside the mind of the 20-24 European Champion and read her very informative blog. We particularly liked her comment, “Each national federation was supposed to hold their own race briefing but I hadn’t been informed of any Dutch briefing going on, so I sneaked into the GB one.”

For the men it was a masterclass for the host nation, with Alberto Parrilla Ponce posting the fastest splits for all three disciplines. Leading them out of the water, with an advantage of over two minutes, he was through T1 and out onto the bike before anyone had got their helmet on. On the bike course, the inclement weather did not slow him down and he posted an unbeatable split before heading into T2. Quick change and off for the run, which he finished in 1:19:47 to claim the title a full six minutes ahead of Great Britain’s William Kirk who came to this race as ETU’s sprint triathlon champion. Mixing and matching the distances certainly works with this athlete, who was previously runner-up in Bratislava. Spain’s Albert Sánchez Martínez gave the host nation even more reason to cheer, by claiming the bronze medal.  Kirk, a Civil Servant in the UK, is supported by the Civil Service Sports Council. Modest financial support is provided to Age Group athletes. It all helps. “Really happy to finish the 2018 season on the podium with a silver medal at the European Middle Distance Championships today (M20-24 AG). Tough race, but support on the course for GB athletes was phenomenal! Lots learned to improve in 70.3 racing as an option for future seasons!”

In the 25-29 category, it was a chance for GB’s Dionne Allen to add another crown to her collection. Having taken the ETU Powerman title in Copenhagen in 2016, she can now claim the 2018 Middle Distance Triathlon title as well. It was her immense power on the bike and run that took her to the finish line ahead of the rest of the pack.  Finishing over four minutes ahead of Spain’s Cristina Roselló Prats. There was a fantastic, nail-biting finish for the final medal, with Ireland’s Catherine A Sands having a great swim and bike but in the final part of the run, it was Julia Gibsonwho came so very close to getting her first medal.

Missing out by just two seconds. Where did she lose those two tiny seconds? Job done for Allen. Thanks to her sponsors from Roselló.

In the men’s race, it was GB’s Will Russell who trains with Thames Turbo (one of the oldest clubs in the UK), who stole the show with a mighty closing run. With top ten finishes in Kitzbühel and Lisbon (2014 and 2016) we got a chance to see his run potential, especially in Lisbon but 1:17:24 in Ibiza is a standout performance. No doubt Ryan Bowd and Ralph Hydes will be very proud of him. He crossed the line to claim the gold medal and title comfortably ahead of Spain’s Mikel Mugica Bikuña, who goes home with silver. The initial leader in the category, with a superb swim, was Italy’s Emanuele Faraco. He exited the water with over a minute’s lead but then, despite his valiant efforts, lost out to the Spanish and British athletes. His shall be the final word from this category, injured close to the race, he was philosophical afterwards, quoting the famous American writer, “Napoleon Hill dice “L’opportunità spesso si presenta camuffata in forma di sfortuna o di sconfitta temporanea” e diciamo che queste ultime 2 settimane io e la sfortuna abbiamo praticamente convissuto. Infortunarsi al piede 2 settimane prima … l`aereo perso … chiave spezzata nel lucchetto della valigia della bici ,diluvio universale il giorno della gara e prima, tubolare che si sgonfiava da solo fino alla mattina della gara , beh credo che l`umore di tutti potrebbe vacillare! Nonostante ciò non riuscivo ad essere arrabbiato triste e demotivato, ho preso forza da tutti questi eventi e ci ho visto delle opportunità, e mi è uscita una delle migliori gare della stagione , per chiuderla in bellezza! NUOTO corretto senza spingere molto e conservativo, BICI assolutamente frazione migliore delle 3 … CORSA ho stretto i denti e l`ho portata a casa, purtroppo 12km corsi in 2 settimane non sono molti per correre una mezza, perdo 2 posizioni e chiudo 3. Ma comunque un BRONZO di categoria agli Europei del primo mezzo credo non sia male. Gara solida bagnata fredda ma mi sono veramente divertito. 5 giorni che sono volati esperienza bellissima e poi grande compagnia di risate con i ‘‘fratimi’’ @marco_corra @beatrice_taverna.   “Napoleon Hill says, ‘Opportunity often presents itself disguised as bad luck or temporary defeat’ and let’s say that in the last 2 weeks I and misfortune have practically coexisted. A foot injury 2 weeks before … a missed flight …  key broken in the lock of the bike suitcase, biblical floods on the day of the race and before, tub that deflated itself … ! Despite this I could not be angry sad and unmotivated, I got strength from all these events and I saw opportunities, and I came out one of the best races of the season, to close it in beauty! SWIM correct without pushing much and conservative, BIKE absolutely best of the 3, I was fine, I had fun in an incessant rain … RUN I clenched my teeth and I headed home, unfortunately 12km of running in 2 weeks is not enough in the bank to run a half, lose 2 positions and finish in 3rd. But still a BRONZE medal at the Europeans … I think it’s not bad. Solid race wet cold but I really enjoyed it. 5 days that flew beautiful experience and then big company of laughs with the ‘’ fratimi ‘’ @marco_corra @ beatrice_taverna.”

In the 30-34 Age Group, it was a stunning closing run from Rosie Haddock that rocked the show. Coming out of the water almost three minutes down, she lost time in that long transition before catching up some on the bike. A quicker T2 gave her the boost that was needed and then out onto the run course she was in her element. A 1:28:39 run was more than enough to secure a solid victory and the European title. It was her run pace that took her onto the podium in Lisbon, where she won bronze. Silver went to Spain’s Neus Vidal Puchades, who had led them out of the water but who ultimately could not keep pace with Haddock. Bronze went to Cora Borrell Sala who had posted the fastest bike split in the category.

Collecting his second title of the festival, it was Spain’s Riki Costa Puigpelat who continued the medal haul for the host nation. He was always in the leading end of the race from the moment they started the swim. A well-played race saw him win comfortably ahead of teammate, Eduardo Calderay Saavedra. Calderay, member of the Club Natación Melilla had a fantastic run but could not catch the race leader. Bronze went to Italy’s Stefano Valentewhose bike power delivered him a 1:12:55 split.

The Brits were back in control in the 35-39 category but did not have the initial pace in the swim. It was Julie Stephan FRA who led them out of the water with a great swim of 29:55.  With the silver medal in the Aquathlon earlier in the week, she was well-placed now to use her lead but lost a couple of minutes out on the course to the chasing Brits. First to go past was Vicki Dibdin. Into T2 and once out onto the run, Stephan had greater pace, moving away from Dibdin, who had to settle in behind the Frenchwoman but then came Victoria Randall with a 1:34:30 run that took her all the way to victory.

Richard Shepherd is more often seen on the international circuit as a duathlete but here in Ibiza, he reigned supreme over the middle distance. A victory that enabled him almost five minutes for a cuppa before the silver medal winner arrived was created by a pretty impressive 29:10 swim, a 1:12:05 bike and a closing run of 1:20:45. The 2014 World Duathlon Champion had collected a silver in the Standard Distance event a few days earlier and was not put off by the weather.  His wife, Ceri was there to support, having herself raced earlier in the week.  Runner up was Nicolás Domínguez García with an impressive 1:18:37 run. Bronze went to GB’s Tim Hurst.

It was the British women in the 40-44 category who managed the only clean-sweep of medals in this championship. Deborah Coyle absent from the circuit for a few years was consistent throughout the race. She came back to the UK to a special celebration. With an ETU silver in Alanya and an ITU bronze in London, this was the medal that finished the set. She lost a bit on the run to teammate, Beth Wilmot, a bronze medal winner in Fyn at the Standard Duathlon. Samantha Lake outran them both but could not make up the time she had lost earlier in the race. Lake’s bronze is added to her silver in the Aquathlon earlier in the week.

The reward for victory is sometimes bigger than just the medal.

Spain claimed gold for the men, with Aritz García Miranda with a thrilling final run to take him past his teammate, Daniel González Álvarez. García’s time was the third fastest of the day of all the men. González did enough to secure silver ahead of former double ETU Middle Distance Triathlon Champion, Ludovic Prouzet FRA. With victories in Vichy and Weymouth, a silver in Rimini, his collection is now complete.

For the hosts, it was time to celebrate with the victory of Eva Valero Vázquez in the 45-49 category. She is one of many Spanish athletes who made their debut on the circuit and came home with a medal. Leaving the water in the lead group of three, she was fast through T1 and out onto the bike where she applied pressure on those with her, dropping them and pulling away into an unassailable lead. Kai Sachtleber GER, ahead as they left the water, held onto her lead but the Spanish athlete was just too strong. The final run saw Valero hold on to the advantage even though Sachtleber was having a superb run. GB’s Louella O’Herlihy posted the fastest bike split of the day after a swim that left her having to play catch-up. The 2015 Middle Distance Champion added a 1:37 run to finish and came to within just under 30 seconds of Sachtleber to claim the last spot on the podium.

In the men’s race it was a runaway victory for Bruno Pasqualini. His victory now gives him boasting rights over 5 title; 2014 Kitzbühel, 2015 Rimini, 2015 Geneva and 2016 Lisbon. Silver medals went to him in 2017 Kitzbühel and Rotterdam at the worlds but here in Ibiza he placed well in the swim before crushing the bike course with a 1:07:54 before rounding off the race with a 1:20. In the opening stages of the swim, he tucked in with a couple of others but once onto two wheels, he was off. Robert Harrison GBR was in a good place in the swim. A good transition and then some powerful work on the bike and he was ready for the run. Able to race across the distances, he consistently runs well off the bike and this time, he was the only one to come close to the Italian’s pace. Harrison crossed the line some considerable distance behind Pasqualini but was way ahead of the bronze medal-winner, Alexander Layerwho adds the Ibiza bronze to his 2017 Herning and 2014 Paguera bronzes. The 2012 champion, with a victory in Kraichgau, put in a powerful 1:12 on the bike but could not match the swim or bike pace of those ahead of him.

The 50-54 categories saw Germany claim both titles, with silvers and bronzes all going to the Brits. It was Marion Hebding GER who claimed the title, adding this to her fine collection of world and European crowns. Walchsee in 2016, Zofingen in 2017 and 2018 and now Ibiza. But it was a tight race with fierce competition coming from Gwen Bevan who was comfortably ahead in the swim and who lost only a little time on the bike. It was the final run that gave Hebding her gold, as she ate into Bevan’s advantage. Behind them, Ceri Cook was having the run of her life and, with the fastest run split in the category, moved right up to bronze medal position.

Germany’s Olaf Geserick went home with two golds after adding the Middle Distance title to that of the Aquathlon. Now with 6 ETU titles, he has been on the circuit now for ten years. He opened the account with a swim that was over three minutes quicker than the challengers but then lost time on the bike before coming back with a powerful run to take him with ease to the title. Great Britain filled the remaining podium places and it was Wayne Thurstingwith an excellent bike split, who moved through the pack and was in a fine position at the start of the run. Anyone racing over the long course in Bolton (North West England) will be ready for a middle distance event and Thursting, posting 9:15:32 on what is widely recognised as being a tough course, was fired up for the race and no doubt, disappointed that the bike course had been reduced. The 2015 Rimini winner, Pete Eggleston GBR had come to the island fresh from a middle distance event in Portugal, where he placed 2nd in his category. He worked well to keep hold of the bronze medal against a slightly faster running Spanish athlete.

With World and European duathlon titles already in her hands, it was Great Britain’s Alison Crellin who cut through the pack with impressive bike and run splits to take the crown in the 55-59 category. In both Fyn and here earlier in the week, she had been impressive over the run/bike/run format and once she had got the swim out of the way, which put her in the middle of the pack, she simply excelled. It was Jacky White ITA, taking time off from providing endless support to her husband, our very own President, Renato Bertrandi, who had a great swim and then posting the second fastest bike split, who had done enough early on in the race to claim silver ahead of GB’s Diane Hier. For Hier, this was a successful multisport year, appearing on the podium of all of her middle distance events. “Very Happy to win a Bronze Medal at The European Middle Distance Championships in Ibiza. The weather was very British with torrential rain, thunder and lightning so start was delayed and bike discipline was shortened. I feel privileged to be part of the GB Team and thoroughly enjoyed racing here in Ibiza.”

The men’s race was a chance for Slovenia’s Miro Kregar to upgrade his Fyn silver to an Ibiza gold. Often to be seen racing Ultra distances, he was not the fastest in the water, or fastest on the bike, or fastest on the run. His transition times were pretty impressive but, like a chess grandmaster, he played the right moves and secured victory with over 4 minutes to spare. Possibly using this event as a warm up, he went off to Hawaii for the Ultra Distance Championships and came 5th overall. Mark Davis GBR, fresh from his win in Weymouth, was strong on the bike. His 1:14 was easily the best performance and this enabled him to keep ahead of Spain’s Pedro Maria López Tejedor.

Moving up to the 60-64 category and it was a standout performance from the great Flying Dutchwoman, Marijke Zeekant. Born in 1956, she previously raced elite, with a best-ever finish in 4th at the ITU Sado Island event back in 1998. Able to mix long and short distances with off road racing, a long-distance open-water swimmer with an impressive history as well as a well-known rower, Zeekant was easily ahead of the rest of her category as she left the water. With over five minutes to her advantage, she then scorched through T1 and out onto the bike where the fastest bike split was hers too. Easing up on the run, she crossed the line with a lead of almost 20 minutes over silver medal-winner, Jane Bell who has collected some titles on her triathlon journey. With a gold back in the awful conditions of Vancouver in 2008 and podium places along the way, she now has a World Aquathlon title and, following her victory earlier in the week, now holds 4 successive ETU Aquathlon titles. June McMinn was clearly using this event as a warm-down. Having posted an 11:43 in Barcelona on 7th October, she combined a great bike and run split of 1:54 to grab the bronze. Not bad for someone who is in her 60’s.

After the race, Zeekant’s comments about the bike course pretty much summed it up for most, “Maar uiteindelijk prima fietsen al was het wel koud en wat glibberig! All in all, the bike went well, even though it was cold and a bit slippery.”

Rodolph von Berg took home the top prize for Belgium and indeed their only medal. Since 2003, he has always finished on the podium and 15 years after first winning gold on Ibiza, he came back and did the same. Back in 2003 it was the World Championships and far better weather conditions. A solid lead in the swim gave him every advantage that he needed and once on two wheels, it was another 6 minutes in the bag. By the time he set out on the run, he was assured of the title and eased up to cross the line over 20 minutes ahead of Spain’s Diego Armenteros Moreno who opens his international triathlon account with a silver medal and the fastest run split of 1:36. Bronze went to teammate, Daniel Cifrian Perez who adds this medal to his Aquathlon bronze.

For the two athletes in the 65-69 category, it was a solid victory for Dr Margaret Sills. Having missed out 2017, she came to the race with the 2016 title and established a solid lead in the swim against Denmark’s Bonnie Ridderberg, who is more often found on the run/bike/run circuit. Ridderberg had earlier raced both sprint and standard duathlons, collecting gold and bronze medals respectively. Her biking power took back a bit of the lead and her final run was strong but the earlier advantage set by Dr Sills was too much and the title went to GB.
“Survived the horrendous change in weather for race day. Swim was great, bike was cold, and run was dark! Much support around the course from others in GB team and many supporters, thank you. The final party was way beyond my bed time at 23.00-01.00 but when in Spain….”

It was gold to Italy for the men, with Michele Vanzi leading the swim and then racing strongly to keep ahead of the threat from Norway’s Hjalmar Schiøtz. Vanzi won the title in Paguera in 2014 but was then runner up in 2015 and 2016 in Rimini and Walchsee. Schiøtz adds this silver to his runner-up medal from 2017. Steve Bulman in his first trip out in GB colours, claimed bronze, posting the fastest bike split of the day in his category.

The final category was the 70-74 Age-Group and it was a delight to see such strength and depth of talent. Alexander Heron GBR led them out of the water. A bronze in Glasgow and a bronze earlier in the week in the Aquathlon and we knew his power in the water. About 90 seconds back was Richard File GBR, who held this title in Weymouth and Herning and who also claimed the World title at the ITU Powerman epic that is Zofingen only a few weeks before coming to Ibiza. File then set about using the hours and miles of training in his legs to build the advantage on two wheels that would take him into T2 way ahead of anyone else. Behind him in the water was Spain’s Gonzalo Infante Martínez-Pardo who came home to the cheers of the local crowds and gave Spain its final bronze of the race.

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