The European Triathlon championships took a different shape this year with its incorporation alongside several other sports across two of Europe’s most famous cities. With increased prestige and coverage of the event, the race to some extent was given a bit of a rebirth, and we saw a very competitive line up across the men’s and women’s races. The race took place in Strathclyde, just outside of Glasgow on the same challenging course as the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The women kicked off proceedings on Thursday afternoon, and the line up featured a long list of stars, from previous Junior World Champions to a double Olympic medalist. The course at Strathclyde country park has always been known as a ‘tough’ persons course, straight out of the water the athletes never get chance to get into any rhythm over the undulating course, both on the bike and run.
HUUB’s Jessica Learmonth (GBR) led the way from the start and soon strung out the field in the 1500m swim. It was only breakout star of Hamburg WTS, Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) who could stay in her wake. Onto the bike course and the two had a distinctive lead over the rest of the field. A heavy crash in the chase pack created tension amongst the group and the gap increased, the crash also forced a few athletes out of the race entirely. In the confusion on the road, Nicola Spirig (SUI) made her break and began to reel in the leading pair and lap after lap the time came down. Eventually coming onto the last lap Spirig made the catch, an incredible feat, but having successes in triathlon from sprint through to Ironman distance it wasn’t so surprising of the 2012 Olympic Champion. Spirig’s presence in the front pack seemed to prove too much for the young French athlete, and the leading trio very quickly became two. Onto the run and Learmonth and Spirig had created a gap of nearly two minutes on Beaugrand, with the chase park further behind. Spirig soon got the gap she needed on Learmonth and this held for the remainder of the 10k. Spirig crossed the line to claim her sixth European Championship crown with Learmonth 25 seconds back. Beaugrand managed to close the gap slightly, but it seemed the challenging bike had taken a lot out of her over the 40k.
The men raced the following day, and as we saw in the women's race, there was a competitive line up including HUUB’s Alistair Brownlee (GBR) who was back from injury after a few months out of the sport. As a lot of people predicted the swim was incredibly quick paced with HUUB’s Richard Varga (SVK) leading the way covering the 1500m in 16.43. Into transition and through the early stages of the bike a lead group of nine athletes was established, and they soon had a significant gap to the chase group, which struggled to work as cohesively as the smaller leading pack.
The gap grew and hovered around the one minute mark throughout the bike, Brownlee inevitably made a few breakaway attempts, but they were all neutralised, and all nine athletes headed into T2 together. Onto the run and initially it was the pair of Pierre Le Corre (FRA) and Marten Van Riel (BEL) who took the lead with Brownlee back in the third position. However, the grit of the double Olympic Champion brought him back into contention and it was soon a run race between the three with Fernando Alarza (ESP) chasing them down from the chasing group. Around halfway the Frenchman made his move, and it was only Van Riel who could go with him. Alarza soon caught Brownlee and looked set on catching the leading two, Le Corre must have seen the threat from behind and surged on leaving the Belgium athlete to be swallowed up. Le Corre went on to claim his first Senior European title with Alarza second, Van Riel third and Brownlee in fourth. It was a positive return for Brownlee who will now be looking towards the 70.3 World Championships in a few weeks time.