Bart Aernouts won the inaugural Enea Challenge Poznan ahead of James Cunnama, though they both had to run down Giulio Molinari. Markus Hörmann overcame emotional anguish from a race the weekend prior to capture third place. Diana Riesler had a very solid day and grabbed the women's title over Radka Vodickova. Eva Potuckova finished third.
Pieter Heemeryck of Belgium led the pro men out of the Lake Malta water in 26:33, about 30 seconds ahead of a small group that contained Aussies Nick Kastelein and Michael Fox, plus German Paul Schuster. Favorites Jan Raphael and James Cunnama were 2 minutes out of the lead and Bart Aernouts almost 4 minutes.
Giulio Molinari, who started the bike 1 minute behind the swim leader, soon moved quickly into the lead on the flat and windy course, and was first to reach T2, just over 1 minute up on Bart Aernouts and 2.5 minutes ahead of James Cunnama. Heemeryck followed just a few seconds behind Cunnama. The next group included Olesen Steen, Markus Hörmann and Kastelein, just under 5 minutes behind Molinari.
The run segment featured 4 loops and Aernouts passed Molinari for the lead during the lap 2. At this point Heemeeryck still ran in third place slightly ahead of Cunnama, but the South African pushed past him on lap 3 and also caught Molinari. Cunnama came as close as 40 seconds to Aernouts but not any closer. Aernouts won this title in 3:49:35, when it was announced that his team was renamed to BMC-Etixx Pro Triathlon Team powered by Uplace, with support for the next couple years likely. Cunnama crossed the finish in second place in 3:52:11.
“[I am] just happy to win a Challenge event for the first time and in such a well organized race. Honest race with the very windy conditions. A flat course can be hard as well! Really surprised by this event. Nearly 4000 people racing over the weekend and a real triathlon festival. Looking good for the European Champs next year. Now all eyes on Kona,” said Aernouts to slowtwitch.
Behind Aernouts and Cunnama a steadily running Hörmann was in 5th place with 4k to go, and with less than 1k to he found another gear and ran past Heemeryck (900 meters) and Molinari (600 meters) to take the final podium spot in 3:54:46.
Race favorite Jodie Swallow was first out of the water - over 2 minutes up on Eva Potuckova and Radka Vodickova who swam 28:57 and 29:10 respectively. Diana Riesler needed 35:59 for the swim and that put her in a big hole going into the bike segment.
Swallow then pulled out of the race early on during the bike with a flat tire, and that meant the lead for Vodickova and Potuckova. By the halfway point of the bike Riesler had moved into 4th place only 2.5 minutes behind the leaders. Riesler ended up with the race best bike split of 2:18:39 and reached the bike-run transition just under 2 minutes up on Vodickova and Potuckova.
From there Riesler ran smoothly and maintained that advantage all the way to the finish with a win in 4:21:33. Vodickova was next in 4:24:01 and Potuckova rounded out the podium in 4:28:03.
"I had a rough start at the swim and struggled through the water on my own. Exiting the water so far back I basically thought my race was over, but started the bike to get at least some training in my legs. After 30k I passed the first girls and that raised my motivation, and after 50km I realized I was back in the race again and really started to push the pedals," said Riesler to slowtwitch. "While all were struggling riding into the wind, even the male athletes, I loved that part and this was where I made [up] the most time. I started the run very hard with a pace which I thought I only could keep for 1 lap. I was sure that Radka would catch me soon. But after 5k my lead was still the same, so I kept pushing. I’m very happy with my run as I had my fastest half marathon split so far and was able to go a decent pace in a 'shorter' race, something we worked on the past few weeks with my coach Jo Spindler and the Brett Sutton squad in St. Moritz. Very happy that today I proved I not only can win long distance races but half distances as well!"
"I ran down, mounted my bike and had a rear wheel puncture, foamed it - no luck. Ran back to find a wheel, no one had so I ran back uphill to T1 to get one from service there. Asked for an 11 speed got a ten speed, so then stuck in biggest gear for ride 53-11. Ok with wind behind, but when I turned into the wind - no way," said Swallow to slowtwitch. "Only punctured twice in a race before, so it is just bad luck."
Almost 4,000 athletes from 33 nations participated in various events at these inaugural Challenge races, that included a Sprint and Olympic distance race on Saturday, plus the featured Half distance on Sunday with a pro field of 40 pros.
Sadly though tragedy reportedly struck on Saturday afternoon during the Olympic distance event where 44-year old Waldemar Radecki had to be pulled from the water and subsequently died in the hospital. Our thoughts are with his loved ones.
Enea Challenge Poznan - Poland
Poznan, Poland / July 26, 2015
1.2m swim / 56m bike / 13.1m run
1. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 3:49:35
2. James Cunnama (RSA) 3:52:11
3. Markus Hörmann (GER) 3:54:46
4. Giulio Molinari (ITA) 3:55:17
5. Pieter Heemeryck (BEL) 3:55:28
1. Diana Riesler (GER) 4:21:33
2. Radka Vodickova (CZE) 4:24:01
3. Eva Potuckova (CZE) 4:28:03
4. Ewa Bugdol (POL) 4:28:24
5. Hanna Maksimava (BLR) 4:32:39