Gomez, Palacio Win Challenge Cancun

Legendary Javier Gomez of Spain and Romina Palacio Balena of Argentina won on a typical hot day at Challenge Cancun.

For much of the race, Gomez dueled with Andy Potts of the U.S. until the Spaniard broke away with a race-best 1:14:40 run split. It brought him to the line in 3:46:36 with a 4:01 margin over the fast-closing Ruedi Wild of Switzerland and 4:37 over the fading third place finisher Potts.

The race served as an Olympic tune-up for Gomez who will be qualifying May 15 at the WTS Yokohama. Lest we forget, Gomez’s stellar record includes a magnificent 5 ITU Olympic distance World golds, 4 times WTS World Championship silvers, two Ironman 70.3 World Championship golds, a single ITU Long Distance World Championship gold, a lone XTERRA World Championship and a 2012 Olympic silver medal.

After swiftly overcoming a 5-seconds deficit after the swim, Anneke Jenkins of New Zealand led the field by a minute after the bike. But a surprise foot injury shortly into the run meant Jenkins’ reign ended and Romina Palacio Balena of Argentina inherited the lead. On the wings of a women’s-best 1:31:23 run Palacio Balena finished in 4:34:32 with a 4 minutes margin over Annie Kelly of the U.S. and 6:35 over third place finisher Palmira Alvarez of Mexico.

Men’s race wrap-up

Victor Benages (ESP) led the men’s swim with a 24:44 split which gave him a 2 seconds margin on David Fajardo (ESP), 3 seconds on Javier Gomez, 16 seconds on Joaquin Pereda Charles (MEX), 31 seconds on Andy Potts, 59 seconds on Flavio Morandini (ARG), and 1:16 TO 1:21 on a four-man pack including Robbie Deckard (USA), Jaime Gonzalez Buganza (MEX) and Elliot Bach (USA). Lagging further behind were big threats Tyler Butterfield of Bermuda (+2:52) and Michael Weiss of Austria (+5:13)

By 16 kilometers of the bike, Andy Potts zoomed into a 1-minute lead on Javier Gomez, 2:45 on Benages, Ruedi Wild of Switzerland and Pereda Charles of Mexico. Shortly thereafter, Potts suffered a mechanical problem and surrendered the lead to Gomez.

While Gomez maintained a short lead over Potts, David Fajardo and Eliot Bach proceeded one-minute arrears. By 50km of the bike leg, Gomez continued to lead by a shrinking 40 seconds over Potts and one minute over Elliot Bach. A further 25 seconds back was Ruedi Wild and Joaquin Pereda Charles. Inch by inch, Potts closed to within 15 seconds to Gomez,

By 67km, Potts passed Gomez and opened a 30 seconds lead on the Spanish champion, 1:20 on Bach, and 1:50 on Ruedi Wild.

After a third-best 2:02:14 bike split, Potts led a resurgent Gomez (second-best 2:02:13 bike) into T2 by 3 second. Wild (2:04:08) trailed by 2:55, and back by 3:22, Joaquin Pereda by 5:01. After a men’s race-best 2:01:06 bike, Michael Weiss stood in 6th place (+5:06) and Tyler Butterfield 7th, (+6:01)

A few seconds after dismounting, Gomez passed Potts. After 3.5km of the run, Gomez led Potts by 20 seconds and 2.5 minutes over Wild. After 7km of the run, Gomez led Potts by over a minute and Wild by more than 3 minutes. After a race-best 1:14:40 run, Gomez crossed the line in in 3:46:36 with a 4:01 lead over fast-closing Ruedi Wild and 4:37 over fast-fading third place finisher Potts.

Women's race wrap-up

Anneke Jenkins led the women’s swim with a 29:06 split that gave her a 3 seconds lead on Annie Kelly, 8 seconds on Romina Palacio Balena, 35 seconds on Mayra Castaneda Castillo, 1:01 on Adriana Carreno, 2:01 on Saleta Castro and 4:20 on Anne Basso.

After 16km of the bike, Jenkins held the lead by 1 minute over Romina Palacio and Annie Kelly. After 50km of the bike, Jenkins led Annie Kelly by 1:39 and Romina Palacio by 1:58 in third place.

After a women’s third-best 2:28:26 bike split, Jenkins arrived first at T2 by 57 seconds over Romina Palacio Balena, 59 seconds over Annie Kelly, and 4:07 over Palmira Alvarez, who made up tons of ground after her sluggish 37:52 swim split a women’s-best 2:23:03 bike split. Kate Vermann stood fifth, 4:19 behind the leader, after a women’s second-fastest 2:27:54 bike split.

After a women’s-fastest 2:28:26 bike spit Jenkins led Romina Palacio Balena by 57 seconds, Annie Kelly by 59 seconds, Alvarez by 4:07 and Kate Vermann by 4:19.

In a shocking turn of events, Jenkins suffered a foot injury shortly into the run and did not finish.

Well into the run, Romina Palacio opened a lead of 3 minutes on Annie Kelly and 6 minutes on Palmira Alvarez.

Challenge Cancun
Cancun, Mexico
May 2. 2021
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.


1. Javier Gomez (ESP) S 24:47 B 2:02:13 R 1:14:40 TOT 3:46:36
2. Ruedi Wild (SUI) S 26:07 B 2:04:08 R 1:15:36 TOT 3:50:37
3. Andy Potts (USA) S 25:15 B 2:02:14 R 1:19:22 TOT 3:51:13
4. Michael Weiss (AUT) S 30:34 B 2:01:06 R 1:17:40 TOT 3:54:20
5. Tyler Butterfield (BER) S 27:32 B 2:05:46 R 1:19:38 TOT 3:57:21
6. Emmanuel Lejeune (BEL) S 26:00 B 2:13:24 R 1:19:20 TOT 4:03:09


1. Romina Palacio Balena (ARG) S 29:14 B 2:28:54 R 1:31:23 TOT 4:34:32
2. Annie Kelly (USA) S 29:09 B 2:28:48 R 1:35:11 TOT 4:38:32
3. Palmira Alvarez (MEX) S 37:52 B 2:23:03 R 1:34:21 TOT 4:41:17
4. Adriana Carreno (MEX) S 30:05 B 2:41:08 R N/A TOT 4:45:34
5. Saleta Castro (ESP) S 31:07 B 2:34:32 R 1:35:14 TOT 4:45:43
6. Anne Basso (USA) S 33:26 B 2:31:29 R N/A TOT 4:50:59