Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Pierre Le Corre win ETU European Championships in Glasgow.
At age 36, 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Nicola Spirig proved she was serious in her desire to compete in a record 5th Olympic triathlon and to take a 3rd medal at the 2020 Olympics after a dominating win at the Glasgow ETU European Championships.
Spirig took her sixth European Championships title by a comfortable margin over runner-up Jessica Learmonth of Great Britain and a quarter mile over new WTS star Cassandre Beaugrand of France.
Spirig started with an 8th-best 18:46 swim that left her 51 seconds behind Learmonth, then swept past the field in solo chase to finish the challenging bike leg with a race-best 1:02:51 split that was 47 seconds better than her nearest pursuer and put her at the front with Learmonth and a commanding 1:52 over Beaugrand.
Spirig started the 10k by charging away from Learmonth and closed with a 5th-fastest 36:44 run to finish in 1:59:13 with a 33 seconds margin of victory over Learmonth and 1:44 over 3rd place Beaugrand. Spirig’s latest European Championship follows wins in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
“It feels amazing,” Spirig told ITU media. “There were a few key moments, I came out of the water 50 seconds down, but that wasn’t a problem for me. I felt it was doable. I knew I’m probably stronger in the second part. of the bike stage compared to the others. I was lucky because there was a crash behind me, so I was by myself from the beginning. I could just concentrate on the leaders without worrying about taking turns (in the front pack). It was a key part when I caught up with Jess and Cassandre. I attacked straight away.”
Spirig, 15 months after the birth of her second child, surprised many, including herself, that she is again racing at top level. “I never thought I was gonna be still doing this at my age,” she told ITU media. Her comeback has not been immediate, however. Late in 2017, she finished 4th at the 2017 Super League Jersey Invitational and 13th at the WTS Grand Final in Rotterdam. “Never. I was just taking it one step at a time. I always wanted to stop at 30, but now I’m six years past that and I’m still winning and still enjoying it a lot.”
Underlining how difficult the Glasgow course was, runner-up Learmonth said: “That’s a hard course, definitely. I struggled at points but I’m delighted with second,” said Learmonth, who won gold at this championship last year. “I was the swimmer, Nicola was the rider and Cassandre was the runner. I knew I’d struggle today, out front on my own. Nicola is extremely strong and once I knew she was catching I just thought I’d ease up a bit and I knew she’d want to get rid of Cassandre so I was just ready for the jump and just then she made a little attack. Both of us didn’t realize that she’d (been) dropped. I looked around and thought, ‘Oh, she’s gone, so we’ll crack on’, so off we went.”
Beaugrand, the 21-year-old phenom who burst into prominence a month ago with a win at WTS Hamburg, was satisfied with her podium finish. “It was a very difficult race and not really my preferred race profile,” she told ITU media. “I had a really tight race with Jessica which I don’t normally do, because I’m less strong on the bike. I really had trouble on the run leg, at least I was not at my normal level, but I kept my position,” she said. “The first thing Jessica and I said to each other when Nicola chased us was ‘shit’. We saw we had a 10-second lead on the hill, and then we lost it straight away because [Nicola] attacked.”
Alistair Brownlee, no longer the prohibitive favorite he was at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, was fighting to overcome the two months he lost to an early season Achilles injury and this season’s split focus emphasis on the 70.3 circuit, still had hopes of attaining a fourth ETU European Championship. But in weather split between sunny and a light rain and a rugged bike course filled with hills and sharp corners revealed him to be the still-recovering longshot that reality warranted.
Instead, Pierre Le Corre of France combined a front pack swim and a front pack bike leg to bank a 1:20 lead on Spain’s Fernando Alarza. Le Corre then posted a second-best run to hold off the onslaught of Alarza’s sizzling fast 10k to take the win. Le Corre finished in 1:47:17 with am 11 seconds margin of victory over Alarza, who ran 30:44 – 72 seconds better than Le Corre’s 31:56. Marten Van Riel of Belgium finished 23 seconds back of the winner in 3rd place, while Brownlee struggled to 4th place finish with a run that was 2:03 slower than Alarza.
“That was really tough today with Ali Brownlee,” Le Corre told ITU media. “I was really scared of him as he is an opponent who’s really hard to beat. Alistair’s not in his best shape right now, I could see it. But he will be back and thanks for me he was not great today.”
Le Corre became worried on the final lap of the run until he saw Alarza eating up the ground between them. “I was looking and I saw him coming strong, so I was like ‘I have to open the gap between me and him,’ just not to do a sprint. I’m pretty good at sprinting, but I was really tired after all the energy I gave.”
After a sub-par swim, Alarza was satisfied with his silver. “The swim was bad for me,” he told ITU media. “I had to fight a lot and the bike was very hard as well. But in the second transition I thought I could do this and take a medal but I did not know which color. So I kept a cool mind. On the second lap of the run, when I passed Ali, I thought ‘OK, but finally Pierre was too fast for me. “
After his time lost to injury earlier this season, Brownlee was resigned to his place out of the medals. “I didn’t quite know what to expect today and I suppose that’s about where I was,” he told ITU media. “I have been training really hard [for the Ironman 70.3 World championship in September] so I knew I was probably going to be a bit tired going into it as well. If I can put all my training together I know I can do well. It’s been an awful year and at times I’ve had to question what I’m doing. I’m just happy to be racing.”
Glasgow ETU European Championship
Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain
August 9-10, 2018
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Nicola Spirig (SUI) 1:59:13
2. Jessica Learmonth (GBR) 1:59:46
3. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) 2:00:57
4. Lauran Lindemann (GER) 2:01:42
5. Claire Michel (BEL) 2:02:06
6. Vendula Frintova (CZE) 2:02:06
7. Julia Hauser (AUT) 2:02:37
8. Kaidi Kivioja (EST) 2:02:38
9. Petra Kurikova (CZE)
10. Melanie Santos (POR) 2:03:18
1. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) 1:47:17
2. Fernando Alarza (ESP) 1:47:28
3. Marten Van Riel (BEL) 1:47:40
4. Alistair Brownlee (GBR) 1:48:12
5. Jelle Geens (BEL) 1:48:47
6. Tamás Tóth (HUN) 1:48:53
7. Márk Dévay (HUN) 1:49:04
8. Igor Polyanskiy (RUS) 1:49:09
9. Barclay Izzard (GBR) 1:49:19
10. Jonas Schomburg (GER) 1:49:29