With the stunning backdrop of the Royal Palace right behind the finish line, hundreds of spectators gathered in the Spanish capital for a fantastic morning of triathlon at its best in the 2019 ITU Madrid World Cup. And after a tough and impressive race, it was France’s Emilie Morier who would beat her own teammate, Sandra Dodet, to claim her first ever World Cup victory, with Italian Angelica Olmo accompanying them in the podium. In the Men’s race, a fierce battle ended up with two Germans deciding the victory by an inch, with Justus Nieschlag passing his teammate Lasse Luhrs, right over the finish line, and with Spaniard Roberto Sanchez Mantecon grabbing the third place.
A total of 66 women lined up in the lake at the Casa de Campo for a sprint distance race this Sunday, and with a start list stacked with big names, some of them racing in Madrid only a week after having done the same in another really hard course: WTS Bermuda. And with the water at 19.1 degrees, the women decided to go for a wetsuit swim in what proved to be a great decision for Sara Perez Sala (ESP), Olivia Mathias (GBR) and Sophie Coldwell (GBR), who performed a magnificent swim to lead out of the water. In the long run to transition the three of them were caught by Gillian Backhouse (AUS) and Anna Godoy Contreras (ESP), and the five of them started biking hard to try to establish a small breakaway in the connexion with the city center, before climbing for the first time the infamous Cuesta de la Vega.
A climb that proved to be decisive during the race. It was right in that first climb when Angelica Olmo proved that she is one of the toughest bikers of the circuit, and with herself and the two brits leading the group, the started working together to try to leave behind some of the great runners in the pack. In a matter or minutes, Rachel Klamer (NED), Melanie Santos (POR) and Sara Vilic (SUI), among others, were half a minute behind, with their chances to fight for a podium place vanishing lap after lap.
Klamer led the efforts of the chasers, and kept the difference under control always in less than 40 seconds, but the hard bike course paid its toll, and by the time they started the final 5km run, most of the fields felt the legs as jelly fish.
And it was just then, at the beginning of the run, when the two French women, Morier and Dodet, who had stayed in the back pack of the lead group during most part of the 20km bike, put the hammer down and settled a pace that was impossible for anyone else to follow. The French duo worked together to leave Olmo behind, knowing that the Italian has had a brilliant few races where she has proven that she can also run fast, and the Italian had to just keep her calm and maintain her third place, knowing that the chasers were almost ten seconds behind.
In the last meters of the run, with thousands of spectators lining along the run course and passing by the door of the Royal Palace, Morier did the final push to put herself a few meters in front of her team mate and crossed the finish line all smiles, stopping the clock in 01:02:18, with Dodet just one second behind. Olmo finished in third, her third consecutive posium in World Cups this season, also grabbing some really valuable points for the Olympic Qualification ranking, while behind her Sophie Coldwell ended in the fourth place, really proud of her race after coming off an injury that has kept her out of the races for a few months.
Pushed by the local crowds, Anna Godoy Contreras claimed the fifth place, while Olivia Mathias and Beth Potter (GBR) followed her, with Emmie Charayron (FRA) and Klamer behind.
“I really can’t speak now, I am so emotional”, said Morier. “The bike course is really difficult here in Madrid, it is really technical and I had no brakes on my bike, so it was really hard”.
“It was a great race, the course is really splendid, and it was fantastic to feel all these people cheering for all of us all along the course”, said Dodet. “It was a good race for me, I did a good swim and then saved some energy on the bike, but I felt really good in the run, so all was good”, she explained.
“It was a tough race. I did Bermuda last week and I was pretty tired all week. I did an Ok swim here, and worked really hard on the bike, and then I didn’t have the legs to chase the French girls on the run, but I am really happy with the outcome of this whole week”, she explained.
The sun was out bright for the Elite Men’s race in Madrid, with a full field lining up and all the men also deciding to wear a wetsuit. And it was a Hungarian, Mark Devay, who took the lead from the beginning, followed by Jonas Schomburg (GER), Seth Rider (USA) and Matthew Sharpe (CAN) all lining behind him. And a couple of feet behind, a massive group with all of them trying to get around the buoys in the best possible position, which led to a brutal swim and some of the stronger men in the pack being drag far behind, like Fernando Alarza (ESP) or Richard Murray (RSA).
By the end of the 750m swim Devay, Schomburg and Rider had a few meters of advantage, and the three of them mounted their bikes quickly to try to break away the field, but they were quickly chased by a large group led by Alarza, Roberto Sanchez Mantecon (ESP) and Lasse Luhrs (GER), the three of them training partners and willing to show that the high altitude training in the last few weeks was the perfect preparation for a hard course like the Madrid one.
It was all going by the books, with the group of almost 30 men working together and Murray 30 seconds behind, when suddenly Alarza had to stop on his bike half way through one of the climbs to the Cuesta de la Vega, loosing almost two minutes trying to fix the gears on his bike. All hope was lost by then for the Spaniard, who was still cheered by thousands of locals lined up in the streets of Madrid, and who managed to continue in the race. “Retiring was not an option here, I couldn’t do that to everyone who was here to watch me race”, said the Spaniard.
With the large group slowing down a bit in the last lap, transition was crowded, with 27 men racking their bikes ready for the 5km run under the bright sun in Madrid. Two Germans, Schomburg and Nieschlag, were the first in getting their shoes on and starting the run, with other strong runners like Kevin McDowell or Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) quite close behind, but in the first lap none managed to scape, and a large line of athletes passed through transition for the last time before crossing the finish line.
In the last 500 meters, Nieschlag, Luhrs, Sanchez Mantecon, Kevin McDowell and Serrat Seoane managed to get a bit of a distance with the rest, with only three podium places for the six of them. Luhrs was the first one to attack, but Nieschlag kept right on his feet, leaving Sanchez Mantecon just a couple of meters behind.
With the blue tape on sight, the two Germans sprinted all across the blue carpet to cross the finish line just at the same time, with the victory to be decided by the photo finish: Nieschlag first, and Luhrs second, his first ever World Cup podium, with Sanchez Mantecon being cheered by thousands to grab the bronze medal. McDowell got the bittersweet fourth place, and Serrat completed the top five places.
“I am really satisfied with my race here today”, said Nieschlag. “I had a few other sprint finishes this year, so I had a lot of practice for this one before. During the bike leg I worked very hard, keep in front and tried to keep the path high, to stay away from the chasers cause there were some strong runners, and it worked alright. But I am extremely happy to have won this race, and to have another German with me in the podium”, he explained.
“I am so happy of being in the podium with my team mate from Germany, Justus, and my team mate of trainings, Roberto”, explained Luhrs, who trains in Spain along with Fernando Alarza. “What can I say, I finished in third place, my first ever podium in a World Cup, but it feel as if I won, with all the support from the crowds, it was really incredible”, said Mantecon.