The clouds that hovered over the All Age waves preceding the women's elite race that kicked off at 11.30 a.m. had lifted and the quays bathed in bright sunlight but with a stiff breeze. The first time I had actually seen Fernandes in person, my first impression was just how young she looked, given her awesome current achievements and world championship status. The brace on her teeth behind this modest person's smile seemed to confirm her tender years. Fernandes quietly busied herself in the transition area, pre-race , totally focused and quietly making last minute adjustments and fixing her sun glasses carefully on her handlebars with a couple of elastic bands.
photo John Coxon
As an indication of how sad I have become in my autumn years I had bought a pool thermometer at B&Q the evening before and measured the water temperature myself and it was ,what I thought was, a nice pleasant 19 degrees Centigrade but which would leave Fernandes at the finish, teeth chattering still , saying how cold she had found the swim having left Portugal where it was 30 degrees. (Compatriot Gomez who won the men's event also found the water really cold.) As in the men's race it was noticeable how bunched up the elite women were in the swim with only a minute separating 40 athletes coming out of the Huron Basin into transition. This was part down to the fact that some of the recognised hot swimmers on the elite circuit weren't there. Scotland's charismatic Kerry Lang and USA's Amanda Stevens exited first in 20:4 with Fernandes 4 seconds behind and Jodie Swallow on her heels a second behind. Defending champion Sam Warriner was 9 seconds down on Fernandes exiting with GB's Andrea Whitcombe ,Leanda Cave 20 seconds down and Spirig and Rosie Clarke 35 seconds down on the eventual winner.
The bike was a clockwise 8 lap circuit of the Quays this first time, with riders setting off at the opposite end of transition from previous years, round the back of the quays and off Broadway onto the long, fast, relatively flat downward straight of Trafford Road for 1.5 km, crossing the Manchester Ship Canal with a couple of tight turns in a loop of the Trafford Wharf area and back onto the brick paved roads of the quays. Lap after lap it became apparent that all was set for a runner's race, favouring the in-form Fernandes, as one huge peloton flew past again and again with no sign of a break. Canny Fernandes just sat in the pack biding her time and no one really prepared to work to try and split the pack and the lack of hills or technical features of the route not providing opportunities to make her hurt. The stiff breeze was an additional factor in the outcome.
Plucky Mary Beth Ellis of the USA hit the front at one point as one of the few prepared to work to split the field and sadly had nothing left in the tank to be competitive in the run. Fernandes came out of Transition 2 in 7th place with Spirig, Peon and Sam Warriner first away but quickly hit the front , broke away and never looked like being caught. I overheard Sam Warriner talking to relatives on her mobile after the race saying how much the run was hurting but how she was just determined to get the podium to match her win last year. Andrea Whitcombe, first Brit home made a truly gutsy effort for a podium finish but in spite of giving it everything had to be content with a creditable 4th place behind the Olympic champion Austria's Kate Allen. Scotland's Kerry Lang, was home in 27th place two in front of Rosie Clarke with Jodie Swallow disappointed with her 29th place but ahead of Leanda Cave who came home in 36th place.
In the full distance Age Group Fiona Ford ( Planet X) had a notable win in the 35-39 category and, in a mixed field of 214, was the first woman home 22nd overall in 2:18:3 ( a full ten minutes ahead of her nearest rival in the category Manchester Tri Club's Gudrun Ravetz .) Fiona was voted All-Ager of the Year 2006, won the World Olympic Distance Age Group Championship 2006 , and came 9th overall in the 2007 French Ironman setting a new course record for her age group. Fiona now has her eye on the Hawaii Ironman and in fact is due to be married to fiancée Rob there.
Results: Elite Women Salford BG Triathlon 2007
1.FERNANDES, Vanessa (POR) 2:02:59
2. WARRINER, Samantha (NZL) 2:03:17 +:19
3. ALLEN, Kate (AUT) 2:03:23 +:25
4. WHITCOMBE, Andrea (GBR) 2:03:59 +1:01
5. NIWATA, Kiyomi (JPN) 2:04:02 +1:04
6. DENSHAM, Erin (AUS) 2:04:14 +1:16
7. TANNER, Debbie (NZL) 2:04:30 +1:32
8. PEON, Carole (FRA) 2:04:30 +1:32
9. GROVES, Lauren (CAN) 2:04:33 +1:35
10. SPIRIG, Nicola (SUI) 2:04:38 +1:40
For full results click TRI247
photo Getty Images