Gomez, Mueller take Pontevedra

Gomez, Mueller take Pontevedra

By ITU Admin on 19/04/08 at 12:00 am

This past weekend marked the first time that triathlon has come to Galicia, Spain at such a level and it was almost inevitable that hometown hero Javier Gomez would win the race.

The ancient city had been shrouded in rain for a few days leading up to the race but a couple of weeks ago it had been basking in glorious sunshine.  The water flowing down the river brought down the temperature and on race day it was reported to be a chilly 14 degrees.

The women’s race saw Vanessa Fernandes of Portugal take the pole position on the pontoon but behind her were Birgit Berk of the Netherlands, German Kathrin Mueller and Deniz Dimiaki of Greece all looking for points for the all-important Beijing Olympics.

Also coming back from injury was Abbie Thorrington of Great Britain.  Her swim strength was on display at the European Championships in 2006 but since then she has been injured.  Thorington led after the swim, exiting the water first and after T1 it was only Fernandes who could catch her. The two of them worked on the bike in the pouring rain for the entire 40 kilometers and by the time they entered T2 they had over two minutes on the chase group that included Birgit Berk of the Netherlands and Mueller.

The drama started in T2.  Hands chilled by the rain, hail and wind, Fernandes simply couldn’t unfasten her helmet. Unable to accept any assistance she struggled and struggled and only managed to loosen the strap after the chase pack had descended in her. The looks of amazement were clear on the faces of the chasing athletes. Fernandes took off at a blistering pace with the others fearing that she would again take gold.

The rain, wind and hail continued and it was clear that many athletes would feel the cold. The high drama of T2 paled in comparison to the sight of Fernandes being carried back to the Athlete’s Lounge.  The delay in T2 had cost her badly and the cold had crept in.

Eventually Thorrington was caught and overtaken by the easy pace of Mueller and then Annaheim.  Mueller took the cheers as she crossed the finish line to take the inaugural Pontevedra ITU Premium European Cup with a time of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 31 seconds.  Thorrington saw her podium place stolen by a fast running Olesya Prystayko of the Ukraine.

Pontevedra ITU Premium European Cup
Final Results – Elite Women
1 - Mueller, Kathrin (GER) 02:05:31
2 - Annaheim, Melanie (SUI) 02:06:37
3 - Prystayko, Olesya (UKR) 02:07:12
Click here for full field results

In the men’s field, the race favourite was always going to be local hero Gomez. He lives here, he’s number one in the world and he’s adored by the media.  All eyes were upon him as he waited for the swim start. Another pre-race favourite was Oliver Freeman of Great Britain who has been performing strongly so far this year. The Germans were here in force and with Christian Prochnow and Steffen Justus, it was always going to be a fast run.

The rain held off for a few minutes as the athletes were introduced and went down to the pontoon.  A false start was called as a few eager men took off before the horn.  They were swiftly put back to the pontoon only to have another false start after a spectator on the bridge sounded their own horn.  When the race finally got under way, Gomez took the easy lead.

Upstream he swam, leading all the way.  But in the second lap he was chased by Freeman and just behind him Duarte Marques of Portugal.

By now the rain had returned but amazingly the crowds got bigger.  Soon there was a huge peloton of riders with Justus, Freeman and Gomez always making a strong effort. Halfway through the bike a puncture took care of Freeman who had to run to the Wheel Stop. This enabled Gomez and Justus to work hard and test the rest.

As they entered T2, Justus planned to run with Gomez but he had other plans and soon stamped his authority on the race to the delight of the home crowd.

Running through the old town, the crowds urged him on.  They stood to cheer Gomez to the finish and to win the first ever Pontevedra ITU European Premium Cup race with a time of 1 hour, 49 minutes and 51 seconds.  Tucked in behind him was a fast running Prochnow and just behind him showing depth in the German camp was Justus.

Pontevedra ITU Premium European Cup
Final Results – Elite Men
1 - Gomez, Javier (ESP) 01:49:51
2 - Prochnow, Christian (GER) 01:50:15
3 - Justus, Steffen (GER) 01:50:37
Click here for full field results

From the chilly and still wet outdoors the whole operation moved inside the Performance Centre of Pontevedra where the most impressive closing ceremony for many years was seen. A percussion ensemble brought the ceremony to a crashing opening and the fireworks carried on with the crowd greeting the victors with loud and sustained applause.

Onto the podium went gold medal winner Mueller. She was accompanied by silver medal-winner Annaheim and bronze medal-winner Prystayko. Medals and bouquets were presented by the Pontevedra Mayor and other local dignitaries.

Then out came the men – the noise from the crowd was much louder than the biggest drum that had played for the opening of this ceremony. Gomez has a huge following here and the crowds stood to receive the athletes.

As the champagne sprayed around the podium the crowds cheered. It was the end of a tough day of competition. Never before had Olympic Points been so well-earned.

Click here for photo gallery

Find more details about this event - 2008 Pontevedra ITU Triathlon Premium European Cup

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