By Nicola Hargreaves on 28/05/12 at 7:26 pm
This weekend’s 2012 ITU World Triathlon Madrid not only marked the tenth anniversary of ITU racing in the Spanish capital, but also officially ended the London 2012 qualification period. Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig opened Olympic qualifying two years ago with a victory in 2010 and now brings it to a close with a second win.
First descending on the city in 2002 with an ETU European Cup, triathlon felt instantly at home, consequently hosting a World Cup for the next six years before taking its place on the ITU World Championship Series since its introduction in 2009.
Over the years Madrid has held particular success for the likes of Vanessa Fernandes and Alistair Brownlee, but all will agree that the race set in Casa de Campo Park, guarantees a challenge with a tough bike course featuring a 12% grade climb on each of the eight laps.
Back in 2002, the Madrid ETU Triathlon European Cup was won by locals Ana Burgos and that year’s World Champion Ivan Rana. The largely Spanish field included Javier Gomez and gave the city its first taste of elite triathlon.
The following year the city’s first ITU World Cup was a resounding success with all involved agreeing that Madrid should become an unmissable stop on the ITU Triathlon World Cup circuit. The advice was taken and the city has never looked back, hosting an ITU World Cup every year from 2003 to 2008.
When it comes to performing in Madrid, it is true to say that no one comes close to Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes who dominated the race. In the city’s first World Cup in 2003, Fernandes not only won her very first World Cup, but also began an astonishing winning record there. She went on to win every single ITU World Cup in Madrid, totalling six in all and understandably began to regard the city as a second home.
“I feel at home at Madrid’s Casa de Campo. It has a sensational ambience with thousands of spectators encouraging all the participants. In addition to an organization that takes care of every single detail, it makes you really feel at home,” said Fernandes in the lead up to the 2007 event.
As Fernandes dominated women’s triathlon, the men’s field was not as cut and dry. Madrid’s first World Cup in 2003 will be remembered by USA’s Hunter Kemper as his first ever World Cup victory. The soon to be four-time Olympian, clinched gold in a dramatic six man sprint to line.
Madrid is also the site that home grown talent Javier Gomez took his first World Cup title. In 2006, Gomez powered ahead of fellow Spaniard Rana signifying a breakthrough in his career. Gomez just missed out on the gold in 2007 to Filip Ospaly (CZE), but delighted the home crowds with a second Madrid victory in 2008, his tenth World Cup title.
In addition, the 2008 Madrid World Cup was celebrated as the 200th in ITU World Cup history and also concluded Fernandes’ Madrid World Cup clean sheet.
2009 saw the introduction of triathlon’s new premier league of racing, the ITU World Championship Series. With Madrid’s popularity, tough course and continuous World Cup success, the city was an obvious choice to host triathlon racing at its very best.
In the first year of the Series, Madrid was the second city on the eight-round circuit and with Fernandes hampered with injury, the women’s field was thrown open. New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt had already experienced the Madrid podium finishing second to Fernandes in 2006 and 2007, but it was Hewitt’s turn to shine in 2009. In a thrilling sprint finish resulting in a rare photo finish, Hewitt edged out Sweden’s Lisa Norden by a whisker to take her first ITU World Championship Series event win.
Having already claimed junior and U23 world titles, Alistair Brownlee’s full transition into the elite men’s field came in 2008. In Madrid that year he finished third behind Gomez, but in the city’s first World Championships Series event in 2009, Brownlee reversed the roles and took gold to Gomez’s bronze.
Brownlee’s convincing win in Madrid firmly established the Briton on the world stage and in the subsequent World Championship races in 2010 and 2011 in the Spanish capital, he has proved unbeatable. In 2010 Brownlee overcame injury with a femoral stress fracture to claim one of his proudest victories.
“This win overshadows anything I did last year,” Brownlee said after his victory in 2010. “It was totally unexpected. This is by far the proudest victory I’ve ever had after what I’ve been through in the last couple of months.”
In 2011 Madrid again etched itself into Brownlee family history as for the first time Alistair and Jonathan shared an ITU podium, something they have done in every single race they have both competed in since then.
With the absence of Alistair and Gomez from the starting line-up this weekend, Jonathan showed the same domineering style of his brother to hold onto the family title for at least another year. In the women’s field Spirig claimed her second title after 2010, again utilising a little of that Madrid magic.
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