The Double Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee has proved the world that he is seriously back in racing in the ITU circuit. Two weeks after claiming the victory in the ITU Cagliari World Cup, the British has shown a dominant performance in Weert to claim his fourth European title of his career, only a week before heading to his home-town Leeds for his debut in the 2019 WTS season. Silver medal in the European Championships was for Joao Silva (POR), with the fastest run of the day, while Belgian Gelle Jeens claimed the bronze medal.
With the water still cold enough for wetsuits, the air temperature was pushing the mercury higher and higher and as it neared 30C, the final run would be punishing. As expected, the front end of the swim was a feast for Alistair Brownlee, as the first lap was led by Igor Polyanskiy (RUS) and Márk Dévay (HUN). The Brit was tucked in the draft as the first six athletes made their way back into the water.
The swim delivered Polyanskiy, Dévay, Brownlee, Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) and Martin Van Riel (BEL) onto the blue carpet and in a flash they were out on the bike course, with a long trail of athletes behind them. The acceleration was immediate and suddenly the group was split as the powerful leaders, joined by another five, started to push the watts. The journey to Weert had the wind behind them and this was used to the full advantage and soon enough this group had established a lead of 22 seconds.
As the laps passed, the lead was extended to 30 seconds and then 40 and with the crowds now lining the course around the “Bassin”, T2 was a flash of athletes.
Out now onto the run course and soon enough it was Brownlee kicking up the pace and leaving Van Riel, Serrat and Maximillian Schwetz (GER). At the end of the first lap, his lead was 14 seconds but in less than 200m he had added another 3 to this.
Lap after lap his power was taking him further and further away from the chasing athletes. Van Riel looked desperate and was soon struggling but behind him, Joao Pereira was having the run of his life and had moved up through the pack to challenge. Some meters behind the Portuguese, another Belgian, Jelle Geens, along with Vicente Hernandez (ESP) were pushing hard, passing athletes meter after meter and aproaching the leaders.
The final metres saw Brownlee grab the Union flag from the spectators to cross the finish line by himself, smiling and not looking back, to claim his 4th European title, after his last victory in Kitzbühel in 2014. The silver medal, that had looked certain to go to Van Riel, was snatched by Pereira, whose 10k was the fastest of the day. It was as if the Belgian athlete had kicked into reverse gear; his suffering was immense as compatriot Jelle Geens did just enough to grab the third spot in the podium, keepind behind him the fast-finishing Rostislav Pevtsov (AZE).
Junior Race Review
In the Junior’s race, the swim saw no real breakaway and athletes were led out of the water by by Hungary’s Levente Karai, with Ricardo Batista just a stride behind, and a long line of athletes behind them.
A huge peloton made its way from the Blauwe Meertje towards the city and a couple of athletes found themselves out of the race and on the side of the road. T2 was a frantic moment and it was the skills of the Frenchman and race favourite Paul Georgenthum that saw him survive the crush and set about the 5k. At the end, it was a killer kick from Georgenthum that set in motion the final attack and he pulled away from Boris Pierre (FRA) and Ricardo Batista (POR), who crossed the finish line in second and third place.
|Results: Elite Men|
|Results: Junior Men|
|4.||Sergio Baxter Cabrera||ESP||00:49:23|