The French team announced days before the European Championships that their goal here in Glasgow was to add the European title to their collection for this year, and they delivered. With the current European winner, Pierre Le Corre, and bronze medallist Cassandre Beaugrand, in the team along with Leonie Periault and Dorian Coninx, the French squad cemented their options and proved that they are serious contendents for the inaugural mixed Relay at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The silver medal was for the Swiss team, led by a fantastic Nicola Spirig, while the Belgians claimed the bronze medal.
Seventeen teams lined up in the pontoon at the Strathclyde Loch for the first leg of the relay, with Belgium’s Claire Michel -5th in the women’s event two days ago- taking the lead out of the swim and into the 6km of the bike course. She was quickly caught by Periault, with Anna Godoy Contreras from Spain and Melanie Santos from Portugal closely behind and they all went together for the run segment. Behind them, some of the usually strong countries like Great Britain or Switzerland struggled and were left quickly behind, opening a considerable gap.
France, Belgium and Portugal went almost together in first place into the second leg, with men’s individual gold medallist Le Corre keeping the rhythm, and it what it looked like the second edition of the individual race, Spaniard Fernando Alarza flew to pass both the Frenchman and Belgium’s Jelle Geens. The three of them opened a gap that looked enough to grant them some safety for the two remaining legs, but the Swiss had a gun in their pockets.
A gun named Nicola Spirig, six times European Champion, and entering the water almost one minute behind the leaders, but exiting in the top group. It was a matter then of a few kilometers until the veteran Swiss left all of them behind on the bike to then finish with a fantastic run by herself, to give the last relay to her teammate Sylvain Fridelance in the first place.
Dorian Coninx caught him half way through the swim, but both of them stayed together since then and until the run segment, with Marten Van Riel hanging on in the third place, knowing that some of the men behind him -Spain, Italy, Russia and Hungary- hat to serve a time penalty for swim behaviour and they all decided to serve it in the last leg.
Coninx only had to push once in the run to leave the Swiss a few meters behind, enough to grant them the European title. And to much delight of Beaugrand, it was the Swiss team of her boyfriend Fridelance claiming silver, while Belgium closed the podium.
Hungary and Denmark completed the top five, while Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Russia followed, in that order. Great Britain ended up in a rather disappointing 12th place, with some last-minute changes to the team that proved to be a bit disruptive. Beth Potter lost contact during the swim and Britain were never able to get back in touch, despite loud support from the crowd.
“After we had won the world championships title, we really hoped to win the European title. We made a few small mistakes. It was quite different to the world championships, but I think we played our roles well and overall it was a good race”, said Beaugrand. The French have the eyes set now in the newly added event in the Olympic Programme. “It’s a long road still to Tokyo but our goal will definitely be to win - it’s always the objective. We’ll continue to work on our weak points and maintain our strong points and we’ll see how it goes”, said Coninx.
A delighted Periault made all the possible efforts to be racing today in the Relay even bruised after her crash in the individual race, and with a borrowed bike was in charge of doing the first leg for the French team. Le Corre, the overall winner of the European Championships with two gold medals, was also extremely happy with his performance. “I am so pleased to have two golds, I didn’t expect that. I think it was my weekend and I thank my team-mates for helping bring the double for me”, he said.
Also proud of the team effort to get the silver medal was the Queen of the European Championships, Spirig. “It’s just great to win a medal with the team. I am very happy with my race. Everything was perfect,” she said. “We are a great team. Our mentor Nicola was pushing us and she put us in the correct position. Everything was possible and we pushed as hard as we could”, recognized Fridelance, also extremely happy to share the podium with his girlfriend… even in different teams. “It’s very nice and special. It’s only possible in the mixed relay so I was very happy to be on the podium with her and with my Swiss team”, he said
Extremely happy was Valerie Barthelemy (BEL): “I have never had a medal at this level before so to me it’s really an honour, also to team up with these three who all finished top five in the individual races. To race with them and get this result is just beyond my dreams”.
|Results: Elite Men|
|1.||Pierre Le Corre||FRA||01:47:17|
|3.||Marten Van Riel||BEL||01:47:40|
|Results: Mixed Relay|
|1.||Team I France||FRA||01:15:07|
|2.||Team I Switzerland||SUI||01:15:18|
|3.||Team I Belgium||BEL||01:15:29|
|4.||Team I Hungary||HUN||01:16:06|
|5.||Team I Denmark||DEN||01:16:28|
|Results: 16-19 Male AG Sprint|
|Results: 20-24 Male AG Sprint|
|Results: 25-29 Male AG Sprint|
|1.||Niels Grote Beverborg||NED||01:05:04|