Hidalgo crowned the 2023 continental king at PanAm Games in Chile
A powerful sprint finish crowned Brazil’s Miguel Hidalgo as the 2023 Pan American champion, in a tactical battle that saw the young Brazilian crossing the finish line just inches ahead of USA’s Matthew McElroy and Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales.
The day didn’t start promising for Miguel Hidalgo. Wearing the one on the day, he almost fell on the sand right after the horn that started the race, almost the last one to hit the choppy and cold Pacific Ocean waters. While he was still trying to manage the first few waves, Diego Moya (CHI), Chase MacQueen (USA) and Seth Rider (USA) moved quickly ahead of the pack, and set up a pace that was hard to follow for the rest of the athletes, that started to strecht on a long line.
Behind the leading trio, Tyler Smith (BER) was leading the chasers, but by the time they were out of the water, the difference with the three men ahead of the race was more than 30 seconds. It was Diego Moya who hit the first transition in the first place, welcomed by the loud cheers of hundreds of spectators rooting for the local hero.
Getting out of the wetsuit was not easy for Moya, Rider and MacQueen, but the three of them managed to mount their bikes almost together, and together they went on the six laps of the bike course. Behind them, another American, Matthew McElroy, and Miguel Hidalgo quickly started to organise the chase, and it took them only one lap to get to them.
The group was trying to stay together while up front, a few athletes were attacking trying to break away. First it was Diego Moya, once again cheered by the local crowds. One lap later it was McElroy, just to be catched a few turns later. But with one lap to go, McQueen decided to give it a try again and managed to open a gap that by the time that he hit the second transition, it was almost 40 seconds.
It proved to be not enough, thought, and his efforts were in vain when he was swallowed by Moya, McElroy, Grajales and Hidalgo before the end of the first lap. Rider, Martin Sobey (CAN), Tyler Smith and Gaspar Riveros (CHI) joined the lead group and for almost 5 kilometers, all of them run shoulder to shoulder, with the local crowds going wild every time they passed through transition.
With one lap to go, Hidalgo, Grajales and McElroy made their move and sprinted a bit to get a few meters ahead of the rest, and then it started a technical battle for the ages. For the last 2.5km, the three of them were looking at each other, testing the waters and trying to break away, once at a time, but with no one really opening a gap. It was with the blue carpet on sight, less than 300 meters to go, when Hidalgo looked up and went full gas, to cross the finish line a few inches ahead of McElroy and Grajales.
“This means a lot to me. I watched the Lima Pan American Games and dreamt of racing here, and here I am now. It is funny because Crisanto (Grajales) won that race, and today I managed to outsprint him. This ios my first sprint finish win, I am very pleased with that. I tried to avoid a sprint finish, I tried to break away multiple times but I couldn’t, so I am really glad I managed to deliver this win”, said Hidalgo, who also won at the Brasilia World Cup just two weeks ago.
“I think this was one of the most tactical races i’ve ever done. The sprint finish was also pretty epic, and I have to give it to the crowd, it was fantastic. I can easily say that this was one of the top three triathlons I’ve ever done, and I am so proud to have been able to finish in the podium”, said McElroy, second on the line. “Pan American Games are getting deeper and deeper, finishing second here to Hidalgo, especially when I am not 100% recovered of my back injury, means a lot to me. This shows that I can be there, and I will come to next season probably in the best form of my life”, he explained.
Extremely happy was also Grajales with the bronze medal, the third of his career at the PanAm Games after his wins in Lima and Toronto. “I am very happy. I came here to fight for the gold medal but these young generations are really strong, so I am very happy with third today”, he said.
Another sprint finish for the fourth place saw Sobey finishes just inches ahead of Rider, while Gaspar Riveros, Tyler Smith and Diego Moya rounded the top eight. Manoel Messias (BRA) had the fastest run split of the day, 29:49, but was only able to finish in the 9th place after a disappointing swim that saw him almost two minutes behind the leaders, while Matthew Wright (BAR) finished in the 10th place.
Related Event: 2023 Santiago Pan American Games
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