Spain's Igor Bellido finds golden touch to win 2021 Junior World title in Quarteira
In the Algarve sunshine on the beachfront of the Portuguese town Quarteira, Spain’s Igor Bellido Mikhailova followed in the footsteps of his idol Mario Mola by winning the World Triathlon Junior world title on Saturday afternoon.
It had been a topsy-turvy race in which bad luck befell three of the leaders and falls broke up the bike field, leaving Bellido flying out of T2 and holding firm all the way to the tape after the impressive Henry Graf (GER) faltered. Behind him, Portugal’s Joao Nuno Batista outran the pack to win silver and follow his 2019 World Champion brother Ricardo onto the prestigious Junior podium, Britain’s Dominic Coy battling to an excellent bronze.
“The race was so hard, there were a lot of good athletes out there,” said Bellido, “but many came down on the bike and we had to be careful and avoid them. I knew I had to go straight out of T2 and that was where I could win it and what I had been training for. I just want to say thanks to my family and coaches and I cannot wait to celebrate this with them.”
Conditions were near-perfect for the 1pm beach start, and it was another Brit, Daniel Dixon, who was going well in the early stages of the 750m one-lap swim. He was joined by Germany’s Graf and the two were carving their way through clear water with USA’s Andrew Schellenberger staying in touch as the field strung right out.
Batista was only a few seconds back out of the water too, but as the powerful Graf put the hammer down straight out of transition, only Schellenberger and Dixon could keep up. The Dutch duo of Jesse Cujpers and Mitch Kolkman were just 10 seconds back, Bellido 20 seconds off the leaders, Coy 40 seconds as the bikers began to try and get organised for the 20km ride.
For a relatively flat bike course, things soon took a major turn out front, however. Graf kept hitting the gas on the small climbs at the end of each lap, and it was on the first that Dixon pushed a little too hard coming out of the descent and came off at speed.
Shaken but not too badly hurt, the Brit could get back on but was suddenly 50 seconds off Graf, Schellenberger now the only man keeping up with him - and comfortable in taking pulls of his own - as Batista took control of the chase pack along with Norway’s Sebastian Wernersen, and Swiss Ben Fah 20 seconds behind.
Graf was looking at ease and in total control, and just as their lead out front was growing, at the end of the second lap it was Schellenberger who lost traction and slid away in similar fashion to Dixon to end his challenge.
That left Graf to take the final 6.5km all alone and eventually coast into transition with a 5km run to go and a massive 35 seconds of daylight behind him. With 23 athletes now all together in their shoes and hunting him down, the drama was still far from over.
Within 750m of starting the run, it was clear that the German was struggling to find his legs and he ground to a near-halt as the Spaniard Bellido was the first to fly past. The likes of Coy, Batista, Alexandre Montez (POR) and Canada’s Leo Roy were soon able to catch and pass the unfortunate Graf too, and from that point another very different race was suddenly on.
In fact, Bellido was in no mood to relinquish such an opportunity and nobody in the chasers had an answer to his burst of speed. He had opened up 20 seconds over Batista, Hampus Mansson (SWE) and Gjalt Panjer (NED) at the halfway mark, and by the time he was back on the long straight home, the occasional nervous look over the shoulder simply showed him that there was nobody close enough to prevent the young Spanish talent from taking the tape and the title with pure delight in Quarteira.
It was indeed the younger Batistsa brother who, spurred on by the crowds, summoned the family spirit once more to take the silver with a brilliant run, Coy holding off Kolkman to win the bronze. Justus Topper (GER) came home in 5th, Panjer came home in 6th followed by Miguel Larramona (ITA), Luca Luberti (SUI), Esteban Basanta Fouz and Andres Prieto Villar (ESP) rounding out the top ten.
“My brother was World Champion in Lausanne two years ago and on the last lap of that run was very complicated but the legs were still there so I am very happy,” said an overwhelmed Joao Batista after the race.
“I knew I could put a good race together today but to be honest I didn’t think I could do that,” said Coy. “It was really tough on the bike and there were some really good guys that went down so I was just focussed on getting to T2. I knew Joao was a really good runner and wanted to stay with him when he kicked and I managed to hold on for bronze.”
Related Event: 2021 World Triathlon Junior Championships Quarteira
|Results: Junior Men|
|1.||Igor Bellido Mikhailova||ESP||00:55:22|
|2.||João Nuno Batista||POR||00:55:39|
Junior World Championships Quarteira ready to put spotlight on rising stars03:12 - 02 Nov, 2021
Portugal's Ricardo Batista takes World Junior title with powerful finale09:06 - 30 Aug, 2019
Beatrice Mallozzi wraps up incredible year with Junior World title in Lausanne08:00 - 30 Aug, 2019