Although the rain and the cold could not stop Nicola Spirig (SUI) from winning her fourth European gold in Kitzbühel, the weather definitely had an impact on the race. While yesterday the water temperature of the Schwarzsee was moderate, it dropped on race day, making these European Championships a wetsuit race.
Straight away, five girls managed to break away in the second swim lap with Sara Vilic (AUT), Alice Betto (ITA), Margit Vanek (HUN), Charlotte Bonin (ITA) and defending champion Rachel Klamer (NED), but Klamer had a challenging transition and lost too much time when mounting the bike and had to let the others go. Vilic also dropped off, leaving three girls in the lead on the bike.
In the chase pack of nine, Spirig and Lisa Perterer (AUT) were working hard to close the gap early on the bike. Halfway through, they managed to catch the three leaders despite pouring rain.
A chase pack of seven was reduced to five due to the cold temperatures, but they managed to narrow the gap at the end of the last bike lap. With Lois Rosindale (GBR) and Sophia Saller (GER) together, two more strong runners were making their way to the front of the race.
The run would decide the winner with Spirig immediately breaking away. The Swiss Olympic champion was racing her first elite international race of the season but she proved to be in good shape, although she suffered from cramps and a stitch going into the last run lap. She couldn’t afford to slow down, with the young German Sophia Saller holding Spirig in her sight throughout the run. Meanwhile, Annamaria Mazzetti (ITA) was running strong in third.
In the last lap, Spirig ran towards her first big win of the season, claiming a fourth European crown after being away from triathlon to become a mom in 2013. Behind her Saller took silver in her first ever Olympic distance elite race and Mazzetti was happy to win her second bronze medal since 2011, after coming fourth last time.
Spirig was thrilled to be back on the highest level.
“It was a great race for me. I had a good swim and was happy to catch the lead girls in the second lap on the bike. I worked hard on the bike today. It was a bit ironic. I was happy to catch up, but then it got so cold that I couldn’t sit back. I was so cold and still had to work to try to keep warm. That made it hard and gave me cramps at the end. Therefore I decided to run as fast as I can. It’s amazing to finish here as the European champion.”