Almere, 26th August 2006
The friendly City of Almere was host to this year’s European Long Distance Championships over the popular 4km swim 120km bike and 30km run format. With an air temperature matching the water temperature of 30’ the stage was set for a great event with the best of Europe’s long distance athletes battling it out for the title of European Champion.
Under broken cloud and with little wind the early morning sun shone down on the athletes preparing for their day’s work . Last minute checks completed the starter called the athletes down to the beach for the start. The starting pistol was provided by the Dutch Army in the form of a Tank! At exactly 7.00 the Tank’s canon was fired and the male elites raced down the beach into the water in a Le Mans style start to begin the 4km swim. Another loud bang from the Tank five minutes later signalled the start of the women’s race.
The swim had had to be changed in the days running up to the event because of a potential water problem in the harbour area . The changes meant a new diamond shaped swim course and two transition areas. In the men’s race the swim started to take form after the first kilometre or so with Gianpietro de Faveri (Italy) taking up the lead followed by Rene Goehler (Germany) who in turn were followed by a bunch of several athletes lead by Andrej Orlicky (Slovakia). This pattern developed and saw de Faveri come into transition 1st in 48mins 23secondswith Goehler some 30 seconds behind in 49.06 and the bunch of five athletes split by a mere 6 seconds including Bednar (CZE) Bayliss (GBR) and home athlete Looze (Ned) but still headed by Orlicky in49mins 50 seconds.
The athletes then headed out onto the two lap bike course which was flat and fast. Unlike hilly courses a flat course offers no respite, requiring athletes to get onto their tri bars and grind out the miles and to try to minimise their profile to the ever increasing wind.
Out on the bike De Faveri was an early casualty pulling out after lap one but it was obvious from the first lap bike split that Koefoed (DEN) was enjoying the bike course, taking 3 minutes off the lead swimmers in lap one and over 8 minutes by lap two. Bayliss was also showing his strength on the bike as too was Demeulemeester (BEL). It was these three who came back into T2 ahead of the rest with cumulative times of Koefoed 3.45.10, Bayliss 3.48.38 and Demeulemeester 3.48.40.
The two lap run course brought the athletes along the coast to a loop around the park and then back in front of the stands at the harbour side which by this stage were filled with supporters and locals cheering on the athletes.
The run settled down with Koefoed out in the lead but with Bayliss and Demeulemeester working hard together to try and close the gap. The pair took over 1min 30seconds off Koefoed’s lead on lap one and the stage looked set for a very close finish between these three.
Gerrit Schellens was also running well having come off the bike he was providing a great demonstration of his running strength and whilst closing on the front three it looked like there just wouldn’t be enough time to catch the front three.
Even with only 10k to go it looked as if the places were set. However Bayliss and Demeulemeester challenge for the lead suddenly came a case of trying to hold onto their own places as both men particularly Bayliss slowed. Koefoed on the otherhand was putting in a consistent pace and in the last 5k started to pull out an unassailable lead to the fading chasing pair. Although slowing Demeulemeester was the fitter of the two and was able to hold onto his place and take second. Bayliss on the otherhand couldn’t hold off the challenge from Schellens eventually dropping to 6th.
So for the men it was Jens Koefoed (Denmark) who took the title of European Long Distance Champion with Stijn Demeulemeester (Belgium) 2nd and Gerrit Schellens third.
Meanwhile in the Women’s race, the swimming was much closer with no one able to make a real break. It developed into two groups; a lead pack of 7 followed by the rest of the pack. By the end of the 4km swim the lead pack had been thinned down to 5 and was lead out by Manuela Ianesi (ITA) and Eva Novakova (CZE) in 53.30 and Charlotte Kolters (DEN) 16 seconds later in 58.46. The lead pack also included Simone Burli (SUI) and Lisbeth Kristensen (DEN) with only 22 seconds separating 1st and 5th. The larger pack of swimmers exited the water some 4 mins later.
Kristensen had a superb transition and was out on the bike first putting the hammer down and showing her intentions of that Gold Medal. Ianasi and Novakova were soon swallowed up by a chasing Charlotte Kolters (DEN) and Bella Comerford (GBR) and were in turn overtaken by a chasing pack of 7-8 bikes headed up by Rachel Horn (GBR). There was less than 15 seconds between Horn in 4th and Edith Niederfriniger (ITA) in 9th at the end of lap 1. This tight packing continued in lap 2 with 9 or 10 athletes coming into transition together.
However, out on their own the fastest bike splits were posted by Kristensen, Comerford and Kolters but after the bike it was Kristensen 4.10.06, Kolters 4.13.40 and Comerford 4.17.38 who exited transition first.
Comerford clawed back 4 minutes from Kolters and 2 minutes from Kristensen after the first lap of the run taking her into second place and had with 5k to go clawed a further 4 minutes 30 seconds. However closing fast were the fresher legs of the Niederfriniger and Dogana . Kristensen was able to hold off the challenges but Comerford was overtaken and had to settle for fourth with Dogana taking 2nd and Niederfriniger 3rd.
Lisbeth Kristensen (Denmark) was a worthy winner of the title of European Long Distance Champion having lead on the bike and the run. Her time was 6.19.00 followed closely by the Italian pair of Dogana taking silver in 6.20.05 and Niederfriniger Bronze in 6.20.08.
Thanks must go to the organisers and all the people of Almere who were so friendly and welcoming to the European Athletes.
Click here for full results.