Jess Learmonth put in a brave performance in defense of her European title, but was upstaged by Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig in Stratchclyde Park, Glasgow. Spirig, the 2012 Olympic Champion, won her sixth European title at age 36.
Learmonth showed again why she’s considered the best swimmer in global triathlon, exiting the water well ahead of the majority of the field. Spirig was 50 seconds back.
Learmonth rode with Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) for the first three of six laps of the bike, but it was clear that she was doing the majority of the work, and that Spirig was on a mission to catch them. When she did catch them, there was an immediate surge on a hill to drop Beaugrand, who is an outstanding runner.
Learmonth said: “I knew I’d struggle today out front on my own. Nicola was extremely strong and I knew she’d want to get rid of Cassandre. I just knew she’d make the jump, I was ready for it.”
By the time they started the run, Learmonth and Spirig were almost two minutes ahead of Beaugrand, and Spirig made an immediate move out of transition to gain the lead. Learmonth stayed close to her in the initial stages of the 10km hilly course, but Spirig was too strong.
Learmonth added: “That’s a hard course definitely. I struggled at points, but I’m delighted with second. I don’t know if you’ve seen the hill, but it’s pretty brutal, I pretty much was stationary. I tried to hold her, but I couldn’t. Second is fine by me.”
Spirig was delighted to win gold, commenting: “It’s amazing. To be 36 and two times a mum, and still being able to win, I’m just really emotional.”
Beaugrand held on for third and at 21 has an exciting future ahead of her. There was a sprint finish between Claire Michel (BEL) and Laura Lindemann (GER), with Michel just getting to the line in front. Britain’s India Lee finished 21st and Beth Potter was 27th.
Tomorrow sees the men’s individual race featuring Alistair Brownlee, Marc Austin and Barclay Izzard, followed by the Mixed Relay on Saturday. Amateur athletes also take to the course in the Age-Group events on Saturday. Bringing part of the overall Championships together with other sports has been a huge success.