Weymouth witnessed Long Distance heroics as European titles were awarded


The Weymouth ETU Challenge Long Distance Triathlon European Championships, hosted by Challenge Weymouth, were not short of excitement as the Great Britain Age-Group Team celebrated great success on the Jurassic coastline.

Sunday 13 September witnessed some-150 British Age-Group triathletes battle harsh winds to take on the 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run, all in the hope of collecting an elusive European title.

With relatively clear skies, competitors entered Weymouth Bay’s calm waters at 7:15am to complete the two-lap swim course. Once through T1, they faced a rolling bike circuit passing through Dorset’s picturesque countryside, where the winds began to build. They then embarked on a testing final run leg; four out and back loops along the esplanade before finishing beside Weymouth Pavilion.

Chris Walker (M25-29) clocked the quickest time by an Age-Group athlete to cross the line in 9:13:43 and take his first ETU Long Distance Triathlon title. After leading for much of the way, Chris Whitcombe (M30-34) was narrowly pushed into second overall with his time of 9:15:23.

Walker commented: “I wasn’t expecting that at all. I knew I could have a good race if it all went to plan, but I didn’t know quite how well I would do.

 “I seem to suit the long distance better but it’s been a tough day! We had a nice swim this morning and the first lap on the bike was alright but then the wind really picked up and it was really hard going.

“There’s great camaraderie on the Great Britain Age-Group Team and the support from everyone is great; a great experience”.

The race was into its 11th hour when the first age-group female came into sight of the finish line. Karen Watkins (W40-44) was first home after clocking 11:05:40.

Watkins said: “I’ve never done an iron distance race before so this result came as a surprise. I’m tired now but it’s been great. I loved watching all the team come in and finish”.

Kylie Mansfield (W35-39) wasn’t far behind in 11:11:04 to be second woman over the line.

She commented: “It feels amazing to finish. I kind of felt where I was in the mix coming off the bike and the run is my worst discipline so I really had to dig in. I’ve only raced twice this year so I really wasn’t sure how this was going to go.

“Being part of the team is wonderful. Seeing everyone out there on the course is brilliant. If anyone was considering trying to qualify, I’d tell them to just give it go and you might surprise yourself”.

The elite race proved a further spectacle, with returning ETU medallists and seasoned long distance triathlon professionals lining up to take on the course.
Great Britain’s Stephen Bayliss took the race on from the start. The former ETU Long Distance Triathlon European Championship bronze medallist made his return to competition after suffering from pneumonia in March and began his campaign well, being first out of the water and leading over half way into the bike. With Bayliss not yet back to peak fitness, eventual winner Marek Jaskolka (POL) made his break at around 99km and went on to win in 8:42:32.

Bayliss finished seventh overall in 9:10:32 and sixth in the ETU European Championship race. Fellow Brit, Graeme Stewart crossed the line in fifth with 8:54:04 however wasn’t racing for an ETU title.

The women’s race was equally as unpredictable, won by Camilla Lindholm of Sweden in 9:41:31. Emerging last from the swim, Lindholm used the run to climb her way back up the field to take the title. Returning bronze medallist Vicky Gill of Great Britain went one better this year to claim ETU silver behind Lindholm in 9:41:31. Former Great British Age-Arouper, Kate Comber, finished just ahead of Gill in 9:52:21 however wasn’t part of the ETU Long Distance Triathlon Championship race.

Gill commented: “I really enjoyed it, but it was really tough. The second two laps on the run tested me when the wind picked up but the support from the crowd the whole way round kept me going.

 “I really enjoyed the course; the bike course is really fast and flows really well. It’s got a bit of everything so you never get bored.

 “It always makes you raise your game when it’s a Championship and you’re representing Great Britain. I had my pride on the line so it pushed me that little bit harder”.

Great Britain Age-Group Team Manager, Tim Whitmarsh, commented: “It’s been a very challenging day. It started off with great conditions for the swim, some really fast times. The most impressive swim was Kylie Mansfield, the first age-group woman out of the water overall. The bike got increasingly difficult with the weather conditions; it was getting very windy towards the end. The run has been really well supported by the locals, family and friends, but there’s been no hiding from the wind.

 “Karen Watkins performed outstandingly today to take the overall female Age-Group win. Chris Whitcombe also performed sensationally to come top in the M30-34 category.

 “It’s really hard work but a massive privilege to be GB Age-Group Team Manager. Lots of hard work has gone in by the athletes, which makes my role a lot easier. It’s a long day but I love it - I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t!”

For full (provisional) results of Challenge Weymouth, incorporating the Weymouth ETU Challenge Long Distance Triathlon European Championships, please visit here.

Highlights from the race will be shown on Channel 4 on 26 Sptember, 7am

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