Nicola Spirig Claims 6th European Tri Title
Ahead of the race, defending champion Jessica Learmonth looked set to emulate the success of last year’s European Championships, alongside fellow team GB athletes Beth Potter, Sophie Coldwell, and fellow European Championship gold medallist India Lee in the 2018 Women’s Triathlon.
Strathclyde Country Park, home to Edinburgh University boat club, set the backdrop for the event with 44 athletes competing to take home gold in the multisport race. Athletes from across Europe descended into the central Lowlands of Scotland to compete in the standard Olympic distance event which consists of a 1.5km swim, a 40km cycle, and a 10km run.
Competitors dived into the 18.5-degree waters of the man-made Strathclyde Loch, with Learmonth taking an early lead, known for her consistently fast swim times.
Home fans cheered on the side-lines as Learmonth was first to approach the blue ramp to take on the second lap of the swim. Glaswegian Beth Potter was met with a similar reception as she approached the ramp.
Learmonth started the last leg of the swim with a two-second head start over France’s Cassandre Beaugrand, followed closely by Spaniard Anna Godoy Contreras.
Finishing first in the swim leg of the race, Learmonth tussled with her wetsuit as she tried to maintain a three-second lead over Beaugrand ahead of the cycle leg.
Learmonth and Beaugrand dominated the first lap of the cycle as they battled the steep Scottish hills, with spectators lining the streets to get a glimpse of the athletes.
A collision in the bend of the first lap of the cycle race resulted in several athletes stumbling onto the tarmac including Sara Perez Sala, the Spaniard who placed third in the swim leg of the race emerging with a large graze on her left shoulder.
The second lap on the bike saw Learmonth and Beaugrand level, with Olympic gold medallist Nicola Spirig of Switzerland leaving the chase pack to work as a single unit, as she comfortably moved into third place.
Approaching the last lap veteran triathlete Spirig closed in on Learmonth and Beaugrand and took the lead after closing a forty-three second deficit on the pair.
The final lap saw Beaugrand drop to third place as Spirig pushed up, followed closely by Learmonth who continued to fight for first position.
A smooth changeover to the final running leg of the race allowed Spirig to keep her advantage, while Learmonth grappled with cycling equipment, struggling to make a swift transition to running.
Spirig picked up a few seconds by capitalising on her prompt changeover, marginally aided by being further down the transition area, and managed to keep a gap between her competitors throughout the race. Learmonth maintained second position with Beaugrand, the youngest competitor in the triathlon, holding onto third.
Approaching the finish line, Spirig acknowledged the support of cheering spectators by waving, as she finished with a time of 1:59:13 to take home the gold medal. Learmonth was met with a roaring applause from the home crowd as she took home silver, with a finishing time of 1:59:46, 33 seconds behind Spirig. Beaugrand encountered a standing ovation from the crowd as she bagged the bronze medal with a time of 2:00:58.
Spirig, the oldest competitor of the event, adds the 2018 title to her previous five European Championship titles, just one year after giving birth.
Arguably one of the greatest triathletes the sport has seen, and with no signs of retiring, the Swiss native looks a threat for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics less than two years away. 21-year-old Parisian Beaugrand, who is only in her second season of competing at elite level, also looks to be a favourite for the Olympic games.