The volcanic island of Gran Canaria was the setting for a return to competitive racing for several European athletes.
Such was the intense heat, Challenge Mogán-Gran Canaria provided a daunting challenge for many stars who had been out of action over the winter.
Jan Frodeno, ranked at #1 for Team Europe ahead of August’s rescheduled Collins Cup, was imperious yet again as he clinched victory in the men’s race, while Nicola Spirig produced a scintillating all-round performance to claim the women’s race.
Surprisingly, Frodeno didn’t register the fastest time for any of the three legs, while Spirig was edged out in the swim before her impressive display ‘on land’.
To highlight the strengths of different athletes across each of the three disciplines, we’ve put together a ‘Dream Relay’ for the both the men’s and women’s races.
Swim: Andrea Salvisberg (21:43)
There was a large contingent exiting the water in close proximity in Gran Canaria, with nine athletes registering sub-22-minute swims.
Eventual race winner Frodeno was amongst the leading group, but it was Switzerland’s Andrea Salvisberg who stopped the clock first.
His time of 21:43 was just two seconds quicker than Frodeno, who was hot on his heels heading into T1.
Bike: Matteo Fontana (2:04:10)
Frodeno then entered into a hard-fought battle with Team Europe #17 Pablo Dapena and Team Internationals #26 Nick Kastelein on the bike leg.
The trio, who were later joined by Team Europe #29 Patrick Lange, jostled for the lead of the race throughout the leg, with Frodeno unable to build a gap to his rivals despite a swift 1:10:04.
The fastest time on the bike came from much further down the field, in the form of Matteo Fontana, who went 1:32 faster than Frodeno to clock a 2:04:10 as he blitzed his way up the standings.
Run: Nick Kastelein (1:09:58)
Frodeno’s sharp transition saw him hit the front at the start of the final leg and begin putting distance between himself and second-placed man Dapena.
Jan romped home as he added yet another title to his ever-growing collection, crossing the line well clear after a 1:10:04 half-marathon.
Further back though, his training partner Nick Kastelein went six seconds quicker in the run as he attempted to overhaul Dapena for second place, an ultimately unsuccessful but admirable effort.
The men’s ‘Dream Relay’ would have finished the race 1:40 ahead of Frodeno, in a total time of 3:39:41.
Swim: Sara Perez (23:25)
The triumphant Spirig was one of three athletes to break the 24:00 barrier for the swim, clocking a 23:35 as she immediately asserted herself at the front of the field.
Team Europe #40 Sarissa de Vries trailed her by three seconds, but it was Spaniard Sara Perez who exited the water first.
The 33-year-old went 10 seconds quicker than Spirig, with the trio roughly a minute clear of the chasing pack.
Bike: Nicola Spirig (2:18:28)
Once on the bike, Nicola produced the sort of dominant performance which has seemingly become second nature during her many years as a professional.
The Swiss athlete raced into an early lead, keeping the likes of de Vries and Team Europe #18 Lisa Norden at bay.
Registering the fastest time for the leg by almost a minute, Spirig was well in control of the race heading into the run – where she would excel once again.
Run: Nicola Spirig (1:19:31)
The 39-year-old was almost a minute quicker than any athlete over the final leg, completing the half-marathon in 1:19:31. She finished 5:25 clear of de Vries in second place as she claimed top step on the podium.
It was yet another magnificent display from Spirig, who was impressive across all three legs, with Perez the only athlete able to better her – albeit narrowly – in any of the disciplines.
The women’s ‘Dream Relay’ would have therefore finished just 10 seconds clear of Nicola, in a time of 4:05:42.