Challenge Mogán-Gran Canaria provided a tough season kick-off for many race-starved European athletes – a chance to test their own fitness, eye up the competition and put points on the board towards the Collins Cup this August.
Under a scorching 29-degree Canary Islands sun, the day belonged to two Olympic gold medallists. Jan Frodeno (EUR #1) once again proved himself the worthy holder of the world #1 ranking by running away from a strong field to cross the line over a minute clear of Pablo Dapena (EUR #17) and Nick Kastelein (INT #26).
Meanwhile, Nicola Spirig broke away on the bike and put in the day’s fastest run to secure a dominant win by over five minutes, Sarissa de Vries (EUR #40) and Lisa Norden (EUR #18) rounding out the podium.
Jan Frodeno (EUR #1) – 3:41:21 (swim 21:45 / bike 2:05:36 / run 1:10:04)
Pablo Dapena (EUR #17) – 3:42:30 (swim 21:52 / bike 2:05:42 / run 1:10:58)
Nick Kastelein (INT #26) – 3:42:42 (swim 21:48 / bike 2:06:45 / run 1:09:58)
Nicola Spirig – 4:05:52 (swim 23:35 / bike 2:18:28 / run 1:19:31)
Sarissa de Vries (EUR #40) – 4:11:17 (swim 23:38 / bike 2:20:05 / run 1:23:01)
Lisa Norden (EUR #18) – 4:11:43 (swim 24:20 / bike 2:19:26 / run 1:23:23)
Andrea Salvisberg led a string of athletes from the water including Jan Frodeno (EUR #1), Pablo Dapena (EUR #17) and Nick Kastelein (INT #26) with two-time Kona winner Patrick Lange (EUR #29) 46 seconds off the pace.
Frodeno initially took the lead on the bike but it wasn’t long before he was joined by the likes of Dapena and a handful of others hoping to stay on the champ’s wheel.
While Lange chased hard to limit his losses, Kastelein in close proximity, Frodeno loudly aired his frustration at being unable to get away from the group. Blitzing his transition, Frodeno was out of T2 first and wasted no time creating a gap on second place Dapena.
Lange and Kastelein dismounted their bikes with just over a minute to make up, running shoulder to shoulder and quickly moving up the order. By halfway, they were just 10 seconds behind Dapena, Frodeno over 90 seconds up the road.
From there, Lange turned the screws to drop Kastelein and Dapena, but it was a short-lived advantage – the Australian and Spanish athletes managed to re-take the German a couple of kilometres later, Dapena going on to eke out a small lead to Kastelein.
Ahead, the undisputed king of triathlon would be crowned winner once again. Frodeno crossed the tape in 3:41:21 after a 1:10:04 half marathon, collapsing to the ground after giving his all.
That winning run split was bested only by Frodeno’s training partner, Kastelein, but it wasn’t quite enough for the Australian to beat Dapena, who came home in second, 1:09 behind the leader. Kastelein rounded out the podium 12 seconds later, more than 20 seconds clear of Lange.
Frodeno’s continued domination shows the 39-year-old German is far from done. An extraordinary athlete with a true competitor’s mindset, anyone who’s going up against him in the Collins Cup will be aiming for second.
“Aw man what a race!” said Frodeno at the finish line. “What a course – it’s spectacular for sure, but I was on my limit… I was suffering hard today it was a very honest course.”
In a more straightforward affair, the women’s race began with Sara Perez – who shone at Challenge Miami – taking out the swim in 23:25 to gain a slim 10-second lead over Nicola Spirig and Sarissa de Vries while Lisa Norden was 45 seconds behind.
Once out of T2, Spirig showed her biking prowess. On a road bike equipped with tri bars, the Swiss champion powered ahead to an early lead. Behind, Norden chased hard into second place, de Vries sticking close to her wheel.
After the day’s fastest bike split (2:18:28), Spirig got out onto the run with an advantage of 1:40 to de Vries and Norden, the race hers to lose. While de Vries slowly clawed seconds ahead of Norden, Spirig continued to fly, the gap up to over 2:40 by halfway and nearly five minutes as she entered the final kilometre.
Showing she remains one of the fiercest competitors on the circuit, the 39-year-old double Olympic medallist crossed the line in 4:05:52 with the day’s fastest run split of 1:19:31. Second place went to de Vries in 4:11:17, marking her out as one to watch, while Norden’s first outing of the season netted her third in 4:11:43.
While currently un-ranked, Spirig’s continued position as a force to be reckoned with across varying distances will surely have her on the shortlist for a captain’s pick at the Collins Cup this August.