Nicola Spirig won an enthralling and captivating race to become European Champion for a third time.
See the complete press release below:
Spirig, who also won in 2009 and 2010, was involved in a titanic tussle with Ainhoa Murua (ESP), who pushed the Swiss athlete all the way before Spirig eventually pulled clear in the last few hundred meters.
Defending Champion Emmie Charayron finished third to complete the podium.
In a scintillating start to the race, Lucy Hall (GBR) broke clear immediately at the end of the swim. It was a gutsy strategy from the young Brit, who only made the step up to elite level competition this year.
However, not only did she lead after one lap but she extended her lead during the second and exited the water with an impressive lead.
Abby Torrington (GBR) followed in second and was joined by Ana Knapp (GER) and Irina Absolve (RUS) in getting out of the water first before the remaining pack emerged.
Hall, not surprisingly, left T1 in the lead but Jess Harrison (FRA), Nicola Spirig (SUI) and Emmie Charayron (FRA) made up time in transition and followed suit. By the end of the first lap these leading athletes had been joined in a condensed front group which included Camilla Pedersen (DEN), Heller Frederickson (DEN), Vanessa Raw (GBR), Ainhoa Murua (ESP), Vendula Frintova (CZE).
Thorrington crashed out but this first group of 11 athletes stayed together out in front for the entire bike ride. The actual lead changed hands several times but, together as a group, they managed to increase their lead over the chasing pack.
After three laps it was a minute and by the end of the sixth lap and heading into T2 this front group had a lead of nearly two minutes over the chase pack.
The chasing pack of about nine athletes, including Katrien Verstufyt (BEL) and Alexandria Razarenova (RUS), just couldn’t make up any ground on the leaders.
It was Jess Harrison who led this opening pack out of T2 and onto the final 10K run, Spirig lost a bike shoe on entering transition but recovered to exit in third place, behind Murua and ahead of Frederiksen.
By the end of the first lap, the leading pack had been shortened to four – Spirig, Murua, Harrison and Charayron – would battle it out on their own for the final podium positions.
In an incredible finale to the race, on the second lap of the run Spirig and Murua broke clear and left clear daylight between themselves and Charayron in third. Neither athlete would give an inch as Spirig and Murua remained side by side into the final lap.
It was only in the final few hundred meters that Spirig found an extra gear from somewhere and as she turned the last corner onto the finishing straight, the European Championship title was hers for a third time.
The Swiss star said: “I’m extremely happy, it’s a dream come true and I’m speechless, it’s amazing.
“I had a good swim, it was hard but I had a good swim. A long run into transition was an advantage for me so I was almost at the front of the pack. The bike was great for me because I didn’t have to do a lot of work on the bike, I was pushing on the hill, but I didn’t do a lot of work otherwise and I could recover.
“I felt good on the run. My training has been going amazing and that’s how it should feel in a race and I’m just extremely happy.
“It was same sprint with Murua last week in Sydney and I won, but we were discussing that and I told her that I am good in a sprint and I will beat you every time. She knew she had to get rid of me before and the closer we got to the finish line, the more nervous she became.
“I knew training was going well, but it was great to be able to show it in a race and I’m on the right track I think.”
Murua had to settle for second but the positive Spaniard said: “I knew that Nicola, she has a very strong final run. I tried to go hard, on the last lap, pushing and pushing hard but I couldn’t get past.
“But after two years of finishing 4th, today I’m second and it has been a really nice race and I’m very happy.”
Defending Champion Emmie Charayron finished third and she said: “I felt tired because it is my first race of the season but I am very pleased because my swim was perfect. I didn’t ride very much in winter so I felt good on the bike. My run was a little out but this was not my goal for the season
“I couldn’t defend my title because I am not fit enough. But to finish behind Nicola and Ainhoa, it’s a very good race and I’m very pleased.”