The Spanish city of Pontevedra was the backdrop for the 2019 ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships.
40 elite men lined up to battle it out for the world title. Spain’s hero of the sport Javier Gomez established an early lead in the shortened 1.5km swim and was the first man to exit the water, move through transition and head out onto the bike. Defending champion, Pablo Dapena from Spain, was hot on the heels of his fellow Spanish team mate.
Gomez, who made the switch from his road bike when racing in the World Triathlon Series race Bermuda last weekend to the time trial bike in the long distance race in Pontevedra, charged out in front to lead the elite men’s race.
The top ten men were 1-minute-37-seconds down, coming out of transition and on the hunt to chase the leader.
Gomez, riding solo across the long climbs, led the first stage of the bike course, however New Zealand’s Terenzo Bozzone, who was 1-minute-7-seconds down coming out of transition, impressively closed the gap on Gomez and took control of the race.
Silver medallist in 2018, Ruedi Wild was among the chase group, riding 45-seconds down on the leaders.
Bozzone, Gomez, continued to ride to their strengths out on the bike course as they past the halfway point.
With 50-km of the bike course to go, Lukas Kocar from the Czech Republic made a move to go past Gomez, to lead the group of men on the climb.
Bozzone, who put in tremendous effort to close the gap to position himself in the lead, remained in the front group. By the 100km mark, Denmark’s Kristian Hogenhaug caught up to the lead with Gomez and Bozzone riding in front. Dapena was 8-seconds back with Spain’s Albert Moreno Molins, Frenchman Antony Costes, Slovenia’s Jaroslav Kovacic, Frenchman Fraysse and Wild in the chase.
Within the final kilometres of the bike course, Bozzone led the men back through the city and into the final transition of the day. Seven athletes, within 12-seconds of one another, made it into transition. Bozzone, Gomez, Dapena, Molins, Hogenhaug, Gomez, Wild hit the course for a running showdown.
It was at this point that we were asking if the long-distance specialists would settle in to the run quickly or would someone be bold enough to attack and prove a point?
For the first lap of the run course Bozzone, a decorated long distance triathlete and national running champion, was striking in lead.
Charging hard behind the New Zealander was a trio of Spanish athletes, spread out across the course, which included Gomez, Dapena and Molins.
Hogenhaug, who was with the elite men into transition, dropped off the pace in the early stage of the run.
Gomez pushed the pace back into the stadium and spurred on by the cheers of a home crowd, took the lead. Bozzone and Dapena were on the hunt behind.
At the end of the first run lap Gomez was charging with an 18-seconds lead ahead of defending World Champion Dapena. Bozzone was on the hunt and running in third position, 55-seconds back on Gomez.
Gomez dominated all four laps of the run, pushing the pace and being edged on with a home crowd chanting his name as he ran through the streets of Pontevedra.
Dapena looked incredibly strong and held onto second, on the hunt for Gomez but didn’t quote have the leg power. Bozzone lost grip of his striking run set-up and pulled back into seventh position.
Gomez looked incredible as he made his way to the blue carpet and in a powerful and emotional way, took the tape to be crowned 2019 ITU Long Distance World Champion and king of triathlon in Spain.
“It was unbelievable; the crowd was so amazing. It was so hard, especially that last lap on the run and they pushed me all the way and I am so glad I got this one at home. It was a very special day and I am really happy with my performance.
“It was a tough day. I felt good on the bike, it was a good bike course for me, really hard. I had some energy for the run. Everyone started really fast out of transition and I knew we would blow up, lucky I am the last to do so. I am really happy,” said Gomez.
Defending champion and fellow Spaniard Pablo Dapena produced a powerful swim, bike and run combination which enabled him to storm home with the silver medal.
“For everybody supporting, for me I was crying because I never expected a crowd like this. I stopped before the finish to walk and enjoy it. I’ll never forget it in my life,” Dapena said.
On the final stage of the running race it Kovacic attacked with a strike and charged across the finish line to claim bronze.
“I cannot believe that I achieved third place, I knew I was well prepared so tried to stay close o the swim, we closed the gap on the leaders. It came down to the run, amazing performance for me. I am so so happy and excited, over the moon. The crowd here is amazing. Pontevedra will stay in my heart,” said Kovacic.