Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt continued his superb form in Lisbon on Saturday afternoon as he stormed to World Triathlon Cup gold with a typically tough run that left the rest of the field chasing shadows.
It was also a brave showing from Switzerland’s Max Studer, still flying high after helping Switzerland to Olympic Mixed Relay qualification less than 24 hours before and scooping the silver, while Spain’s Genis Grau held off Jonas Schomburg in a phenomenal sprint to the bronze.
“We missed out on the relay podium and that was a big goal, so at least a good individual race followed,” said the modest Blummenfelt afterwards. “I knew Gustav Iden was in the second pack and catching up so just tried to keep control on the bike and stay out of trouble because I know I’m in good run shape at the moment.”
Cool, overcast and blowy conditions greeted the athletes for the World Triathlon Cup Lisbon, on an Olympic distance course that saw 70 men take to the line the day after Belgium had conquered the Mixed Relay. The start area was considerably busier on Saturday, however, and that will have contributed to the tension as a false start called the athletes back from the water.
Away cleanly at the second attempt, it was the familiar sight of Richard Varga (SVK) carving through clear water out ahead with Jamie Riddle (RSA) and Matthew Sharpe (CAN) close by.
As they completed the first swim lap and ran out and back into the choppy waters, the likes of Marten Van Riel (BEL) and Gianluca Pozzatti (ITA), fresh from their exertions the day before, were going well, Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) among the group some 15 seconds back.
It was Jonas Schomburg who eventually led the charge up the sand for the second and final time and into T1, and the German was first out on the bike, still with Varga alongside for company.
Van Riel was at the head of the chase pack just 5 seconds back on the first of eight laps snaking around the coastal roads and they soon swallowed up the front pair.
At this stage, Blummenfelt was 30 seconds off the front alongside the likes of Eli Hemming (USA), Gordon Benson (GBR) and Tom Richard (FRA), but only 45 seconds separated the top 50 athletes and it wasn’t long before a huge train formed, slicing its way through the 40km course that required full concentration.
With such a large group riding together there was no need to take risks, particularly after an unlucky coming together saw Simon Viain (FRA) and Henrik Klemmensen (DEN) crash out of the race.
Gustav Iden took a pull at the front with Delian Stateff (ITA) and Alois Knabl (AUT) also going well as the now 50-strong pack sat in for the final laps, conserving the legs and waiting to see how the run would play out.
Just as he had in Yokohama, Schomburg put the hammer down straight out of T2 to test the legs of those around him, but though it was stretched several times, the elastic never quite broke to the chasing group and Blummenfelt, Studer, Grau and Tom Richard and were soon there with him.
Iden, Crisanto Grajales (MEX), Hemmig and Mario Mola were chasing but unable to make any headway into the lead as those up front kept their pace high.
It was upped yet again at 5km and Richard was dropped, leaving the four together out front looking comfortable at the bell, Richard by now 10 seconds back, Benson Iden and Grajales 27, Mola 35 seconds back and Stateff and Salvisberg nearly a minute off the leaders.
Soon Blummenfelt led another charge that only Studer was able to respond to, then 1km later there was a final devastating burst that proved decisive. The legs were absolutely flying as he hit the final straight, occasionally looking back to check the damage had been done and aeroplane into the tape in a time of 1:42:32
It was Genis Grau who managed to hold off Schomburg at the line to take a hard-earned bronze, Tom Richard, Gordon Benson Crisanto Grajales, Gustav Iden, Marten Van Riel and Mario Mola completing the top ten
“It started well with a good swim to set it up, and then the large group made it a wait for the run,” said Max Studer. “To qualify yesterday and get a silver here after not much racing is great, the support from the training group has been amazing. I have showed the hard work has paid off.”
“I never expected third here in such a quality field, I just had to go full gas at the end against Schomburg and hold on through what was a super long sprint,” said a delighted Genis Grau.