Perfect conditions greeted the athletes at OTSO Challenge Salou on a day that delivered stunning racing from Mathis Margirier (FRA) and Grace Thek (AUS) who took the wins under the hot Spanish sun in front of a crowd of thousands on Spain’s Costa Daurada.
The day started with no surprises with Margirier leading out of the water in 23:30, closely followed by Baptiste Neveu (FRA) and Charlie Quin (AUS). The bike was fast and furious with speeds of up to 80 kph reached on the highway with Margirier and David McNamee (GBR) dominating at the front for the full 82km (the course was cut short due to roadworks). Behind them, the chase group of Pablo Dapena (ESP), Neveu and Quinn tried to catch them and despite Quinn really pushing the pace, the leaders’ speed was just too high. Margirier entered into T2 first with McNamee close behind. A hard fall as McNamee entered T2 luckily didn’t result in serious injury and he headed out on Margirier’s heels. However, Margirier was just too strong on the run and continued to extend the lead to take the win in 3:24:23 with McNamee two minutes behind in 3:26:18. Charlie Quin took his first podium of the year in third in 3:29:35.
Just two weeks after winning The Championship, Margirier said he was happy but tired. “I’m really happy but my body is so tired after all the racing in the past month but I’m really happy with the race. The heat was intense and inside of me it was really hard. It’s a lot of training and a lot of work. There were a lot of French and all the other spectators supporting, they really pushed more than if I was alone so thank you to everybody.”
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Rebecca Clarke (NZL) dominated the women’s swim exiting with a nearly two minute lead over Barbara Riveros and Megan McDonald in 24:48, a time that was faster than many of the men, and seventh fastest of the day. She led the bike until the end of the first lap but Thek had been pushing all the way, bringing McDonald with her and they finally caught Clarke when back in Salou for the first time. By the beginning of lap three, it was Clarke back in the lead with Thek hot on her heels, within the 20m drafting regulation, while McDonald had dropped just under a minute back. Clarke and Thek continued to take turns in the lead until T2 with Clarke coming in first and Thek just eight seconds behind. It was here that Thek’s renowned prowess on the run showed. As she passed the crowds in the finish line stadium for the first time, she was already 40 seconds up. Behind them, the battle was for third was commencing with McDonald slowing and Riveros gaining rapidly. Thek’s lead never came under threat as she continued to extend her lead, taking the win in 3:53:53 over four minutes ahead of Clarke with Riveros holding onto third place to take the final spot on the podium in 4:00:48.
Thek said she was delighted with her win. “It was a very classy field today, very competitive and we all finished in a short period of time. You never know what’s going to happen on race day, I went in as favourite but anything can happen so I was thrilled to get across the line in first. I love the course here, the water was beautiful and you could see fish swimming! The bike ride was fun and a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be. I just really enjoyed racing out there today. You never know until you hit that red carpet. I just ran through and felt really comfortable and stoked to take the win!”