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Belgium dominates Mixed Relay Olympic Qualification as Canada is lapped out

Canada misses out on opportunity to automatically qualify for Mixed Team Relay in Tokyo

Photo by: World Triathlon/ Tommy Zaferes

It was a tough day for Team Canada at today’s World Triathlon Mixed Relay Qualification Event, which offered a chance to both qualify a team for the debut of the Mixed Team Relay at this summer’s Olympics, but also a chance to qualify two men and two women in the individual races this summer.

As we reported yesterday, the Canadian team didn’t include some of the regulars we’ve seen representing the team at championship relay events in the past, which left some of the up and coming Canadian stars up against some of the world’s top short-course athletes as teams clamoured to nail down valuable Olympic qualifying spots.

Opening leg stays close … until the run

The race began with a 300 m wetsuit swim and, while things spread out early, shortly after the bike began a group of 10 formed on the bike. Canada’s Emy Legault was 10 seconds back after the swim, but able to get on to the pack. Legault hung on to the back of the lead group through the bike and hit the run with the big group led by Denmark and Italy.

Legault pushed hard on the run, but lost ground to most of the group as Denmark’s Blberte Kjaer-Peadersen and Italy’s Angelica Olmo ran clear of the rest of the field to hand off with a lead of eight seconds over Switzerland. Aiden Longcroft-Harris ended up starting the second leg 44 seconds behind.

Blummenfelt blasts

Switzerland’s Andrea Salvisberg managed to bridge up to Italy’s Gianluca Pazzatti and Denmark’s Emil Holm, with Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, Belgium’s Jelle Geens and Spain’s Fernando Alarza starting the bike about 20 seconds behind. Longcroft-Harris found himself 55 seconds behind the leaders heading onto the bike course, but fared much better than Brazil’s Miguel Hidalgo, who ended up not being able to get out of his wetsuit, which ended the day for the Brazilians.

The three leaders managed to keep the gap to 20 seconds through the first lap of the bike, as the chase group was joined by Alois Knabl from Austria. By the end of the bike the gap was down to 15 seconds as Holm charged out in front. Blummenfelt ran like a man possessed, pushing the pace alongside Geens in the chase, but after the first lap the gap was still 14 seconds. By the end of the second lap, though, the Norwegian had moved his team to a position just four seconds behind the Danes, who had lost a bit of time to the Swiss and Italians.

By the end of the second leg Canada was 3:17 behind the leaders as Longcroft-Harris handed off to Dominika Jamnicky.

Spirig bridges the gap

Italy’s Alice Betto pulled clear to finish the swim seven seconds ahead of Belgium’s Valerie Barthelemy and 13-seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig.¬† Out on the bike Betto was able to hold off the charge from Spirig, Barthelemy and Denmark’s Sif Bendix Madsen through the first lap of the bike, but the rest of the field were being strung out by the fast pace of the leading four teams. Spirig hauled the group up to Betto by the end of the steep hill that added some challenge to each of the 3.5 km bike laps. That set up a group of four who were after the three spots available for the Olympics.

Betto struggled in transition, which lost her some valuable time as Spirig led the women out onto the 1,700 m course. The Swiss gold and silver medalist opened up more time on the rest of the field by the end of the run, and handed off to her countryman Max Studer with a nine-second lead over Belgium (Marten Van Riel), 16-seconds to Denmark (Henrik Kiemmensen) and 17 to Italy (Niccola Azzano). Norway was almost two-minutes back by the end of this leg – even with Gustav Iden anchoring their team it seemed as though they were now out of contention for the podium.

Van Riel laps the Canadians

The Canadian team gallantly pushed on with Martin Sobey hitting the water in 12th, but the young Canadian wasn’t able to get out of the water before Van Riel finished the first lap of the bike, which meant the Canadian team was lapped out of the race

After a stellar swim Van Riel managed to move his way to the front of the race after Studer slipped in transition, heading out to the bike alone. The Belgian rapidly pulled away from Studer and Azzano, enjoying a 27-second advantage after the first lap and a lead of just under a minute by the end of the bike. Meanwhile, Iden was able to bring Norway back to fourth, but was still almost a minute behind the Swiss and Italians, so there was no chance he would be able to run the team to the podium.

Van Riel was so far up that there was no doubt the Belgian team would win the race, leaving things to a sprint finish between Studer and Azzano for the silver medal, which was taken by the Italian. Iden ran the Norwegian team, 1:52 down, with Denmark rounding out the top five, 2:14 down.

For the full results, click here.