Aurelien Raphael claimed a fine victory at Arena Games Munich 2022 on Saturday as big guns Alex Yee and Marten Van Riel both finished way off the pace.
Yee was only sixth while Van Riel finished last of the eight-man field as the French star Raphael produced one final surge on the Stage 3 run to claim the win.
Aussie Max Stapley took second spot while Germany’s Justus Nieschlag delighted the home crowd by taking third.
Stage 1: Yee off the pace
Raphael blasted out on the opening swim and quickly set a blistering pace. He had American Chase McQueen and Aussie Max Stapley close behind and it was McQueen who led into T1. Meanwhile the big guns Van Riel and Yee were sixth and eighth – three and seven seconds back respectively. It might have been the very first element but it was to prove critical and a sign of things to come.
As they set off the opening bike Yee was off the back, around five seconds away from the lead group of seven. But of course in theory he had that blistering run still in his locker. Proof of the work Yee was having to put in? How about a 180 heart rate compared to 144 for Van Riel at this stage.
Halfway through the opening bike Yee was still around four seconds back, while ahead of him that group of seven continued to share the work. The British Olympic silver and gold medallist was clearly feeling the pace as the gap grew to more than six seconds – and it was more than 10 as the lead group headed into T2. Could Yee run them down?
Up front Raphael moved to the head of affairs and he produced a fine run to end Stage 1 with a lead of 1.5 seconds over Van Riel with Stapley just under five seconds back in third. Yee was more than 11 seconds away, still in last place. Gordon Benson meanwhile had a technical – his avatar did not pick up – so he was given the same time as Yee as they moved on to Stage 2.
Stage 2: Van Riel falls away
Benson and Yee were the men who started Stage 2 with the biggest incentive to go off fast in the run. And it was Alex and Stapley who headed into T1 in front, but not by much with the front seven all within 2.5 seconds of each other and only Justus Nieschlag further back.
The big surprise early in the bike as Nieschlag moved towards the front was Van Riel being totally dropped by the leaders. He was almost 10 seconds off the pace by the time they passed the 1k mark. Up front the tempo was blistering and the Belgian was struggling to live with it. Despite working hard and losing time, his heart rate was still a ridiculously low 142!
As the field headed for the final 1k of the bike leg, Van Riel was 15 seconds off the pace while the front seven were separated by less than a second. The Belgian was cutting a very lonely figure. He was dead last and 22 seconds back as he entered the pool.
While Van Riel continued to toil it was home favourite Nieschlag delighting the Munich crowd as he surged ahead in the swim to win Stage 2 from McQueen, Stapley and Raphael. Yee was five seconds behind.
The net result for the overall standings saw Raphael lead the field going into Stage 3 by three seconds from Stapley, with McQueen and Nieschlag right there in third and fourth. Yee was sixth and had 13 seconds to make up to take the win. Van Riel looked out of it, some 27 seconds behind Raphael.
Stage 3: Raphael comes on strong
Raphael again blasted off in the swim and he held his advantage throughout to head out of the pool and onto the bike first. Stapley, McQueen and Nieschlag were all within three seconds of the leader. Yee was 17 seconds away.
Early into the bike and Raphael was joined by those three chasers to form a front pack of four, and Italian Gianluca Pozzatti soon made it five. Yee was struggling to make inroads into that big deficit, while Van Riel soon caught the Brit. The pre-event favourites were sixth and seventh.
The scene was now set for an epic finish with that lead group of five all heading for the treadmills pretty much together, but Raphael on paper looked favourite at this stage. The home fans were going crazy as Nieschlag was first onto the treadmill. Yee and Van Riel were almost 30 seconds away with their victory hopes gone.
Raphael and Nieschlag were literally neck and neck early in the run before the Frenchman started to inject extra pace and quickly dropped the home hope. By the 500m mark the lead for Raphael over Stapley was around two seconds.
The further they went, the larger the lead became for Raphael as Stapley desperately tried to cut into that advantage. All to no avail though as the Frenchman came home in front to claim a terrific win. Stapley hung on for second while Nieschlag delighted the home crowd by taking the final spot on the podium. Yee was a distant sixth with Van Riel dead last.
Arena Games Munich Results
Final, Men: Saturday April 9, 2022
- 1. Aurelien Raphael (FRA)
- 2. Max Stapley (AUS) +1.2
- 3. Justus Nieschlag (GER) +5.3
- 4. Gianluca Pozzatti (ITA) +10.6
- 5. Chase McQueen (USA) +13.9
- 6. Alex Yee (GBR) +27.3
- 7. Gordon Benson (GBR) +37.4
- 8. Marten Van Riel (BEL) +44.2