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Challenge Barcelona results 2023: Alistair Brownlee second, Simmonds roars to victory

Second place for Alistair Brownlee on his return to race action

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Alistair Brownlee finished second on his eagerly-awaited return to triathlon action as Youri Keulen claimed a thrilling victory at Challenge Barcelona 2023 on Sunday.

The British great has endured a string of injury setbacks in the past couple of years, and this was his first race since the PTO European Open in May following surgery to remove a bone spur in his ankle.

The 35-year-old was right up there throughout but was unable to drop Keulen on the run, and it was the 25-year-old Girona-based Dutchman who held all the aces as he sprinted clear late in the day for a fine victory after a gripping race.

Imogen Simmonds continued her fine season with another excellent performance to claim victory in the women’s pro race, as she took control on the run to take the tape.

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Pro Men – Keulen too strong for Brownlee

Brownlee exited the water in Catalonia right with Aussie star Aaron Royle, with the pair just behind leader Willy Hirsch of Germany and Ander Noain of Spain. The top 10 were separate by just 24 seconds over what organisers were calling ‘Short Distance’.

The 60km bike leg saw a lead group of five with Brownleee sharing the work at the very front with his rivals. He was first into T2, but only a couple of seconds ahead of Dutchman Youri Keulen with Hirsch right behind. Another German Nils Lorenz was fourth and Royle fifth with just nine seconds separating the group.

Hirsch was first out onto the run course after a rapid transition, but Brownlee’s famed run prowess was soon in evidence as he quickly passed the German to take the lead. Now it was just a question of fitness as the two-time Olympic king worked his way back into race action.

Brownlee built an advantage of around 10 seconds over Keulen and Hirsch, with Royle and Lorenz falling more than a minute behind. Keulen though was proving a very game rival and he bridged up to the British star as they went deep into the final lap. While Keulen took over at the front, Brownlee stuck right to his shoulder and now we were all set for a thrilling finish.

The leaders were literally shoulder to shoulder as they headed into the final stages – who would have the finishing kick to take the tape? Every time Keulen tried to create a gap, Brownlee would respond – would it come down to a sprint finish?

We would get our answer soon enough as Keulen finally succeeded in making a decisive surge in the final 2k and this was one move where Brownlee was unable to respond. Alistair was forced to settle for second place as the Dutchman romped clear to win by 21 seconds with Hirsch claiming the final podium spot.

Pro Women – Simmonds roars to victory

Eventual winner Simmonds was around a minute-and-a-half off the pace exiting the water, with swim stars Lucy Buckingham and Sara Perez Sala right up there at the front.

Sadly Perez Sala would see her day end early with a DNF early on the bike leg, leaving Buckingham at the front, followed by Caroline Pohle of Germany. Simmonds meanwhile swiftly moved up to third place but was still around 50 seconds back as they headed into the final lap of five on a 60km bike course.

It was the final lap on the bike where Swiss star Imogen made her move, turning on the power to bridge up to Lucy at the front of the race as they headed into T2.

Simmonds, who claimed a terrific podium at the IRONMAN 70,3 World Championship in Lahti in August, was now hot favourite to take the win and she took over at the front early on the run, and now it was just a question of the winning margin. Eventually she would take the tape in 2:49:44, well clear of her rivals.

Buckingham was just under three minutes back in second, with Pohle claiming the final podium spot

Challenge Barcelona 2023 results

Sunday October 8, 2023 – 1500m/60km/15km

Pro Men

  • 1. Youri Keulen (NED) – 2:29:15
  • 2. Alistair Brownlee (GBR) – 2:29:36
  • 3. Willy Hirsch (GER) – 2:30:55
Challenge Barcelona 2023 Elite Women podium - Youri Keulen, Alistair Brownlee, Willy Hirsch
Photo Credit: Challenge Family

Pro Women

  • 1. Imogen Simmonds (SUI) – 2:49:44
  • 2. Lucy Buckingham (GBR) – 2:52:38
  • 3. Caroline Pohle (GER) – 2:53:09
Challenge Barcelona 2023 Elite Women podium - Imogen Simmonds, Lucy Buckingham, Caroline Pohle
Photo Credit: Challenge Family
Graham Shaw
Written by
Graham Shaw
Graham has been involved with TRI247 & RUN247 since the summer of 2021. Since then he has provided strategic direction for all news and is passionate about the growth of triathlon as a fan sport.
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