Sebastian Kienle‘s farewell season as a pro looked like it could produce a victory when he led the inaugural Ekoï Challenge Fréjus in France late into the bike section – but a penalty saw him tumble off the podium.
The German triathlon legend, a former IRONMAN World Champion, is taking in a series of ‘bucket list’ races and the chance of a bonus win was very much on the cards on Mediterranean roads, especially as top-ranked Rudy von Berg had elected not to race.
However Kienle’s five-minute penalty saw him drop from first to ninth – though he climbed his way back to finish fourth – as Bart Aernouts, runner-up at the IMWC in Kona in 2018 with a sub-eight hour time, won the men’s race.
Meanwhile the women’s race saw a clear-cut win for South African Magda Nieuwoudt.
Pro Men – Aernouts takes the glory
Ognjen Stojanovic (SRB) was first out the water in 23:26 leading a group of five, with Kienle two minutes down in sixth.
But on the bike things changed rapidly. First Charlie Quin (AUS) moved into the lead but Kienle was closing the gap and worked his way up to second, with Bart Aernout and popular French veteran Cyril Viennot also in close proximity.
But not long after the aid station at 77km Kienle took over at the head of affairs but it was Aernouts who was first into T2 as the German had to serve that penalty.
And try as Kienle might on the run he wasn’t able to make up that ground as Aernouts – with a 1:09 half marathon – saw off Viennot, now in his 40s but with seven long-distance titles to his name, for the win.
Swim leader Stojanovic kept on well for third with Keinle in fourth, just over six minutes behind the winner.
Afterwards Aernouts said: “I’m really happy to finish a race like this, and to win the race. For me it started in the swim, sometimes I really struggle in the swim, especially in the last years but today was good for me.
“On the bike, it was a really hard course and bit longer than other races at 101km and it took out quite a lot of energy from the legs!
“I was together with Sebi the whole bike. He was really strong and really pushing and unfortunately he got a penalty in the beginning, it was not fair but there is nothing you can do.
“It’s bummer as I’d have been really happy to battle with him on the run. I was trying to run really solid from the beginning and not look back too much and it was enough for the win, I’m really happy!”
Pro Women – Nieuwoudt out on her own
In the women’s race, Nieuwoudt underlined her status as favourite with a dominant display.
Sixth at Challenge Roth last year, she did have ground to make up after the swim, trailing local favourite Julie Iemmolo by nearly two minutes.
But Nieuwoudt made her move on the bike and led by over a minute starting the run – a gap which moved in only one direction.
Starting the third of four run laps she was over five minutes clear of French newcomer Aurélia Boulanger, with Iemmolo now in third.
She stopped the clock in 4:46:13 by which point her advantage was just over nine minutes.
And speaking afterwards she said: “It was a bit technical out there so I had to really focus. I liked the four-lap run, it’s the first time I’ve done four laps and it’s a bit different, you just tick them off one by one which was good for the mind – it was just a perfect day.”
Ekoï Challenge Fréjus 2023 Results
Sunday 14 May 2023 – Fréjus, France
1.9km / 101km / 21.1km
- 1. Bart Aernouts (BEL) – 4:06:24
- 2. Cyril Viennot (FRA) – 4:11:04
- 3. Ognjen Stojanovic (SRB) – 4:11:27
- 4. Sebastian Kienle (GER) – 4:12:38
- 5. Kevin Maurel (FRA) – 4:16:40
- 1. Magda Nieuwoudt (RSA) – 4:46:13
- 2. Aurélia Boulanger (FRA) – 4:55:14
- 3. Julie Iemmolo (FRA) – 4:56:17
- 4. Nikita Paskiewiez (FRA) – 4:56:46
- 5. Flora College (FRA) – 5:13:06