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Challenge Geraardsbergen 2023 results: Koolhaas and Santimaria win

Menno Koolhaas and Margie Santimaria took the wins at Challenge Geraardsbergen.

Staff Reporter
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Menno Koolhaas and Margie Santimaria took the tape in Belgium at Challenge Geraardsbergen ahead of strong fields as British pre-race favourite Joe Skipper came home in third.

In the men’s race, Ognjen Stojanovic of Serbia put together an epic performance to take a big scalp in beating Skipper, as the PTO World #20 from Norwich continues to struggle to find the form that saw him dominate a number of races last season.

In the women’s event, Emma Bilham of Switzerland finished second, whilst Marta Bernardi of Italy rounded out the podium with a good performance.

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Pro Men

In the men’s field, Dutchman Koolhaas exited with a solid buffer, coming into transition +1:15 ahead of next best Dries Matthys of Belgium, with Ruben Zepuntke of Germany and Anthony Costes of France two strong athletes within two minutes of the front. Ognjen Stojanovic, who finished in second, had no tracking data throughout the race.

Coming out of the water towards the back of the field, Skipper exited in 18th, losing +3:31 to Koolhaas over the 1900m swim and entering transition with little in the way of support to try and bridge back up to the front on the bike, leaving the Brit with a mountain to climb.

Out on the bike, Koolhaas was riding solo off the front until around 35km, when Zepuntke came past and upped the tempo.

By 55km Koolhaas had concede a minute to Zepuntke, with the German extending his lead over the rest of the field, as Tom Vaelen of Belgium moved into third at +2:07 back. By this point, Skipper was +3:55 off the front and almost two minutes off the podium.

Into transition, Zepuntke had two minutes over Koolhaas and over three minutes to Vaelen, as Matthys and Skipper came into T2 in fourth and fifth at +3:12 and +3:58 respectively, with the remainder of the field well adrift.

Out on the run course, things quickly fell to pieces for Zepuntke, with an unstoppable Koolhaas motoring past in the first few kilometres to open up a lead of more than four minutes ahead of Skipper at the 10km mark, with the Brit having moved clear of Jonathan Wayaffe in fourth.

Challenge Geraardsbergen Men's Podium 2023
Photo Credit – Challenge Family

Utterly dominant, Koolhaas ran 1:12:51 to finish more than four minutes clear of second place Stojanovic, with Skipper rounding out the podium in third, +5:53 behind the Dutch winner.

Pro Women

In the women’s race, Santimaria started the race as she meant to go on, exiting the water in the lead, closely followed by Switzerland’s Bilham, who was within ten seconds of the Italian as they set out on the bike course. Behind, Svetlana Ushakova of Cyprus was third, out +1:37 down on the leaders.

Early on in the bike, Santimaria and Bilham traded blows at the front, with the pair inseparable through the 20km mark, with their battle opening up the gap back to the rest of the field. Bernardi tried gamely to bridge across, but the closest she got was within 90 seconds of Bilham.

Santimaria, who broke away from the Swiss athlete at around the halfway mark and from then on quickly established a sizeable lead, entered transition with just under two minutes to Bilham, as her compatriot Bernardi came through T2 at +3:25 down from the front.

Out on the run course, things remained relatively unchanged, as Santimaria ran a strong half marathon to stay away from Bilham, who in turn worked hard to keep Bernardi at bay, with Santimaria eventually taking the tape after a hard fought battle with Bilham in the first half of the race, who finished second, as Bernardi rounded out the podium in third.

Challenge Geraardsbergen 2023 results

Saturday 11 June 2023 – 1.9km / 90km / 21.1km

Pro Men

  • 1. Menno Koolhaas (NED) – 3:55:27
  • 2. Ognjen Stojanovic (SER) – 3:59:35
  • 3. Joe Skipper (GBR) – 4:01:21
  • 4. Jonathan Wayaffe (BEL) – 4:03:22
  • 5. Ruben Zepuntke (GER) – 4:04:15

Pro Women

  • 1. Margie Santimaria (ITA) – 4:32:07
  • 2. Emma Bilham (SUI) – 4:34:28
  • 3. Marta Bernardi (ITA) – 4:39:28
  • 4. Katrien Verstuyft (BEL) – 4:41:06
  • 5. Jana Uderstadt (GER) – 4:42:29
Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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