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Jan Frodeno, Nicola Spirig on top at Challenge Gran Canaria

Cream rises to the top in hot racing at Challenge Gran Canaria 2021. Olympic Gold medal winners Jan Frodeno and Nicola Spirig take the honoours

Chief Correspondent
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Olympic champions strike (more) gold in Gran Canaria

(Header image photo credit: activimages – Jacvan / JMitchell)

Form is temporary, class is permanent.

While Jan Frodeno’s results have been flawless since Kona 2017, Nicola Spirig (SUI) had a very rare off day by her incredible standards, when 10th at the PTO 2020 Championship, Challenge Daytona. There was little danger of that being more than a blip.

Saturday’s Challenge Gran Canaria would see the 2008 (Jan Frodeno) and 2012 (Spirig) Olympic champions add another line to their already hall-of-fame level palmarès.

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A winner already this season at Challenge Miami, Frodeno continues to excel and seemingly cement his position as the man to beat now, and increasingly as perhaps the strongest contender for G.O.A.T. status. He seemingly has the ability to look in total control, even if he’s suffering like a dog behind his Oakley sunglasses:

“That was about as tough as it gets. A fine line between soldering on and being reduced to a walk on the last laps the run. Thanks Pieter Heemeryck for sharing some work on the bike and a huge shoutout to Nick Kastelein for showing that he is capable of a podium performance.”

Right in the front group during the swim – as was Great Britain’s Thomas Davis – a group of five formed early on the bike, and remained in close contact during the whole 90km of the four lap course.

That group probably should have been more – and the reason it wasn’t was bad news for Thomas Davis. After a career-best effort at Challenge Daytona, he was ready to finally start 2021, and was in the perfect position before disaster struck:

I’ll not lie, that one was hard to take. Just where I wanted to be, comfortable in the front group out the water, without spending too much energy in the swim. Bike, settled into the top 3, and all of a sudden round a wet corner, half of the pack on the floor… Unfortunately the bike wasn’t ready to carry on, as much as I wanted to!

Plenty of quality in that group, and only Andi Boecherer (GER) was able to bridge up to it over the 90km, leaving two-time IRONMAN World Champion, Patrick Lange, with time to make up at T2, chasing the now leading six athletes. He’s a great runner – but you never want to give Jan Frodeno a head-start, even if the rapidly rising temperature would perhaps suit Lange better, based on his stunning run performances in the Kona lava fields.

While he couldn’t break clear on the bike, Frodeno’s skills are all but bullet-proof, and if that means running to victory, then so be it. He’s got pretty much every base covered, and quickly secured some ‘me’ time, solo at the head of the run.

Patrick Lange was making his move, and into the last third of the run, he was up to second place – but still more than a minute behind Frodo.

That effort would come bike to bite however, and Pablo Dapena Gonzalez (the subject of our Pro Bike feature), Nick Kastelein (AUS) managed to re-take Lange and complete the podium, with Patrick holding on to fourth.

A particular note too for Great Britain’s James Teagle. Eighth place doesn’t necessarily garner big headlines (and as per my preview, it certainly doesn’t earn a prize cheque), but that was a strong performance against a very deep field in a format which is relatively to new, including a few high profile scalps along the way. Nice work James – we’ll keep an eye out on his progress through the year.

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Spain’s Sara Perez Sala made some headlines in March with her performance at Challenge Miami. Not only did she become one of a select group to have held onto the pace of Lucy Charles in a long distance swim, but proved she could bike too, eventually finishing just off the podium.

Given that, Nicola Spirig swimming with her here (in, some might consider, her ‘weakest’ discipline…), was an early sign of what was to come. Perhaps more importantly though, thinking a few months ahead, it makes the prospect of Spirig getting into an early break in Tokyo alongside the likes of Duffy, Zaferes, Learmonth and co. and putting herself in prime position for a third Olympic medal, an even stronger one.

It was game over in terms of the race winner from that point, with Spirig looking more that comfortable and powerful on her road bike, on a course that has little in the way of flat terrain.

The remaining podium positions would prove to be a battle all day between Lisa Norden (SWE) and Sarissa De Vries (NED), which the Dutch athlete would eventually win on the run, to claim second place, just 26 seconds ahead of the London 2012 Olympic silver medallist.

Fourth place would prove to be a solid, if not spectacular day for Katrina Matthews, who – like many athletes – will be pleased to have finally got back on a race course, and no doubt we will see plenty more from here through the season.

“Satisfied with 4th, it was what I had today. Not an outstanding result for me but an excellent field which challenged me and has sparked a fire that needed stoking!”

Anfi Challenge Mogan Gran Canary – Saturday 24th April 2021
1.9km / 90km / 21.1km

PRO MEN

1st – Jan Frodeno (GER) – 3:41:21
2nd – Pablo Dapena Gonzalez (ESP) – 3:42:30
3rd – Nick Kastelein (AUS) – 3:42:42
4th – Patrick Lange (GER) – 3:43:05
5th – Andi Boecherer (GER) – 3:45:36

8th – James Teagle (GBR) – 3:48:23
28th – Will Munday (GBR) – 4:04:24
DNF – Thomas Davis (DNF)

PRO WOMEN

1st – Nicola Spirig (SUI) – 4:05:52
2nd – Sarissa De Vries (NED) – 4:11:17
3rd – Lisa Norden (SWE) – 4:11:43
4th – Katrina Matthews (GBR) – 4:14:06
5th – Judith Corochan Vacquera (ESP) – 4:20:22

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.

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