Laidlow saw off a stiff challenge from fellow countryman Mathis Margirier to take the win in a sprint finish, with Australian Aaron Royle reaping the rewards of making the breakaway group of four to take the last spot on the podium ahead of Antonio Benito Lopez (ESP) and Patrick Lange (GER).
Laidlow, Lange and Royle will now turn their attention to Ibiza, which will host the PTO European Open in a fortnight’s time. There, the trio will face the best in the world as they look to back up their performances in Gran Canaria with a result on the biggest stage.
Swim – Royle sets the pace early on
Olympian Royle led out of the water after moving up to the front over the second lap of two on the swim. The PTO World #11 showed his prowess in the sea swim to open up a lead over the likes of pre-race favourites Laidlow and Lange.
Over the second lap of the swim, the professional athletes had to work their way through the age group athletes field, which Royle seemed to do most effectively as he made his way to the front.
Behind Royle, the main pack of swimmers including Italian Alessandro Fabian and German Jan Stratmann, were around 20 seconds down, with some of the main contenders such as Laidlow, Lange and Florian Angert (GER) just over 35 seconds off the pace.
Bike – Laidlow builds crucial lead over Lange
Laidlow made an early bid for the front, with the Kona bike course record holder, riding now with Canyon, tipped before the race as one of the athletes who would use the rolling bike course to try and gain an advantage over the best runners in the field, specifically Lange.
At around the halfway mark, however, Laidlow had not managed to make any significant strides away from the rest of the field. The Frenchman, along with Royle, Stratmann, Brit Luke Pollard, Margirier and Aussie Charlie Quin led the race, with Lange seemingly struggling alone with nobody to work with.
For such a large group, the bike course could prove to be tricky to navigate, with the limited race footage showing a host of age group athletes and competitors from the Olympic distance event causing congestion for the professional athletes over the first two laps of the out-and-back bike course.
At the penultimate lap, the front of the race remained unchanged, as Margirier led from Stratmann, Laidlow and Royle. On to the last lap, this quartet were clear by a small margin, but Lange, the most feared runner in the field, remained within striking distance of the podium.
Into transition, the quartet of Margirier, Stratmann, Laidlow and Royle came in together, with the win looking likely to come from this group. Behind, Lange was four minutes behind, a large deficit in most circumstances, but perhaps one that could be overcome by the man who has run a 2:30 marathon off the bike.
Run – Laidlow outsprints Margirier
Out on the run, the leading group quickly shed Stratmann, leaving Laidlow closely shadowed by Royle and Margirier, to push the pace at the front of the race. The leaders, now a trio, seemed to be eager to keep the pace honest.
Behind, Lange seemed to struggle and quickly lost more time to the front of the race, as the two French athletes, Laidlow and Margirier, gapped Royle on the penultimate lap to set up a thrilling finish.
In the end, Laidlow prevailed, as he outsprinted compatriot Margirier to win by just under five seconds. Margirier, who last month finished second at IRONMAN 70.3 Lanzarote, where he also lost out in a sprint finish, raced well in second, with Royle rounding out the podium in third.
Laidlow shared after the race that whilst he didn’t feel at his best in the swim or on the bike, he was pleased to get his first victory over the middle distance ahead of the PTO European Open in Ibiza at the beginning of May.
“It was hard, I felt terrible in the swim and bike, a lot of cramping, I think it’s just a bit of a shock to the system at the start of the season, but I’m really proud of how I dealt with it mentally and I’m really stoked.”
Anfi Challenge Mogán-Gran Canaria 2023 Results
Saturday April 22, 2023 – 1.9km / 90km / 21km
- 1. Sam Laidlow (FRA) – 3:40:27
- 2. Mathis Margirier (FRA) – 3:40:40
- 3. Aaron Royle (AUS) – 3:41:40
- 4. Antonio Benito Lopez (ESP) – 3:42:40
- 5. Patrick Lange (GER) – 3:44:16