What a two weeks it has been for Great Britain’s Non Stanford. In her final year of professional racing – and possibly the last Olympic distance race of her career – the 2013 World Triathlon champion added the European Championship Munich to her Commonwealth Games Mixed Team Relay silver medal.
Rolling back the years, she ran away from pre-race favourites Cassandre Beagrand, Laura Lindemann and Emma Lombardi for a truly wonderful win in Germany.
Alden leads the way in the water
The stunning surrounds of Munich’s Olympiapark provided a fine setting for the Europe Triathlon (ETU) Championships, enhanced by its position as one of the sports in the wider European Championships Munich 2022 multisports event. The weather came to the party and the crowds were out in force too. Picture perfect it was.
The two-lap swim saw home favourite, Laura Lindemann, heading the field at the end of the first loop, but with Sophie Alden (GBR), Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), Iona Miller (GBR) and Leonie Periault (FRA) among those in close order, no major splits at the end of lap one.
750m further on and it was Sophie Alden leading the way to T1, spearheading a line of athletes which included Lindemann, Beaugrand, Stanford and Melanie Santos (POR) amongst them.. Some top quality athletes there – with some missing too – the opening kilometres of the bike course would be key.
The gr(eight) escape on the bike
Thanks to the efforts of defending champion, Julie Derron (SUI), 13 athletes were together at the end of lap one, including some of the big name favourites – Beaugrand, Lombardi, Lindemann, Lisa Tertsch (GER), Stanford – but Leonie Periualt was notably absent in the chasing group.
No sooner had the first lap been completed, when a crash took out Great Britain’s Sophie Alden, who ended up face-first into the barriers as Maryna Kryk (UKR) came down in front of her on a tight corner. A tough end to her race after such a strong start, and really something out of her control.
That disruption split the front group, which was down to eight at the end of lap two – but more importantly, had extended their lead over the chasers to 26 seconds. Those eight athletes were Beaugrand and Lombardi (France), Lindemann and Tertsch (Germany), Stanford (Great Britain), Miriam Casillas Garcia (Spain), Derron (Switzerland) and Valerie Barthelmy (Belgium).
Two laps further on at the halfway point (20km) it was almost ‘as you were’, the chasers still 20 seconds down on the leading eight. Norway’s Lotte Miller was doing her best to drive the efforts of the chasers on the bike, but would need help from the other 18 athletes in the group if they weren’t to see the race for medals disappear up the road. Nina Eim (GER), Annabel Knoll (GER) and Alberte Kjaer Pedersen (DEN) were doing their bit, but there were also plenty of passengers there not helping the cause.
As the leading eight started their final bike lap, their advantage was 24 seconds. The chasers weren’t out of contention, but with some strong runners ahead, podium chances were going to be difficult.
Onto the final lap however and the leading eight seemed to back off, and the as T2 arrived it was pretty much all back together. Throw away the script, it was game on. And to add another twist, randomly, it started to rain!
Stanford runs to glory
Unlike the almost pan flat bike loop, the run course used some of the natural terrain of the Olympiapark, providing some short, sharp climbs – almost a Roundhay Park ‘light’.
As the run took shape, no surprise that it was Cassandre Beaugrand leading the way, but Emma Lombardi and Laura Lindemann were right on her shoulder at the end of lap one (of four), with Julie Derron, the defending champion, just four seconds back. Off the back of that Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay silver medal, Non Stanford was still in the mix too, seven seconds back on the leading three.
The Welsh athlete had started with a strong swim, remained in that leading group on the bike and midway through lap two she closed the gap, and the leading trio was now a quartet. In her final racing year, this was very impressive from the 2013 World Champion.
Surprisingly perhaps, it was Beaugrand who was showing signs of weakness during that second lap, in particular not looking comfortable at all on the downhills. At her best, clearly the best runner of this lead group – but perhaps not at that brilliant best today? 5km left to find out.
Stanford upped the pace on lap three and we soon answered one question, as Beaugrand was quickly out the back and would not be in medal contention today. The medals would be between Stanford, Lombardi and Lindemann – with 2.5km to determine who would claim which colour.
Working hard on the final uphill, Stanford extended her lead to close on 10 seconds and was showing no signs of fading. She was going all-in for gold – and she was going to get it.
Nine seconds clear at the finish, she could enjoy the blue carpet finish and the huge and loud crowds on site. What a day, what a race, what a performance.
European Championships Munich 2022 Results
Friday 12 August 2022 – 1.5km / 40km / 10km
- 1. Non Stanford (GBR) – 1:52:10
- 2. Laura Lindemann (GER) – 1:52:19
- 3. Emma Lombardi (FRA) – 1:52:22
- 4. Nina Eim (GER) – 1:52:51
- 5. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) – 1:53:05
- 6. Julie Derron (SUI) – 1:53:10
- 7. Miriam Cassilas Garcia (ESP) – 1:53:23
- 8. Alberte Kjaer Pedersen (DEN) – 1:53:32
- 9. Julia Hauser (AUT) – 1:53:41
- 10. Annika Koch (GER) – 1:53:44
- 27. Issy Morris (GBR) – 1:58:08
- 36. Iona Miller (GBR) – 2:00:53
- DNF. Sophie Alden (GBR)