By Ben Hammond
During our Australian winter, the triathlon calendar subsides, the weather goes nasty and most of us tend to migrate indoors to our wind trainers. On the other side of the world, the European season begins to take off, attracting more and more triathletes with every year.
One of the premier competitions in Europe is the French Grand Prix Series. It is generally a four or five race series held in some of the most picturesque locations around France. This racing is different to anything experienced in Australia, as athletes compete in teams of five and scoring points based on their result. This competition has great depth, with two divisions in both males and females, with an equivalent version of this series in neighbouring Germany. The competition is fierce and often described as being harder than even a World Cup. All races are staged over the sprint distance of 750m swimming, 20km cycling and a 5km run.
For 2011, there will again be no shortage of Australian’s who have earned their contracts in these teams. The first race in the French Division 1 was held in the French Rivera town of Nice on the 24th of April. Being early in the season, there only consisted a small contingent of Aussies, with Peter Kerr (TOC Cesson) and Ben Allen (Besancon Triathlon) lining up in the male event, while Melanie Sexton (Tri Val de Gray) took to the start line in the women’s race.
In the women’s race, it was an exceptionally close affair with all of the big names including Chilean star Barbara Riveros, New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt and France’s young gun Emmie Charayron dismounting the bike with a small pack of 13 athletes. In a blistering run, these three athletes finished within 4 seconds of each other, with Riveros claiming top honours from Hewitt and Charayron rounding out the podium.
Following the women’s event, 90 men hit the water in what becomes a start which involves more carnage than UFC boxing. The start list read like a who’s who of triathlon, with the Brownlee brothers and Javier Gomez working together for perennial powerhouse team EC Sartrouville. Aiming to take them down include the Paris based Lagadere Racing, including Germany’s Steffen Justus, France’s David Hauss, and Great Britain’s Will Clarke.
The frantic swim was dominated by former swimmer Raoul Shaw from France, with the rest of the pack strung out behind. Australia’s Ben Allen emerged from the water in a great position and rode with the front group which managed to jump off the extremely technical bike course around one minute in front of the enormous chase pack of 60 athletes, including Victorian Institute of Sport athlete Pete Kerr.
Both Brownlee brothers, along with team mate Javier Gomez dominated the run, with Alistair pulling away in the final metres to cross the tape, with Jonathan taking 2nd and Gomez rounding out the podium. Kerr managed a strong run to finish in 29th position, while the pace of the first pack took its toll on Wollongong’s Ben Allen who faded in the run to finish in 51st place. Kerr rated his performance as a â€œpassâ€, and thoroughly enjoyed his first foray into Grand Prix racing stating that â€œOverall I was happy but definitely believe I have better to get out of these races in the next fewâ€.
As a testament to the depth and quality of this form of racing, the first 7 men crossed the line within just 10 seconds of each other, while just the top 10 men boast a combined resume of 5 Olympic appearances, 10 World Titles and 55 World Cup or World Championship Series podiums.
The next event in the French Grand Prix series is to be held in Dunkerque on the 22nd of May
|Barbara Riveros – CHI||Tri Val de Gray||11:33||31:40:00||17:10||1:01:23||1st|
|Andrea Hewitt – NZL||Poissy Triathlon||11:31||31:41:00||17:10||1:01:26||2nd|
|Emmie Charayron – FRA||Lagardere Paris Racing||11:39||31:33:00||17:14||1:01:27||3rd|
|Alistair Brownlee – GBR||EC Sartrouville||10:30||29:01:00||15:15||55:49:00||1st|
|Jonathon Brownlee – GBR||EC Sartrouville||10:31||29:04:00||15:15||55:50:00||2nd|
|Javier Gomez – ESP||EC Sartrouville||10:36||28:55:00||15:16||55:51:00||3rd|
|Peter Kerr – AUS||TOC Cesson||10:59||29:41:00||15:47||57:32:00||29th|
|Ben Allen – AUS||Besancon Triathlon||10:36||28:57:00||17:50||58:23:00||51st|
|Rank||Team||Points||Race Score||Points||Race Score|
|2||Lagadere Paris Racing||2||23||2||23|
|6||St Avertin Sports||6||57||6||57|
|8||Tri Val de Gray||8||78||8||78|
|Rank||Team||Points||Race Score||Points||Race Score|
|2||Lagadere Paris Racing||2||21||2||21|
|4||Les Sables Vendee||4||43||4||43|
|8||St Genevieve des Bois||8||79||8||79|
|9||St Jean de Monts Vendee||9||86||9||86|
|13||Tri Baie de Somme||13||128||13||128|
|15||Tri St Amand Dun||15||167||15||167|
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