The day dawned to perfect conditions at the Challenge Malta which saw Niek Heldoorn (NED) take the win with just 1:02 minutes separating the top three men. In the women’s race, Svenja Thoes (DEU) posted a strong half marathon to reach the top of the podium, both making history as the inaugural winners of this stunning island event.
Igor Kozlovskij (LTU) exited the swim first just one second ahead of Caleb Noble (GBR) and Ognjen Stojanović (SRB) but it was Noble first out of T1 to quickly take the lead on the bike, closely followed by Heldoorn, Stojanović and Kozlovskij. Soon Noble and Heldoorn broke away with neither prepared to give an inch as they led the race. Towards the end of the third lap, Kristian Grue (SWE), who exited the water over three minutes down, caught up with the leaders and over the next 30 or so kilometres, while the positions changed, the time gaps never did. It was clear Challenge Malta was going to be a running race! Noble and Heldoorn covered the first kilometres of the point-to-point run together with Grue on the chase. However, Heldoorn slowly put distance between himself and Noble, taking the win in 3:44:58, Grue ran up into second in 3:45:18 leaving Noble to take third in 3:46:00.
In the women’s race Chantal Sainter (Cummings) was first out of the water, three seconds ahead of Margie Santimaria (ITA) with Thoes over three minutes down. Out onto the five-lap bike course with its 900m of elevation and Sainter showed her strength, maintaining her lead for the duration of the 90km. Meanwhile behind her Thoes was making her way closer, overtaking Santimaria and coming into T2 just 1:34 down on Sainter. When Thoes eventually caught Sainter, they ran side by side for a while along the waterfront but eventually, Thoes’ speed was too much for Sainter and Thoes went on to take the win convincingly in 4:17:17. Sainter followed in second in 4:24:44 with Santimaria rounding out the podium in 5:07:00.