In a stunning day’s racing that saw fierce and close battles for the podium in both the men’s and women’s races, Kacper Stępniak (POL) and Anne Reischmann (GER) ultimately took top honours at Lotto Challenge Gdańsk in 3:44:25 and 4:12:58.
Men’s race recap
Menno Koolhaas (NED) started his bid for three wins in three weeks well, leading out of the water in 23:37, neck and neck with Stępniak, closely followed by Sergiy Kurochkin (UKR) and Ognjen Stojanovic (SRB). Australia’s Nicholas Free was just seven seconds down and the scene was set for a battle on the fast highway of the Gdańsk bike course. The end of the first of three laps put Stępniak firmly in the lead, chased by Free and Stojanovic. Meanwhile Koolhaas hat trick seemed to be slipping away, losing two minutes in the first lap. By the midway point, Stępniak had further extended his lead to nearly three minutes but Koohaas was back in the game catching back up with Free and Stojanovic. However, Stępniak was no match on the bike for the chasers and he came into to T2 with a 5:14 lead. But it wasn’t going to stay comfortable for him for long. Behind him Bolbat, Koolhaas and Stojanovic were chasing hard and by the end of the first lap had already reduced the lead to 3:44. However the pace proved too much for Koolhaas, leaving Bolbat and Stojanovic in the battle for the podium. By the halfway point, running neck and neck, they had reduced Stępniak’s lead to 2:24 and with 2km to go, it was at just 59 seconds. However, Stępniak held on to take the win in 3:44:25 while Stojanovic outsprinted Bolbat to take second in 3:45:11 by just seven seconds.
“That was tough! The run was so hard!” said Stępniak. “They were getting closer and closer and at the halfway point the gap had already halved. It was very scary but in the second half I ran a little bit faster and I made it!”
Women’s race recap
In the women race, Rosie Weston (GBR) led out of the swim in 25:55 with fellow Brit, Megan McDonald, just five seconds behind with a big gap on third place Marta Łagownik who was 2:09 down. Within the first kilometre showed she meant business and by 16km had put 1:28 into Weston. As she completed the first lap with a 1:55 lead, behind her it was all change with Polish Olympian, Agnieszka Jerzyk moving up into second with Łagownik pushing Weston down into fourth. By the end of the second lap Reischmann, who had been progressing up the field, had taken the lead over McDonald, a position she was never to relinquish. She came off the bike with just under a minute on Jerzyk with McDonald in third 3:23 down. By 8km Kleiser had moved up into third, just under four minutes behind Jerzyk. While Reischmann’s lead was never under threat, Kleiser was running considerably faster than Jerzyk and looked to be challenging for second place. However, she ran out of road and finished in third, just 19 seconds behind Jerzyck who took second in 4:14:32 with Reischmann taking the win in 4:12:58.
“I had a very lonely swim in the middle of the field,” said Reischmann. “On the bike I just tried to catch up and get to the front which was my plan. I came here with the goal to win so I put some pressure on myself. I got to the front but I had to dig really deep. I loved the bike, it was really well organised and I don’t think I have ever seen such a fair pro race with men and women racing together so really well done to the organisation. On the run the first two laps were fine but then I started to break down and it got really hard at the end. The run course is tough, it’s flat but it’s not easy!”