The 2019 running of 70.3 Barcelona was hosted on the beautiful white sandy beaches of Calella over the weekend, with strong fields in both the male and female professional races. Zone3 athletes Bart Aernouts and Fenella Langridge were both looking to improve on their podium performances from last year, having come 2nd and 3rd respectively in 2018. Bart Aernouts described the bike leg of 70.3 Barcelona by saying “If I could design my favourite bike course, it would be very close to Barcelona 70.3’s course”
Pre-race favourites in the female field were Anja Ippach (GER), known for her biking strength which would come into play over the 3 main climbs of the race, the super swimmer Fenella Langridge (GBR) and Laura Siddall who was coming off her recent victory at IRONMAN Australia.
Fenella’s build-up for this event was far from ideal, having crashed on a descent in 70.3 Pays d’Aix just last weekend. This accident saw her needing medical attention, including 5 stitches in her right elbow. The entire week before the race, she’d had to avoid swimming in order to try and let her wounds heal. Regardless, she was still 1st out of the swim in a time of 26:08 with Anja Ippach (GER) for company. Fenella told us “I saw Anja was on my feet at one of the turn buoys, and I know how strong she is on the bike. I tried to put in an effort in order to drop her from my draft, but didn’t want to push too hard and put the rest of my race in jeopardy” They ended up having a 2-minute gap over their nearest rivals by the end of the swim leg.
During the early part of the bike, Langridge and Ippach stuck together, until about halfway through the leg. On a technical descent, Fenella lost a bit of time compared to Anja. She told us “I was being quite cautious on the descents, perhaps I was a bit nervous after the crash from last week and was riding sensibly.” This gap from the descent ended up growing to an almost 2-minute lead into T2. With a fast transition, Fenella had brought this gap to under 90 seconds, and with a fast first kilometre was back within touching distance. “As I caught Anja, I thought ‘don’t do anything silly keep running strong and focus on taking on water and gels.’ It wasn’t until the final 1km that it dawned on me that I was going to win, my 2nd ever 70.3 Victory. I’m so happy! I knew I had it in me but after the crash, you just never know.”
Ippach was eventually caught on the run by Sara van der Vel (BEL) and Gabriella Zelinka (HUN) who rounded out the podium in second and third respectively.
Within the men’s field, the pre-race expectations were mainly focused on Bart Aernouts (BEL) and David McNamee (GBR), both athletes who featured on the podium of the IRONMAN World Championships from 2018. Anthony Costes (FRA) was also likely to feature towards the front of the race with his usual aggressive racing.
The front pack of the swim was incredibly quick, with the group exiting the water in just over 23 minutes. McNamee was in this pack, along with Elliot Smales (GBR) who in his second year of professional racing won 3 70.3 events in 2018. Bart Aernouts exited the water over 4 minutes in arrears and would look to put his blistering bike and run to use to work through the field. He told us “It might have been the cold Mediterranean Sea or just a lack of power, but I didn’t have a good start and never felt better throughout the rest of the swim. However, I always try to focus on the positive things during a race and in this case, I’ve never been more comfortable in a wetsuit before. I absolutely love the new Zone3 Vanquish suit.”
The bike leg was aggressive, and the swim packs broke up quickly. Nicolas Dougall (RSA) moved to the front of the field, with McNamee close behind for much of the race. By halfway on the bike, it looked as though Aernouts would bridge up to the leaders, but the gap eventually settled at around 3 minutes deficit, perhaps the Belgian was saving his legs to unleash his superb run? With a gap of 30 seconds to McNamee, there was set to be a showdown over the third and final leg of the race.
By 8km into the run, McNamee had caught Dougall and taken the lead, holding the gap back to Aernouts at 40 seconds. But the Belgian continued to push hard on the run and told us “About halfway into the run I started to feel very strong and was closing down the gap on David, who was in the lead at that time” He eventually breached this gap by 16km, with just 5km left in the race. As he caught and passed McNamee for the lead, he cranked up into another gear and pulled clear, eventually reaching the tape 90 seconds clear of McNamee in second. With the fastest run split of the day (a 1:12!), Bart was elated with his victory.
“A last sprint during the final kilometres was enough to have a comfortable lead and to really enjoy my win. It’s been a while since my last win on a Half Distance and it feels great to be on the top spot again.
All photos were taken by Activ Images.