Sunday, 9 June 2013

European Marathon Championships: Saturday's races chronicle

In collaboration with Sportscene

In the Senior C1, current World Champion Antonio Campos (ESP), decided to control the race from the very start, followed by his teammate Manuel Garrido and German Matthias Erbhardt, who fell off the group by the first portage. It was then a head to head race, with the two Spanish paddlers controlling the race with only a difference of around 100m. They maintained this for many kilometres while Erbhardt was caught by Jakub Brezina (CZE), making another head to head race. But this was not going to rival the two frontrunners who knew that being from the same country, they just needed some cooperation to get gold and silver. They continued an easy pace until the fifth lap. With just one and a half laps to go, Antonio Campos pushed really hard and managed to drop Garrido from his wash to make the final part of the race his own and claim gold in a race full of power and determination. Manuel Garrido got silver and Matthias Erbhardt (GER) managed to get the bronze, leaving Brezina off the podium.

eca european championships canoe kayak marathon portugal 2013 sportscene vila de prado verde icfIn the Women’s K1 race, Gwendoline Morel (FRA), a sprint specialist, had a tremendous start but favourites Susanna Cicali (ITA) and Hungarians Edina Csernák and Alexandra Bara, quickly came up to the lead with Lenka Hrochova (CZE) and Jeanette Løvborg (DEN) suffering the second wash. They fell off the group at the first portage, but in the third lap, Cicali quit the race and Hrochova managed to gain the lead, with Løvborg having a solo race less than a minute behind. But at the fifth portage, Løvborg made a nice comeback and closed the gap to just 15 seconds, because Hrochova had problems at the put in and lost some precious metres from the Hungarians.

In the last portage, Bara and Hrochova pushed very hard and Csernák had to watch them run away leaving her in bronze. Just after the last kilometre, both leaders had a very long sprint with gold going to Alexandra Bara (HUN) and silver to Lenka Hrochova (CZE).

The last race of the day was the Senior Men’s K1. There was a good field with world champions and medalists like Iván Alonso (ESP), current world champion: José Ramalho (POR), current European champion; Istvan Salga and Mate Petrovics (HUN); Ben Brown (GBR); Emilio Merchán (ESP); Mathias Hamar (NOR) and Joep van Bakel (NED).

After a great start from Mathias Hamar, Iván Alonso quickly set the pace to avoid problems during the first lap. The front bunch of ten paddlers were soon joined by Merchán and others after a slow start, all trying to avoid a bad first portage. They were Alonso and Merchán who pushed in the run to see who could make the cut behind. Joep van Bakel had a very slow start in the run leaving a gap of about 20m between the top 5 (Alonso, Merchán, Ramalho, Petrovics and Hamar ) and the rest of the field. Important people like Brown and Salga were in the second group, but the Norwegian had problems with the waterpump and started to lose contact arriving at the second portage.
eca european championships canoe kayak marathon portugal 2013 sportscene vila de prado verde icfIt was not the end of his problems (the day before, being one of the favorite U23’s he capsized and quit the race), because in the second portage, when again catching the group, his rudder bent and he had to quit again. The lead group was now four but among the followers Salga didn’t look his best and started to lose seconds, Ben Brown was looking confident and was slowly closing the gap after leaving behind Larsen (DEN) and van Bakel (NED). Brown caught the lead group at the bottom turn, but Emilio Merchán (ESP) fell down to the second group. He tried hard to get back, but he couldn’t and his rudder was bent, so he decided not to risk Sunday’s K2 by spending too much energy in the chase and quit the race after three laps.
From that point, it was clearly a four paddler race: Ramalho (POR), Brown (GBR), Petrovics (HUN) and Alonso (ESP). They realized that the medals were to be for three of them and for the next 15 kms they set a cruising pace until the 6th portage.

There, Ramalho made his move and managed to run away entering the portage with some advantage. Alonso, always a good runner, got him at the put in and both headed downstream with a 20m lead over Brown and Petrovics. But the British Brown, always cool, didn’t panic and planned his comeback. With Petrovics on his wave, he waited until Aonos and Ramalho didn’t look back and he went to the very centre of the river, seizing the stream to push hard managing to get to the front of the race. Finally, after the turn, the four paddlers gathered again, making the last short lap of just 1km a real thrill for the crowd.

Now Alonso and Ramalho ran neck and neck while Petrovics struggled behind and Brown ran out of fuel and fell down to a definite fourth place. Petrovics managed to be just a couple of boat lengths from the leaders for the last kilometre, but paddling on the broken wash didn’t let him participate in the final sprint, which Alonso and Ramalho made very long by starting with still 400m to go. At some point, Ramalho looked like passing Alonso, but the Spaniard was much stronger and was able to claim gold by more than 5m.

Iván Alonso adds this European gold medal to his two golds at the Worlds in 2012. Ramalho again took silver as he did in Rome, and Petrovics took bronze after a very exciting race.

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