Kristian Hogenhaug and Sarissa de Vries crowned 2021 World Champions in spectacular record-race

In a race in which almost all records were broken – bike records, run records and course records were crushed – Kristian Hogenhaug (DEN) and Sarissa de Vries (NED) have just crowned themselves World Champions Long Distance. The 2021 World Triathlon Long Distance Championships Almere-Amsterdam thus culminated in a more than spectacular edition. Kristian Hogenhaug finished the race after 7:37:46, while De Vries became World Champion after 8:32:05. “No idea what was in the air today, but 40 years of triathlon in Almere gets a great celebration this way.”

At 7:00 am the pro men race started and soon a leading group of seven athletes was formed in the water. Initially it was Spain’s Pablo Gonzalez Dapena who took the lead, but about halfway through things apparently weren’t going fast enough for Jesper Svensson who then took over the lead and picked up the pace some more. The Swedish athlete didn’t give that position away either and eventually returned to land after 47:08 minutes. In the lead group, meanwhile, nothing had changed and so Antony Costes (FRA), Pablo Dapena Gonzalez, Kieran Lindars (GBR), Sam Laidlow (FRA), Alexander Berggren (SWE) and David Mcnamee (GBR) came out of the water at Svensson’s feet.

On the bike a lot happened and it were mainly superbikers Svensson, Hogenhaug and Costes who really kept up a very high pace. After 45 kilometers the three of them were in the lead, followed first by Laidlow and the Czech Lukas Kocar, who had ridden nicely to the front and was at that moment in fifth place at about two minutes behind. Shortly behind Kocar were two big favorites, Gonzalez Dapena but also the American Andrew Starykowicz, who is well-known for his powerful biking skills. Two minutes behind Starykowicz, the Dutch local hero Evert Scheltinga followed in ninth position, at that moment more than four minutes behind the leaders.

Halfway through the bike there were quite a few changes, as Lindars – crashed – and favorite Starykowicz – damaged ear after a suspected kick during the swim – had dropped out for example. At the front, however, Hogenhaug and Svensson continued to set the pace and that pace proved too fast for Costes, who lost connection and came through with a 3:37 minute gap. Behind Costes, Kocar was still riding in no man’s land and also behind him nothing had changed in the group that followed at almost eight minutes. In that group were a number of top Dutch athletes, but also Gonzalez Dapena and Thomas Steger.

In the end, Hogenhaug and Svensson stayed together until the end of the bike, to hang their bikes back after 4:54 (total time), which for both of them meant improving the bike course record, which since 2018 had been held by Cameron Wurf (4:10:49). Hogenhaug now rode 4:03:15 and Svensson was also faster with a time of 4:05:40. They weren’t able to enjoy those records for long, by the way, as Adam Hansen returned in fifth position; the Australian was clearly the fastest athlete on the bike and improved the bike record to 4:02:46.

In the men’s race, an interesting marathon ensued, with Hogenhaug and Svensson running side by side for long periods of time, talking and laughing to each other in the meantime. This did not mean that they were running quietly, because the speed was actually constantly under four minutes per kilometer and with that both men were heading for a considerable course record. After about eighteen kilometers, a first acceleration was placed by Hogenhaug, but Svensson was able to parry it well at first.

After about 30 kilometers, Hogenhaug made his decisive move, accelerating once more and leaving Svensson behind. From that moment on, it was also clear that the course record would be improved and even Jan Frodeno’s world record – 7:35 – seems to be a possibility for a while. Hogenhaug continued to run at a high pace and eventually finished after 7:37:46. “On the bike I felt I was good, but I never expected this. During the run, I was side by side with Jesper for a long time and we talked about everything and anything. Just, nice and fast ticking off the kilometers. This finish time, unbelievable. I was fourth, third, second and now finally first in Almere. This is really a beautiful race.”

Behind Hogenhaug, Svensson finished second in a time of 7:39:26. Brazil’s Reinaldo Colucci was third in a time of 7:45:16. Dutchman Evert Scheltinga finished fourth in a time of 7:49:33; in doing so, he smashed the Dutch record (7:57) that had been held by Jan van der Marel since the 1990s.

Women’s race – Sarissa claimes World Title, Course Record and Dutch Record

In the women’s race, it was Denmark’s Camilla Pedersen who started to dictate the race at the beginning, while the Dutch Sarissa de Vries was the only woman who could follow. Just like in the men’s race, there was a change in this situation in the second lap of 1.9 kilometers of swimming and so it was De Vries who started setting the pace. While the two athletes saw their lead only increase, their position remained unchanged and eventually De Vries climbed out of the water after 53:31 minutes. In her feet Pedersen and then it was almost a three-minute wait before the first pursuer, Elisabetta Curridori (ITA), came ashore. From that moment more ladies followed, including Michelle Vesterby (DEN), Ilona Eversdijk (NED), Manon Genet (FRA), Sarah Crowley (AUS), Seleta Castro  (ESP) and Marta Bernardi (ITA).

During the bike, De Vries and Pedersen stayed together for a while, but it didn’t take long for the Dutchwoman to ride away from the Danish athlete and for De Vries to go solo in the lead. This undoubtedly gave her wings, because after just over forty kilometers she already had over a minute on Pedersen, although in the meantime it were Vesterby and Genet who came closer and at that point were only two minutes behind De Vries. From this point all athletes also turned to the part of the course where they had to deal with head wind, something that was not necessarily to De Vries’s advantage as she was riding totally on her own.

In the first few kilometers with the head wind, De Vries lost some time, but still the Dutch athlete managed to maintain her lead. Halfway through, she came through with a lead of 1:18 minute over Vesterby and Genet, who were still riding together and no doubt felt that they were slowly but surely getting closer. Following in fourth was Crowley, who most likely felt that she was also competing in the European Long Distance Championships at Challenge Roth last weekend, but with a gap of 5:55 minutes still had a fine prospect of a great classification.

That didn’t last long though, because in the following kilometers Crowley suddenly started to lose a lot of time and after 130 kilometers she was in fifth place with a gap of more than ten minutes. At this point De Vries was on fire again and she had extended her lead on Vesterby and Genet back to two minutes.

In the end, De Vries set the fastest bike time when she returned to the transition area first – 4:32:41, a new bike record in Almere – but when Vesterby returned as second, the bike course record was broken again: the Danish clocked 4:30:56, coming back to the transition area only a minute behind De Vries. When starting the marathon, therefore, the battle seemed to unfold primarily between these two women.

But that was not the case, because in the end Vesterby could not match the pace of De Vries, but it was the French Manon Genet who managed to get closer and closer. After about 28 kilometers it became really exciting, when De Vries had to throw up a few times, thereby losing a lot of pace and it was uncertain whether she would be able to continue. Still, she managed to pick herself up, eventually running to victory in a time of 8:32:05. “I just don’t have words for this and I don’t realize it yet. I’m World champion in such a time. It’s really unbelievable.”

Genet became second in a time of 8:34:22. Vesterby became third in a time of 8:38:54.