Bart Aernouts finished 4th in Challenge Gran Canaria, his first race of the season. Charging his way through the field after the swim, the Belgian crossed the line in 4:02:32, just missing out on a podium spot. Pablo Gonzalez (SPA; 4:00:25) won the race, Andi Böcherer (GER; 4:00:42) came home in 2nd as Ironman World Champion Patrik Lange (GER; 4:01:17) completed the podium. Unfortunately for Patrik Nilsson, it wasn't his day and he had to withdraw from the race after the 2nd loop of the bike.
Exceptional bike performance
The swim was lead out by Spaniard Pablo Dapena with Patrik and Bart out of the water in the 2nd and 3rd packs. Bart Aernouts exited the water in 13th position, 3’30 behind the leaders.
Early on in the bike leg, Aernouts moved his way up towards the top 10 and kept pushing the pace. Just before the halfway mark, Bart settled for 7th place, 3’ back from the podium places. But Bart was on a mission, nice high cadence with enough power to sail up and over the continuous hills... (62 hills in total)... eventually catching on to the back of the leading pack on the last of the 5 loops.
In the early stages of the half marathon, the BMC-Vifit Sport athlete was running in 5th place, but with less than 6k to go, he made his move to take over 4th place. Bart dug in and left nothing out there to eventually finish with a strong 4th position in 4:02:32.
Looking back at his first race of the season, Bart Aernouts was satisfied with his performance.
“I’m quite happy with the result. Of course it would have been nice to finish on the podium, but the three athletes in front of me were stronger today. During the swim I was on my own and therefore lost too much time in the swim. On the bike, I’m used to riding on my own so that wasn’t a problem. I paced it really well. I wasn’t pushing it too hard the first 2-3 laps, but the last 2 laps I gave everything to catch the big chase group in front of me. I was able to catch them in the final 2k. During the run I felt I wasn’t so strong anymore, but I’m happy with the result.
The bike and run course are very hard here, so it’s not an easy way to start the season. In the first race of the season you don’t know what to expect. But I’m feeling good on the bike. On the swim and run I have some work to do, but I still have time.”
Not the day Patrik had hoped for
"Sometimes you shine, sometimes you don't", Patrik Nilsson analysed after the race. "I am really sad and dissapointed with a DNF today in Challenge Gran Canaria. My weakest part in triathlon has for a long time been my biking. We have worked really hard on this over the winter and especially during my last training block which ended last Sunday. We knew it was a risk to keep the training load that high leading up to the race. And I have to admit, after the result today, it clearly showed I was still tired from all the training. I felt really good the days before the race and had big expectations. But already at the start of the race I felt tired and lacked power. Halfway through the bike I made the decision to withraw and focus on recovering. It is never fun to pull out, but sometimes you need to focus on the bigger picture and goals head."