Pontevedra 2016 European Marathon Championships 30/06/16-03/07/16

Report by Dyson Pendle, Team Manager

Athletes

Andy Daniels (Longridge)
Zyggy Chmiel  (Nottingham)
Joe Petersen (Banbury)
Tim Pendle (Norwich)
Lewis Duffield (Chelmsford)
Charlie Smith (Leighton Buzzard)
Peter Wilkes (Chelmsford)
Alex Lane (Longridge)
Freya Peters (Richmond)
James Russell (Chelmsford)
Emma Russell (Chelmsford)
Keith Moule (Chelmsford)
Lizzie Broughton (Richmond)
Fay Lamph (Wey)

Team Manager Dyson Pendle
Jo Bates, Melvin Swallow and Ali Pendle (Dyson and Ali driving)

Venue: Pontevedra has a tidal estuary, which is why there was a 4 day programme to allow suffient water for all the races. A starting net was used for the first time which had consequences if you tried to push the start or were next to someone who did!! There seemed to be some advantage to starting on the left as it was the shortest route to the first bend and also less in the flow. It was more or less an open access course with the only instuction to keep right through specified arches on one of the old bridges. Apart from that you could go where you liked on the course as long as you did the required portages and turns.This made for interesting racing as with the tide constantly changing the groups could and did take different lines against the flow.

Junior boys K1

First off for our team were the junior boys Charlie Smith and Joe Petersen on Thursday morning. Charlie had a good start, leading for the first 750m, Joe back in the main group about 10th. At the first turn, Charlie was with the leading group but was spun and ended up in the bank. He quickly recovered but by then was in the third group. The leading 3 boats, Hungary, Portugal and Germany took advantage of the situation and opened a gap. Charlie jumped from group to group, eventually joining the chasers in the 2nd group. By the first portage there was a gap of 45s between the leaders and the 2nd group. Charlie led the chasers out of the portage and then away on his own tried hard to close down on the leaders for a lap. He eventually resigned himself to rejoining the 2nd group and led this group into the finish to secure 4th place, 2min behind the winners. Joe paddled exceptionally well in the chasing groups and finished 9th, 45s behind Charlie. This was the first time these boys have raced at this level.

Women’s U23

Alex made an excellent start straight into the front group of 8 paddlers which stayed together for the first lap. At the 2nd turn a split formed and 2 groups of 4 established with Alex in the 2nd group and 2 Hungarians, Spain and Denmark in the leading group. The 2 Hungarian boats eventually got away on their own leaving Denmark and Spain to fight it out for Bronze. The Spanish girl led the Danish into the last portage but fell in whilst getting in her boat allowing the Dane to take the Bronze without a contested finish. Alex portaged strongly throughout the race and finished in 6th place in her 9th ever K1 race!!!

Junior Girls K2

Our girls had an excellent start, making the front group of 4 with Hungary, Belgium and Denmark. Finding the pace just a bit too fast, they slipped off on the 2nd lap leaving the others to fight it out for the medals, and dropped back to join the chasers.They continued to race well, keeping out of trouble and finished strongly to secure 6th place, 3min down on the winner. Bearing in mind that Freya is U15 and Emma U16, this boat shows great potential and it has plenty of time to develop into a medal winning team.

Men’s U23

Lewis Duffield and Ziggy Chmiel. A very fast start saw both lads towards the front, Ziggy was in the v-wash of the front 4 when he was turned and fell in. He lost about 3min to get to the bank, empty his boat and get back in. He carried on and gradually clawed his way back through the field, eventually joining the chasing group that Lewis was in. Lewis had been with the leading group of 7 to the first turn, then he and 1 other dropped off here. He found it very hard at the front of the race and eventually settled in a group of chasers half way down the field. Ziggy caught back to 9th place and finished 5min behind the winners, Lewis in 10th, 10 sec behind Ziggy.

Senior Women’s K1

With Renata back and looking to be number 1 again after being beaten last year in the world championships at Gyor, this was always going to be a hard race. It turned out to be just that!!

Anna Koziskova (Czech) got away with the 2 Hungarians (Renata and Vanda who had won the U23 women the day before), but she was given a hard time by the Hungarians and was dropped after the second portage. Lizzy, in the 2nd group was also in good company, Cicali (Italy) and Broekx (Belgium) but got the better of them and held Cicali off in a sprint for 4th place. I can’t imagine that at the World Championships there will be any better women there than the top 6 that finished here.

Senior Men’s K1

Keith was lined up next to one of the Portugese who tried to jump the start but got caught in the net and fell in. Unluckily for Keith the capsized boat stopped the net from going down completely so his boat was held back by the top wire so he was unable to move, had to back paddle a couple of strokes and then could go. Although delayed by only a few seconds, the damage was done and Keith found himself at the back of the field. The race was quickly down to 4 boats, Spain (Merchan), Portugal (Ramalho), Hungary (Boros) and France (Boulanger). Merchan worked hard with the group to keep the 2nd Spanish boat (Alonso) from catching them. Eventually Boulanger dropped and the front group was down to 3. Alonso kept trying to catch the leaders trying different routes upstream to try to gain some time but never made it. Ramalho won in Hank McGregor style, Merchan 2nd and Boros 3rd. Keith finished 12th, 3.40 down.

Senior Women’s K2

This race was close to a world championship field with all the main contenders from the 2015 Gyor World championships. Off the start a large group formed to the top turn. Inevitably the group squeezed and Renata and Vanda (Hungary) came off best and broke away clear, leaving the rest to chase. Fay and Lizzie formed a group with Italy and Czech but they could make no impression on the Hungarians who had a lead of a minute or so. The race stayed more or less the same throughout. Most encouraging for Fay and Lizzie is that whenever there was a problem, such as being late out of a portage or blocked on the turn, either by experience or by being able to turn on some extra speed, they could get back to the other 2 boats. At the last portage the Italians errored and dropped the boat on the run, giving the other 2 the advantage. Fay and Lizzie led it to the line but were unable to hold off the Czechs. They were very pleased with their result and performance. Hungary, gold, Czech, silver and GB, bronze.

Senior Men’s K2

A unfortunate start for the Hungarian boat (Boros/ Meszaros) left them swimming for the bank after just 250m. It took them 2min to get back in their boat and start to chase. The race strung out quickly with a front group of 3 boats establishing early on ( Spain, Spain and France). The Spanish worked on the French until they were broken (3 laps). The French then went into free fall through all the chasing groups, eventually the guy in the back collapsed at the 6th portage and needed medical attention! Total Committment!!!

Our boys, Tim and Andy had a reasonable start but not as blistering as we have seen in their previous races. For James and Peter, it was their first international racing together and Peter’s first race at this level. For James it was a step up from Junior racing last year. They coped well with the group work and portages but lacked speed on the main field.

Tim and Andy found themselves in the middle of the field where groups were changing constantly and then eventually led in their group of 2 Italians and a Beligium boat with a impressive sprint to the line to gain 10th place.

James and Peter had a stroke of luck when the capsized Hungarian boat caught them and they were able to stick with them until the last lap and finished in 16th place.

The 2 leading Spanish boats worked together and took gold and silver, the rest were left to fight it out for bronze, eventually taken by the Danes.

With the athletes coming from a number of different clubs, it was good to see that the team worked and supported each other well. The event was held over 4 days, so for this reason we decided to fly out the juniors and U23’s first with the seniors joining later. The juniors/U23’s then flew back on Saturday once they had finished their races.This made the trip much more cost effective and allowed the MRC to send the 14 athletes they wanted. We had 6 athletes that had never raced at a major marathon event before and now realise the level that is required to gain medals at these competitions. They return inspired and keen to train to the make these next steps up. Everyone enjoyed the town of Pontevedra, the technical course and the novelty of having some sunshine!! We liked the fact that that it was a short walk, both to the course or the city centre from the hotel. One thing the organisation got spot on was a free refreshments tent for the athletes and team staff, supplying a variety of drinks and snacks, including water, fruits, nuts, little sandwiches etc. This was available all day and even on training days and was in addition to the lunches that were included in the registration fee.

Finally a thanks to all the staff who have given up their time to help. Dyson.