Until the very last meter it seemed that Mika Noodt would win the first edition of Challenge Vieux Boucau, but just before the finish Mathis Margirier proved to be the strongest. With only a meter to go and after a thrilling finale, Noodt – who was using his last bit of energy – stumbled and Margirier was crowned the winner. Margirier had to pull off a devastating sprint, making up the last crucial seconds of his deficit already on the red finish carpet.
So, Margirier’s victory was not easy, and the weather conditions – initially a lot of rain and a lot of wind throughout the race – did not make the race any easier. Big favorite Dorian Coninx, who by the way was making his debut on the Middle Distance, came out of the water first after 24:02 minutes, immediately followed by big names like Aaron Royle, Rico Bogen, Alistair Brownlee, Frederic Funk as well as Noodt and Margirier.
Of that group, Brownlee, Margirier and Noodt initially came to ride in the lead, though they were briefly followed by Funk, Bogen and Royle. What had happened to Coninx is unclear at this point, but the fact is that he missed the connection and thus the leading group. About halfway through the bike leg, the first six men came together and that stayed that way until T2.
The athletes and spectators could then get ready for what looked on paper to be a very exciting half marathon, and Noodt immediately took the lead. Seemingly with ease, he ran away from everyone in the first kilometer; IM 70.3 World Champion Bogen was still the best to follow, while Brownlee, Margirier, Royle and Funk had more trouble staying close.
Halfway through the run Noodt was running unruffled, but it was apparent that Bogen was not giving up easily; he was only twenty seconds behind his compatriot, leaving the battle open. Brownlee and Margirier followed side by side at 1:15 minute, while Royle and Funk had already slipped to 2:12 in Royle’s case and 2:51 minute in Funk’s.
In the third of four running laps, however, the race went completely on its side and Brownlee suddenly began to make up time quickly. He pushed away from Margirier and not much later managed to overtake Bogen. With five kilometers to go, Brownlee had gained so much time that he was only twenty seconds behind Noodt and could almost smell victory. That victory was obviously more than welcome, after Brownlee had finished second at Challenge Barcelona and then third at Challenge Mallorca the previous two weeks. Bogen, meanwhile, had slipped further down the field and seemed to be the one in the biggest problems; he came through in fourth place, 48 seconds behind and had also been overtaken by Margirier.
In the final kilometers, a beautiful battle developed between Noodt and Brownlee, with the Brit chasing the leader almost like a man possessed. Shortly behind, the unthinkable happened: Margirier started to accelerate, caught Brownlee and on the red carpet near the finish line he accelerated one more time. That was a shock to Noodt, who was really at his limit and couldn’t accelerate anymore. Seeing over his shoulder that Margirier was coming, he stumbled and fell just one meter before the finish line. Margirier sprinted on full and thus crossed the finish line first.
Margirier won the race in 3:38:10. Noodt still scrambled up and finished second three seconds later. Bogen finished third in 3:39:42.
Brownlee sprained his calf in the final kilometers and came in far behind.