T100 San Francisco: stunning win for sprinting Marten van Riel

Marten van Riel wins PTO T100 San Francisco (Picture: Triathlon Today)

In a race that was on the one hand beautiful – the final stretch was sizzlingly exciting with three men heading side by side toward the finish line – but on the other hand heavily disappointing – there was massive drafting which marred the PTO T100 in San Francisco immensely – the finish became one to not forget very soon. It was Marten van Riel who claimed victory after a blistering final sprint with Kyle Smith and Rico Bogen.

During the swim, the first remarkable thing happened immediately: despite the fact that the distance was supposed to be two kilometers, the fastest athletes returned to land after only 14 minutes. Of course, the water around Alcatraz is known for its strong current and this was also clearly visible on the livestream, but even if the current was constantly from behind, such a fast time seems almost impossible. Anyway; whether the swim was two kilometers or a little less, in any case it was Ben Kanute who was the first to head for his bike. Rico Bogen followed immediately and at ten seconds it was Mika Noodt, Marten van Riel, Javier Gomez, Aaron Royle, Rudy von Berg, Clement Mignon, Kyle Smith and Alistair Brownlee, among others, who followed.

In a wet and windy San Francisco, the cycling part of the race will be talked about for a long time to come. Not in a positive way, however, because there was so much drafting that even commentator Jan Frodeno expressed his surprise. Almost everyone – with a few exceptions – was riding in each other’s wheel and the jury, if there was one, didn’t seem to do anything about it. Regardless, it made for a disconcerting picture that has absolutely no place in races of this caliber.

In the first kilometers on the bike, it was Marten van Riel, Kyle Smith and Rico Bogen who managed to break away from the other men and grab a 30-second lead. This stayed that way for an incredibly long time, until in the closing stages Mathis Margirier, Clement Mignon, Sam Long, Rudy von Berg, Mika Noodt and Magnus Ditlev also joined in. These nine men turned with a considerable lead over the first pursuers towards the 18 kilometers of running and thus already seemed almost certainly the athletes who could make a claim to the podium.

From T2 it was Smith who led the pace and he did so strongly that he immediately managed to grab a gap of about fifteen to twenty seconds. After two kilometers, things looked good for the New Zealander, who won The Championship last month, but at an aid station he made the mistake of throwing his trash on the ground too late. Fearing a penalty, he stopped and turned around to properly dispose of his waste after all, but that caused Van Riel, who was running second, to join him. Shortly behind the leading duo, Bogen followed and things got really exciting when he too joined the front and, with about 11 kilometers to go, there were three leaders running side by side. Behind them, with Noodt, Ditlev and Margirier, another trio was also running together, but that was over a minute behind the leaders.

This situation remained that way until the very last kilometers, with the three leaders continuing to run side by side at a high pace, occasionally looking at each other to check up on each other. As the finish line approached, the tension grew and the finale became more and more interesting. With a few hundred meters to go, it was Bogen who accelerated first, but he actually did so just too early, allowing his two opponents to join him in his wake. Then it was Smith who placed an additional acceleration, but on top of that again Van Riel came out on top after a magisterial acceleration.

Van Riel won the race in a time of 3:18:21, while Smith finished second just a millisecond later. Bogen finished third three seconds later.