Desafío Doñana - Triathlon Event 2011 Race Report
Sanlúcar de Barrameda was the start and cebtre of the third edition of the Andalucía Desafío Doñana (Andalucia Doñana Challenge) triathlon took place on Saturday 17 September 2011.
The first stage of this triathlon is a 169km cycle race from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, to the highest point of the white hilltop village of Arcos de la Frontera, and back for a 1km swim across the tidal Guadalquivir river. This is followed by the 30km running section, along the endless virgin beach of Doñana National Park, finishing at the seafront town of Matalascañas.
This year, 410 athletes took part: 24 professionals, 200 amateur, and 62 relay teams of three. The total prize money was 50.000 euro, the bigest of any Triathlon in Europe. Both professional winners collected 7.000 Euro.
The three athlete relay teams (one athlete for each stage) follow the same route, except that the swimmers cross the river three times, covering a total distance of 2.8km. There were 46 three-athlete male relay teams, of which 41 completed the course; 4 female relay teams, all of whom finished the course: and 12 mixed teams, with 10 finishing.
Unusually for a serious triathlon, the cycling takes place before the swimming. The start point was the emblematic Bajo de Guia beach front in Sanlucar de Barrameda. The amateurs and professional women started at 8am, and the professional men half an hour later, with the deliberate aim of concentrating the competitors throughout the transitions from each stage to the next.
The cycle route
The cycle route is a 169km circuit around the countryside and villages of the Sherry Triangle in Cadiz province. The cyclists skirted around the outskirts of Jerez, climbing up to the white village of Arcos de la Frontera where competitors competed for the Premio de la Montaña (King of the Mountain, won by Jose Carlos Macias) by reaching the Plaza del Cabildo, with magnificent views from the Mirador de la Peña Nueva and the Parador hotel. Then it was back downhill to outskirts of El Puerto de Santa Maria and along the coast through Chipiona, finishing off back at Bajo de Guía in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, for the transition to the next stage: the 1km swimming section.
The swimming section is one river crossing, or 1km (the relay team swimmers complete three crossings, or 2.8km) across the mouth of the river Guadalquivir estuary. There was a very strong current and, as you can see on our video, many competitors asked the spectators for advice on direction, even though the white tents of the second section's start could be clearly seen. Although they were told to "keep well to the right", the athletes were quickly swept left by the current, forcing them to complete an extra 1km run on the beach.
The final section is the 30km beach run, along the Doñana National Park. Here the athletes are on their own, and have to find a 'hard sand' path above the lapping waves of the beach. Unlike the earlier sections, there were no spectators to cheer them on, except the 130 registered "athlete's companions" cheering from the park's green four-wheel-drive 21-seater Unimogs.
After 25 km running on the beach, the competitors encountered sunbathers who had walked along the virgin beach in search of nature - and some peace and quiet. Soon, the beach become increasingly populated with athletes, and the runners had to dodge the sunbathers (to the amusement of both groups), until they reached a cordoned-off section of the Matalascañas seafront promenade, to arrive at the finishing arch and into the competition enclosure.
The 2011 men's event was won by Alejandro Santamaría, the 34-year-old from Madrid, who completed the three stages in 6hr 46min 16sec. Alejandro was a full 20 minutes ahead of his time for the previous event - when he was second behind Lino Barruncho of Portugal, who did not compete in 2011 - and greatly improvement from 2009, when he was third. The winning athelete was composed and did not even seem breathless, as he held eloquent TV interviews just seconds after crossing the finishing line. In second place was the Italian Massimo Cagana with 6hrs 47min 44sec. Third place was taken by the Spaniard Héctor Guerra in 6hr 51min 41sec.
The winning female, for the second year in succession, was Inma Pereiro from Bilbao, with 7hrs 19min 45sec. The Italian Martina Dogana, who won the first edition (2009) and came second last year, took second place again, while in third place was Camilla Larsson from Sweden in 7hr 33min 23sec.
The fastest male amateur was 34-yr-old Antonio Garcia of Alhaurin, Malaga, in 7hrs 13min 15sec, and second was 46-year-old Fernando Garcia in 7hrs 16min 49sec. The fastest female amateur was 34-year-old Kirsten Mangelsdorf in 8hrs 45min 31sec.
The last athlete came in at 11hrs 30min. Out of the 16 professional men taking part, three failed to finish, while one of the eight pro women didn't make it to the finishing line. Of the amateur athletes who entered the competition, 25 of 188 amateur men, and 4 of the 12 amateur women, did not finish.