The Spanish coastal city of Punta Umbria hosted the ETU Duathlon European Championships on Saturday 7 March 2020.
Holmfirth Harriers Mark Buckingham represented Great Britain in the Elite Men’s Race along with his training partner, Double Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee. Brownlee had planned to take part in the first World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi, which sadly was postponed at short notice due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The race was the sprint distance, a 5km run followed by 20km bike and finally a 2.5km run, which was a surprise to the two Yorkshire men who expected the race would be the normal standard distance, twice as long. There were large crowds watching the race on Saturday evening, including a lot of age group athletes and their supporters. The Elite Men’s lineup included the former champion and a number of specialists in this event who race the sprint distance regularly in continental leagues.
The race started at a blistering pace, with a large group of athletes jockeying for position on the first of two laps. Both Buckingham and Brownlee were amongst the leaders completing the 5km run in 13.30, with just one second separating the top eight men. Yohan Le Berre of France had a speedy transition and went into the lead on the first bike lap opening a lead of about 20 seconds. The chasing group including Brownlee and Buckingham soon caught Le Berre who dropped back into the group. Brownlee then tried to make a break without success, at which point Buckingham succeeded in opening a lead at the start of lap three. He increased his lead to about 25 seconds on the final lap causing great excitement among the spectators.
Unfortunately, by the time he reached T2 his advantage had been reduced to a few seconds and he was caught and overtaken by the chasing group at the top of the climb on the final run. Benjamin Choquert of France won the race in 52.12 after recording the fastest split for the 2.5km run of 6.54. Choquert a Duathlon specialist, also has a distance pedigree having been selected to represent France at the Olympic Games in the marathon. Tyler Mislawchuck of Canada, the winner of the Olympic test event in Tokyo last year finished second in 52.18, but didn’t qualify for a European medal. Silver went to Krilan Le Bihan of France (52.20) and Alistair Brownlee claimed bronze in 52.21. Buckingham recorded the second fastest time of 13.30 for the first run, the fastest time for the 20km bike (31.01) and finished in 9th place overall in a time of 53.06.