The 2021 edition of Challenge Riccione couldn’t have gone better than this. After a stop of a year because of the pandemic, Challenge Riccione has returned.
The courage of the organizers and the high standards of the brand made for an excellently organized race in which among the best competed and which has shown that, by respecting the health and safety rules and regulations, it is possible to organize races and compete.
The names on the start list were of the highest level and ensured a race that will be remembered for a very long time.
Among the men, the competition was tough. With bib number 1, Sebastian Kienle was the one to look out for, after a long stop due to an injury. The Spaniard Pablo Dapena González, recent ETU Vice-European Champion Triathlon Long Distance and second in Daytona after Lyonel Sanders, was also among those to keep an eye on.
The Austrian Thomas Steger wanted to break the curse following him in all the previous editions of this race: he participated three times and three times he came in second, in 2019 after Mattia Ceccarelli, and in 2017 and 2018 after Giulio Molinari.
They were joined by Giulio Molinari, Mattia Ceccarelli, Andy Boecher, Steger Thomas, Frederic Funk, Ruedi Wild, Michael Raelert, Gregory Barnaby and many others,all out there today to win.
The men’s race was a close battle right from the start. Among the first to exit the swim were Ceccarelli, Dapena and Lazzaretti. On the bike Mattia Ceccarelli, winner of the 2019 edition, commanded and gradually widend the gap with Peter Heemeryk and Michael Raelert. In just a few km and until T2, Ceccarelli lead the bike leg alone, followed by a compact group. In the first group Giulio Molinari lead followed by Dapena, Boecherer, Raelert, Heemeryk and Funk. They are followed by a the second group with Sabastian Kienle, Gregory Barnaby and Tomas Steger who, once out of T2, give it their all on the run.
The run leg is decisive for the race and the three first athletes to reach the finish line are those who have dared to push the hardest during the run.
Thomas Steger finally breaks the curse and wins Challenge Riccione. Pablo Dapena, after an incredible performance in the run leg, comes in second, and Sebastian Kienle is able to leave his injury behind him, coming in third.
In the women’s race, the first to exit the water is Ilaria Zane, among the best Italian athletes in the Olympic distance and making her debut in the half distance. She is closely followed by the Dutch Sarissa De Vries and the English India Lee. Halfway the bike leg, with a gap of 4 minutes, Marta Bernardi follows in seventh position.
In T2 the Dutch athlete has gained a lead of 5 minutes on the others. She is followed by India Lee who in turn has a lead of 4 minutes on the French Julie Iemmolo. Marta Bernardi enters T2 seventh.
De Vries remains easily in control of the race and ahead of her adversaries. She is the first to cross the finish line and to win Challenge Riccione. India Lee follows her and wins silver. Marta Bernardi, after an outstanding performance in the run, manages to close the gap with the other athletes and crosses the finish line third.