France’s Titouan Puyo and Olivia Piana have triumphed in the long distance race here at the Oxbow EuroSUP Championship in Lacanau this afternoon, repeating their gold medal performances from Monday’s course race to seal a memorable week for the host nation.
Under blazing-hot blue skies, Titou edged out his very impressive young compatriot Arthur Arutkin, while the Danish Viking, Casper Steinfath, once again had to settle for third in what was a mirror of Monday’s podium.
With the mercury tipping past 34°C (93°F) just before the 4pm start time, this was always going to be a battle of attrition. Things weren’t helped by the wind, or lack of it, with dead glassy conditions making it a beautiful afternoon at the beach and in the surf, but a sweltering day for racing.
While most of the 15km course was outside the break in near perfectly-flat water, the beach start/finish added a bit of spice (and carnage) with consistent 3-4ft waves rolling through. The women were sent off first and got an unlucky set that held back most of the 10-woman field. Olivia, the hot favourite after her domination of the EuroSUP course race two days ago, got out cleanest and held a 50m lead going round the outside buoy.
The spirited Spaniard Susak Molinero, who’s reputation in the paddling world continues to grow with every race, was second round the buoy to setup another duel with the Frenchwoman. Olivia opened up around 100 metres over the opening kilometre but the gap never grew beyond that, with Susak fighting hard to stay within shouting distance all the way around the course.
Susak could never quite close the gap though, with Olivia paddling home to secure her second gold medal.
Behind the leaders, the small field was scattered, with the tenacious Angela Fernandes (Portugal) putting in a great effort to stake her claim on third. After her 5th place finish on Monday, Angela charged home, catching a set from way out back and surfing it all the way to the shore, before roaring across the line jubilation. Monday’s bronze medalist, Team England’s Marie Buchanan, held off Susanne Lier to claim 4th.
The men had a luckier start in the waves, with most of the boys getting out clean to setup a nine-man draft train that stuck together all the way down to the halfway marker buoy. The course today was basically 7.5km down the coast, turn around, and then 7.5km back north to the start/finish.
With the drainingly-hot conditions, it was clear that none of the favourites wanted to do the early work out front, which left the job to unheralded Portuguese paddler Filipe Meira, who eventually took over and set a solid rhythm. On his tail was Titouan Puyo (France), Arthur Arutkin (France), Casper Steinfath (Denmark), Paolo Marconi (Italy), Ollie Shilston (England), Roman Frejo (Spain), Martino Rogai (Italy) and Pete Kosinski (Ireland).
Titou and Arthur took over the role of train drivers just before halfway, which proved critical as the duo then sprinted away from the field right after the buoy to setup a lead that nobody could challenge.
As Titou and Arthur paddled away with the race, behind them it was an interesting battle for the minor placings. Casper, who was so keen to improve his bronze medal performance from Monday, suddenly had a fight on his hands just to stay on the podium, with Paolo sticking to him like glue all the way to the final buoy that marked the 200m sprint in through the surf to the finish line.
A little further back was the second chase group, featuring Ollie, Roman and Martino, while behind them the heat was taking its toll as the draft trains fractured and the field scattered over the final kilometres.
With his team mate Olivia having crossed the line in triumph only 10 minutes earlier (the women started ~30 minutes ahead of the guys), Titou surfed his NSP board all the way to the sand, jumped off, grabbed a French flag and ran across the line for his second gold medal in the space of 48 hours. Arthur wasn’t too far behind, giving France an almighty clean sweep of the racing medals — 1st and 2nd in both of the men’s races and 1st in both of the women’s events.
The French duo were almost four minutes ahead of the next guys, showing just how hard they had pushed in the second half of the race.
But as Team France celebrated on the sand, behind them it was a tight battle for Bronze, with Casper leading Paolo round the outside buoy then sprinting towards shore, catching a set wave that Paolo couldn’t quite scratch onto, and surfing clear to secure his second medal of the week. Casper was relieved at the finish line but clearly a little disappointed to miss out on a European gold knowing he has the potential to match anyone in the world on his day.
The battle for 5th place was perhaps the most exciting moment of the race, with Roman, Ollie and Martino all charging around the buoy together and latching onto the set of the day (I hope someone got the photo of this!). Halfway into shore, Martino bumped into Ollie, which sent them both tumbling and allowed Roman, who surfed the overhead wave beautifully, to cross the line for a very impressive result.
Roman’s 5th place today mirrors his equally strong performance from Monday, capping off a fantastic week for the Spaniard.
Ollie had a really strong race and was unlucky not to finish any higher, but he still did enough to prove once again that he’s very much an under-rated talent.
The same can be said for Martino, who’s enjoyed a strong summer as part of the new wave of Italian paddlers (aka the “Italian Mafia”).
While this inaugural EuroSUP event had a few rough edges and a relatively small field — 11 nations in total — it was great to see the team spirit on the beach. Indeed, there were fighting performances all the way down the field, with many of the “minnows” punching above their weight and recording personal best results.
Special mention goes to Glenn Eldridge, the organiser of the final stop on the EuroTour (St Ives) who paddled hard all afternoon for a top 10 finish, as well as the Portuguese boys Filipe and Ricardo, who were virtual unknowns heading into this event but have shown just how deep the talent pool spreads right across Europe.
The distance race was the final event of the the Euros, and it’s been a near-perfect week for the French hosts. France not only swept all of the racing events, they also took gold and silver in the men’s SUP surfing (Antoine Delpero and Benoit Carpentier) and silver in the women’s courtesy of Carolina Angibaud (Iballa Moreno from Spain took gold).
The surfing event enjoyed great waves for the finals, with Iballa absolutely tearing it up to claim a well deserved gold ahead of Caroline, while Sofie Simonsson from Sweden claimed 3rd and Abi Barker Smith from Wales was 4th.
In the men’s surfing, the French were simply too good, with Oscar Ruiz from Team Spain also impressive in 3rd while Moritz Mauch earned some valuable points for Germany in 4th.
France will take an identical team to the ISA Worlds in Fiji later this year, and from what I hear they’ll also take specialist prone paddlers for the first time. Based on what we’ve seen here this week, the “Big Three” (USA/Australia/Hawaii) might become four…
On the overall team leaderboard this week, Spain secured second by a wide margin thanks to big efforts from Iballa, Oscar, Susak and Roman, while Portugal narrowly edged out England, Italy and Denmark to grab third.
Here are the full results from today’s race plus the final team standings for the entire event, while there are plenty of awesome photos over on the official dropbox.
Thanks to the ESF (European Surfing Federation) for organising this event, I’m already looking forward to a bigger and better event in 2017.
And last but not least, big thanks to the iconic Lacanau Surf Club, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, for hosting the inaugural EuroSUP championship. I can’t think of many places I’d rather hang out for a week than here in this awesome little surf mecca.
Men’s Distance Race
|14||Kjell de Bruyn||1:55:05||Belgium|
Women’s Distance Race