Gruelling conditions challenge the most experienced athletes.
Exceptionally tough weather conditions prevailed during Sunday’s Garmin Ocean Lava 113km Triathlon giving over fifty athletes a physically demanding and mentally challenging day on the scenic coastal route.
The scene for the day was set immediately in the 1.9km swim segment when athletes had to contend with swells of over a metre in height in the normally sheltered beach. From the onset it was clear that previous year’s winner Rudolph Agius was going to set the pace and was first out of water clocking 32 minutes and 24 seconds. A few seconds separating him from Paul Privitera and Graham Borg who were second and third out of the water respectively.
Out onto the undulating and unforgiving windy 90km bike course, positions started to move around with veteran triathlete David Galea closing in on Agius and edging him to register a slightly faster time on the cycle segment. Galea was followed by Joseph Galea and Agius registered third best time for this segment. As the temperatures soared, it was a head to head battle between Agius and Galea, who for majority of the 21km run were running abreast. It was in the final two kilometres of the race that Agius started to increase the pace, slowly distancing himself from Galea to win the race in a time of four hours thirty nine minutes and 54 seconds and claim the championship time for the second successive year. Galea crossed the finish line twenty seconds later. A fine showing was produced by third placed athletes Josef Bonavia who steadily moved up the leaderboard throughout the race – exiting the water in twelfth place he moved up to fourth place in the cycle segment, keeping this position till the end of the race.
“It was very close race with David Galea, whilst I exited with an approximate three minute advance over Galea in the swim, he narrowed the gap on the bike segment, we kept pushing the gears, never slowing down or losing the focus throughout. In the run, it was very much a side by side race, but in the last two kilometres I gave it a strong push to win” – Rudolph Agius.
In the females’ race indications showed that Margaret Seguna was on course to attain her second championship title for the year. Seguna was the fifth athlete to exit the water. Sprinting out of transition she went straight into the bike course with focused determination to finish in 19th place overall. A fast transition into the run saw her take a comfortable lead. Nevertheless Seguna did not falter and kept a strong pace to cross the finish line in a time of five hours twenty four minutes and eight seconds. In second place, newcomer to triathlon, Karen Amato showed that she is someone potentially to watch. Amato was one of the first twenty athletes to exit the water, however lost placing on the leaderboard in the bike segment. Not daunted, Amato put her running background to good use to edge her way past Italian Alessandra Fior beating her by nearly three minutes to claim second place on the podium – with some more years of experience and consistency Amato is possibly set to improve. Whilst Italian Fior reduced the gap set in the swim and clocking a better time on the bike, utlimately she had to settle for third place.
“Am very pleased with my perofrmance today – the conditions were far from perfect, especially with the sea swell and wind on the bike course, however the race offers a great atmosphere and turnout and served as a great prelude to my Ironman participation in Sweden in August” – Margaret Seguna.
The Garmin Ocean Lava Malta Triathlon also saw twenty five relay teams take part. Starting five minutes after the full distance athletes, current triathlon champion Hannah Pace proved her mettle in the swim segment to register the fastest swim time for the day – thirty one minutes and ten seconds. The fastest bike segment was registered by Malcolm Cachia (2:36:09) whilst the fastest run was registered by veteran marathon runner Jonathan Balzan (1:19:54).
Relay Team Winners
1st Place – Team Q (ProAction) – Andrew Azzopardi (Swim), Paul Zarb (Bike), Jonathan Balzan (Run)
2nd Place – Team T – Adriano Schembri (Swim), Malcolm Cachia (Bike), Johan Galea (Run)
3rd Place – Team B (Under Pressure) – Hannah Pace (Swim), Joseph Cremona (Bike), Mario Agius (Run)
“This race is not for the faint hearted, each year we experience very rough weather conditions. The bike course offers a mix of uphills, downhills and flat terrain, however with the strong weather conditions encountered on the day, little respite was given to our athletes” commented Charlie Demanuele, Race Director. “The race is slowly growing – we have a loyal following by athletes who keep returning and little by little we are introducing this race to their friends and to foreign athletes. With the support of the local authorities we hope that this race will grow to its full potential in the future years”.
The organising team is indebted to a number of entities who offered their support, assistance and expertise both in the run up and throughout the event. Particular gratitude goes to Mr. Silvio Scerri and Mr. Thomas Debono together with their teams at Transport Malta, Inspector Pier Guido Saliba and his team, as well as officers from Birkirkara and Naxxar districts, the Naxxar and Pembroke Local Councils as well as the team, led by Mr. Kevin Perry from the Safari Camping Club, Mr. Euchar Camilleri and the Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club team and Mr. Mark Zammit and the Agones SFC Team.
Final thanks goes to all sponsors – Garmin Malta, emvigee pr & marketing, Saracino’s Catering, The Cyclist – San Gwan, Urban Jungle House of Sport, Pro Action, Malta Tourism Authority and Transport Malta.
The 2018 Edition of the Garmin Ocean Lava Malta 113k Triathlon will be held on Sunday 20th May 2018.