Javier Gómez (ESP) and Romina Palacio Balena (ARG) win Challenge Cancun
May 2, 2021
Under hot temperatures – it was already 32 degrees Celsius at 6.30 in the morning and the humidity was 96 percent – CHALLENGECANCUN was just won by Spain’s Javier Gómez and Argentina’s Romina Palacio Balena. Gómez lived up to his role as favourite, while Balena provided a wonderful surprise.
It was Victor Benages who led the race from the start and was first out of the water after his 1.9km swim. The Spaniard needed 24:44 minutes to do so. Just two seconds behind him, David Castro Fajardo and big favourite Javier Gomez came out of the water. A little further behind were other men such as Andy Potts and Patrik Nilsson, still very close to the leading men.
On the bike, that was exactly what happened, at least in the case of Potts. The American rode directly to the front, took over the lead in the race and after sixteen kilometres he already had a minute’s advantage on the group in which many of the chasers were gathered. It was clear that Potts was going all out to make a big difference as soon as possible and to put his competitors on the rack. This did not last long, however, because after only a few kilometres Potts had a puncture and lost his lead again.
From that moment on it was Gómez who went solo in the lead, but in the meantime Potts quickly got back into the rhythm and rode to second position. After fifty kilometres Potts was just 43 seconds behind Gomez and made up for lost time. Elliot Bach was third, just four seconds behind Potts. At the same time it was the Swiss Ruedi Wild who also climb up the rankings: during the swim he was still outside the top ten, but after fifty kilometres on the bike he came through in fourth place. However, he was more than two minutes behind Gómez.
In the last 30 kilometres on the bike it was Potts again who rode to the front, again overtaking Gómez and taking over the lead in the race. For a moment the American went solo in the lead again, but Gómez also fought back and finally the two top athletes came back together in the transition area after just under 2:30 hours total race time. Wild had moved up another place and came back into the transition area in third place. He was then 2:55 minutes behind the race leaders. Other big names like Michael Weiss and Tyler Butterfield followed at over five and six minutes.
During the run, Gómez showed his world-class running skills and made the real difference. From the first kilometre onwards he saw his lead over Potts increase, to already have a three-minute gap after 15 kilometres. Meanwhile Potts not only had to watch Gómez continue to run away, he also saw Wild come closer and after fifteen kilometres the two athletes were running side by side in the battle for the second place. In the following kilometres it appeared that Potts also could not keep up with Wild’s pace.
In the end it was Gomez who crossed the line first after 3:46:36hr and thus lived up to his role as favourite. Behind him, Wild took the second spot after 3:50:37hr (+4:01) and Potts became third after 3:51:13hr (+4:37).
ANNEKE JENKINS HAD TO ABANDON, ROMINA PALACIO BALENA CLAIMED VICTORY
In the women’s race, it was big favourite Anneke Jenkins who took the lead and set the fastest swim time. When she came out of the water after 29:06 minutes, she had not shaken off everyone yet, as Annie Kelly followed at just three seconds. Romina Palacio Balena also followed close behind and entered the transition area almost immediately after Jenkins.
On the bike, however, Jenkins made the difference immediately and after 16 kilometres she had already gained more than a minute on her first two chasers. This did not change very much over the next thirty kilometres, because after fifty kilometres on the bike, Jenkins had about a minute and a half lead on her two chasers, and even though there was not a very wide lead, Jenkins seemed to be comfortably on her way to the second transition area.
Therefore it was Jenkins who came back first in the second TA and she did so after a total race time of just under three hours. Balena and Kelly remained at about the same distance behind – namely one minute – and also after the 90km bike this situation had not changed.
However, things changed during the run, as Jenkins suddenly had to abandon the race due to an injury. She thus lost sight of what seemed on paper to be a fairly certain victory and it was suddenly Balena who was in the lead. She did not relinquish the lead and so it was Balena who crossed the line first after 4:34:32hr. Kelly became second after 4:38:32hr and Palmira Alvarez became third after 4:41:17hr.