Triumphant Win for Youri Keulen at Challenge Barcelona Triathlon while Imogen Simmonds Takes Third Win of the Season

A spectacular day of racing through the heart of Barcelona resulted in a nail-biting race to the finish between Youri Keulen (NED) and Alistair Brownlee (GBR) with Keulen winning through to take victory at the inaugural Challenge Barcelona Triathlon in 2:29:15. Imogen Simmonds (SUI) took her third title of the season with a decisive win in 2:49:44.

This first edition of Challenge Barcelona debuted a new distance for Challenge Family – 1.5km swim, 60km bike and 15km run. A distance designed to appeal to both long and short course athlete while also working for its central city destination.

Keulen’s day started in ninth place on the swim, but still only 20 seconds down on Wilhelm Hirsch (DEU) who was first out the water in 18:29, with Brownlee right on his heels. On the bike, Keulen quickly rode to the front, taking over the lead from Brownlee. The lead group of five, also including Aaron Royle (AUS), Hirsch and Nils Lorenz (DEU) stayed together, following the 20m drafting rule, racing at high speeds of up to 60kph through the streets of Barcelona against the iconic backdrop of Sagrada Familia, with most of the leading work being done by Keulen and Brownlee. Due to the high pace, no one in the chase pack was able to get closer to the lead group and once back in T2 the five leaders had a 2:30 minute lead over their closest rivals.

During the run it was very briefly Hirsch who took the lead, but after 1km Brownlee passed him. At high pace Brownlee kept pushing, but he just couldn’t manage to get rid of Keulen who was always about 10 seconds behind. With less than 5km to go, however, Keulen thought enough was enough and closed the gap. When the overtake was made, Brownlee did not give up easily and what followed was an exciting duel between the two. Keulen kept trying to force a gap, but Brownlee kept running alongside the Dutchman. With just 1km to go, Keulen put on a final and serious acceleration: it proved too much for Brownlee and Keulen took the win of his career in 2:29:15. Brownlee was close behind in 2:29:36 and Hirsch was third in 2:30:55.

“If you race against Alistair, you have to be honest,” said Keulen after the race. “You have to race with your strength and you can’t hide because Alistair is such a racer himself that I knew I had to bring my A game. I was very patiently closing the gap and then the last km I just went. I really wanted to win this race and I raced with my heart and I did!”

In the women’s race, Simmonds did not have her ideal start. Lucy Buckingham (GBR) recorded the fastest swim time in 19:11, followed immediately by Sara Pérez Sala (ESP) but Simmonds exited the water in seventh 1:20 down. Suffering from a bad head cold, it wasn’t until the second half of the bike that Simmonds found her form. Initially it was Buckingham and Pérez Sala who took off but after 30km, Pérez Sala unfortunately dropped out due to illness. Soon after, Caroline Pohle (DEU) rode up to Buckingham and just before the end of the bike, Simmonds, who experienced a particularly strong second half on the bike, also managed to connect with the first women. Buckingham, Pohle and Simmonds all exited T2 together and the race was on.

On the run, it quickly became clear that Simmonds was the strongest; she took the lead right away and never relinquished it, taking the win in 2:49:44. Buckingham was second in 2:52:38 and Pohle third rounded out the podium in third in 2:53:09.

“It was a fun race and the girls made it very tough out there so thank you to Lucy and Caroline for keeping it real!” said Simmonds. “And it was really fun racing around the city of Barcelona, how incredible!

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Finish Line Interviews

Youri Keulen –

Alistair Brownlee –

Imogen Simmonds –