Germany’s Jule Behrens takes Junior World crown with majestic finale in Quarteira
On a glorious morning in Quarteira, it was Jule Behrens of Germany who rose to the occasion in grand style to secure a first junior world title with a display that suggested she has a very bright future ahead of her.
Finding herself 40 seconds back out of the water, the three-lap bike ebbed and flowed, but Behrens helped lead the charge to close in the leaders and was well set into T2 to mount her challenge. Once she started to pull clear of the field at the end of lap one, there would be no catching the 18-year-old, Sweden’s Tilda Mansson never quite able to close the gap enough to pile on the pressure and Spain’s Maria Casals Mojica hanging tough for an excellent bronze.
“I had a gap to make up after the swim and I knew I had to bike really hard because the first group were around 20-seconds ahead of us,” said Behrens afterwards. “My goal was to be first out of transition, but it was very difficult, and I was a little bit behind the others. I ran the first kilometre really hard and then after that, it was only pain and I gave it all.”
The top-ranked athletes were sticking to the far left of the beach start line for the straightest line to the first buoy, but number one Chisato Nakajima (JPN) was always chasing the wake of Canadian duo Sophia Howell and Kira Gupta-Baltazar (CAN).
Netherlands’ Barbara de Koning and Italy’s Angelica Prestia were also going well through the water, but there was no catching Candice Denizot (FRA) as she was fastest up the beach and out of transition onto the opening long straight and gentle climb of the 3-lap, 20km bike.
The leader’s hammer was down right out of the first corner, but it was on the straight that Gupta-Baltazar, Prestia and De Koning were able to reel her in and a seven-deep group formed that also included Japan’s Kotomi Anzai and Ilona Hadhoum (FRA) with a 15-second advantage over the chasers.
Noemie Beaulieu (CAN) and Lizzie Edge (GBR) were among those chasers stretching the pack and taking the important pulls that ultimately helped them haul in the leaders on lap two so that a 26-strong group was now rolling through the final 10km as one, still extending through the climbs and contracting on the straights.
Nakajima (JPN) and Faith Dasso (USA) were out front at the start of the final lap, Bethany Cook (GBR) riding solo in between the front 26 and a second group 80 seconds off the pace and unable to make up much time as thoughts switched to the run.
Once again it was Denizot sharpest through transition and out for the two-lap run, Prestia, Nakajima and Behrens 10 seconds back emerging out of T2 but the German looking every bit a woman on a mission as she gradually picked her way towards the front runners and a fascinating first-lap battle played out.
Mansson had exited in 25th place but only 13 seconds back, her long stride taking her all the way to fifth place by the time the final 2.5km began to shuffle the pack decisively. Casals was right on Behrens shoulder at the turn, teammate Helena Moragas Molina eight seconds back, the Swede passing her to close in on third-place Prestia.
Denizot had slipped out of contention 10 seconds back and was losing ground, Behrens using the bell as the sign to unleash another charge and suddenly she had daylight behind her.
Next, Mansson passed Casals and both eased away from Prestia, the Spaniard Casals just able to hold on to the back of the Swede for long enough to stay secure in third as they emerged back onto the promenade for the long straight home.
As the blue carpet came into view, there was no danger from behind for the German who took a first glimpse back only to confirm the first fist pump was safe to deploy. Mansson crossed for a fine silver some 7 seconds back, Casals taking the bronze 16 seconds off the winner.
Molina, Margareta Vrablova (SVK), Denizot, Marcela Alvarez Solis (MEX), Kotomi Anzai, Appoline Foltz (FRA) and Prestia rounded out the top 10.
“I hoped that I could take her (Jule Behrens) but it didn’t work this time - hopefully next time!” said a delighted Mansson.
“I am super proud about today’s race, I can’t believe it,” admitted Casals. “It’s super special for me. I have had quite a good season and this was the final one and I am super proud of today’s race. I was really tired, especially on the hill. All the athletes here are really strong.”
For the full results, click here.
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