Portugal's Ricardo Batista takes World Junior title with powerful finale
The Olympic City began to warm up in more ways than one as the Junior men took to the pontoon on the edge of Lake Geneva for Friday’s 2019 World Championships, and it would be Portugal’s Ricardo Batista who took the honours thanks to a lightening-fast run, holding off the challenge of Lorcan Redmond (AUS) in second, Spain’s Sergio Baxter Cabrera finishing with the bronze.
“This is really unbelievable,” said Batista before his achievement could truly sink in. “I have trained very hard and very long for this, since my first year as a Junior. I was worried on the bike course, because we had too many athletes in our group so I was just trying to stay safe and save some legs. And then out of T2 I felt really strong, and was able to drop many athletes. It was a really great race.”
The sun was beating down on the athletes as they got underway for the sprint-distance battle, and it was Alessio Crociani (ITA) out of the water first with South African Jamie Riddle and Great Britain’s Marcus Dey for company. Brock Hoel (CAN) was some 20 seconds back at this stage, Batista keeping in check just over 10 seconds away from the leaders as they got out and onto the four-lap bike.
Just ten athletes were together for much of that first loop but, driven by Andreas Carlsson (SWE), the chasers were soon on their tails, and by the end of lap one that group was 32-deep, all the while Radim Grebik (CZE) and home favourite Sasha Caterina (SUI) driving them forward from the front.
That sheer weight of numbers made progress difficult for the leaders with seemingly nobody willing to make a move, Travis Saunders (RSA) and Ernesto Gonzalez (CRC) among those able to benefit and pulling the next pack into the mix as more than forty athletes streamed into transition for the second time.
Again the climbs would shuffle the pack, however, and it was Portugal’s Batista who began to seize control, moving into position behind the front runners and then passing them, Lorcan Redmond in pursuit. Spain’s Baxter had put in one of the fastest first laps to haul himself into contention as well, but having hung off the front pair for as long as he could, his challenge began to fade.
That left a two-man duel for the World title, and it was Batista who was able to find enough in the legs to leave Redmond with 300m to go, taking the tape by nearly 10 seconds, the Australian with silver, Baxter just able to hold off Boris Pierre to the bronze.
“It was a very tough ride,” said Redmond afterwards. “We had a lot of people in our group and we were all over the road, we were lucky to get through without any accidents. The run was crazy, it was rough, especially after such a hard bike course, but I have been training here and I knew what I was up to, so I just went for it. I am very happy with the silver medal, and Ricardo (Batista) had the legs no one else had today, so congratulations for him.
“This is truly amazing,” said Baxter, who has been training in Leeds at the Brownlee centre. “I didn’t expect to podium here but here I am with the bronze medal. I have been working really hard all year, I had a couple of injuries, but I feel really good now. Ricardo (Batista) made a pretty strong race, running really strong, and I couldn’t catch him. But I think that after the gold medal in the Duathlon in Pontevedra, it is truly amazing what I have been able to achieve this year.”
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