Japan’s Takumi Hojo matched his start number in Portugal today, by coming home to a clear victory on the run at the Europe Triathlon Cup Quarteira in Portugal.
In a great battle for second and third, Great Britain’s Dan Dixon continued his fine start to the 2022 season by finishing on the podium, just edged out at the finish by the experienced US athlete, Seth Rider. His first start at Olympic Distance, it’s been a superb month for the TRI247 columnist.
As with the Elite Women’s race, the sea off of Quarteira Beach was providing some significant swim challenges in the form of swells. It wasn’t a surprise – we said in the preview – that Hungary’s Márk Dévay would ensure a strong pace in the water from the gun, and he duly led home a long line of swimmers, with Kenji Nener (JPN) on his shoulder.
The men’s race had excellent strength in depth on paper, and that was reflected in there being few notable gaps towards the front end of the field in the water. We wouldn’t get a real sense of the initial shape of the race until the early miles of the bike leg.
Strong pace on two wheels
Once the first couple of kilometres were done, the leading group appeared to have settled at around 13 athletes. Great Britain’s Connor Bentley was pushing the pace hard, and he had team mates Sam Dickinson and Dan Dixon in the group. Among those also present – along with the previously mentioned Dévay and Nener – was Rider, Hojo, Justus Nieschlag (GER) and Ricardo Batista (POR), the 2019 World Junior Champion.
The pace seemed strong, with Dixon seemingly working pretty hard at the back of the pack not to lose the wheel in front. It was going to be tough for any chasers from behind to bridge up to the leaders on this mostly flat course.
Consistently aggressive on the bike throughout, Bentley hit the gas again on the final lap and this time managed to escape solo. Whatever his result would be 35 minutes later, you had to give huge credit for his efforts so far. He was trying to impact the race, not being a passenger. He made the move stick… but was only going to give himself an advantage of around eight seconds starting the 10km. With the likes of Rider – fourth at the Edmonton Grand Final – chasing, that was not much of a head-start.
Hojo runs to title, Dixon digs deep for podium
Barely a kilometre later, Bentley had a pack closing in fast on him and it was the Japanese duo of Hojo and Nener that made the pass, with Rider running in their shadow. That trio looked like they would be racing for the podium, while behind there was now a chasing quintet – Bentley, Dixon, Dévay, Gianluca Pozzatti (ITA) and Simon Westermann (SUI).
Appropriately wearing #1 based on his World Triathlon Ranking of #14, Hojo made a move midway through the run and it was a decisive one. Quickly clear, the win was seemingly in his pocket, leaving Rider and Nener to battle for second and third. A little further back, 19 year-old Dixon was having a great day and had moved into fourth place. He was well on track to conquering the demons of a crash on this course at the Junior World Championships last year.
While Nener faded badly, Dixon was going in the other direction. Mature beyond his years, he not only moved moved into fourth from his chasing group, but moved past Nener into third. He wasn’t done though, and had his sights on the USA’s Rider. Digging deep, he closed the gap and then hit the gas to sprint past him with the finish line in sight.
While Hojo was clear in first for the win, as the blue carpet approached Rider was able to put in his own sprint and this time the young Brit couldn’t respond. It was Hojo / Rider / Dixon the 1/2/3 at the finish.
Impressive from the Japanese athlete – and what a start to his Olympic distance career for Dixon.
Europe Triathlon Cup Quarteira Results 2022
Saturday 26th March 2022 – ELITE MEN
1.5km / 40km / 10km
1. Takumi Hojo (JPN) –2. Seth Rider (USA) – 3. Dan Dixon (GBR) –4. Gianluca Pozzatti (ITA) – 5. Márk Dévay (HUN) – 6. Simon Westermann (SUI) – 7. Connor Bentley (GBR) –8. Kenji Nener (JPN) –9.10.
Originally posted on TRI247.com. Click here to Read More.