Michelle Parsons of Worcester Triathlon Club and TriUK continued her successful run of results in the 2010 World Powerman Long Distance Duathlon Series with yet another superb performance in Malgrate in Italy.
The race was held in possibly one of most picturesque parts of Northern Italy next to the lake of Lecco and running alongside the water’s edge in the direction of the other great lake at Como. This was the first time there has been a World Series event in Italy and the challenging course for which Powerman events are known was seen primarily in the 13 kilometre climb from Nesso to Asso which averaged a 13% gradient. The run courses were both fairly flat running alongside the lake and were approximately 10 kilometres in length. The second run it however transpired was extended to almost 11km just to add to the overall demands of the race.
The female field was drawn entirely from Europe with previous World Series winner Ulrike Schwalbe from Germany making her return to long distance duathlon events after competing very successfully in Ironman Triathlon events. Also there were the other tope European duathletes and some new faces from Italy.
It was a chilly start to the race at 10.30am but the fast pace on the first 10km run soon brought up the competitors temperatures. The first lap of the two lap run saw Ulrike Schwalbe and Danish competitor Suzanne Svendsen sprint away from the other female competitors. They did little more than maintain their lead during the second lap and it was actually Svendsen who was first into transition in just over 37 minutes with Schwalbe right on her heels. Michelle was running in third, just less than two minutes adrift of the leaders, with Liechtenstein cyclist specialist Jacqueline Uebelhart just a minute behind her. Maja Jacober from Switzerland, another strong cyclist was in fifth a further minute behind and then the Italian duathletes were filling out the remaining top ten positions.
Onto the 80 kilometre bike section and it was Schwalbe and Svendsen who were riding hard towards the foot of the major climb at Nesso midway through the course. Schwalbe tried without success to drop Svendsen during that first 35 kilometres of the ride but reaching the start of the 13km accent Svendsen was still in touching distance. Meanwhile Michelle had slightly closed the gap to the leaders but hot on her heels were Uebelhart and Jacober. Jacober particularly was making a concerted effort to catch up with the top 4. On the climb the moves started to happen. Schwalbe had attacked and left Svendsen in her wake. Uebelhart had caught and passed Michelle just before the summit Jacober also caught Parsons but clearly her effort had cost her in terms of energy reserves because no sooner had she gone past Michelle picked her back off on the descent and started to chase down Uebelhart and Svendsen.
Schwalbe had definitely broken Svendsen’s grip on the lead and by the time she completed the 80km cycle section she had built up an impressive 5 minute lead. Svendsen was still in 2nd but Uebelhart was just 30 seconds behind in third with Michelle a further two minutes back in 4th. Jacober returned in 5th and was a further 90 seconds adrift.
So as is usual it all boiled down to the final 11km run. Schwalbe was looking strong and maintained a 4 minute lead over Svendsen after the first lap. Svendsen was definitely running quicker than the others but not sufficiently fast enough to take first place but fast enough to ensure that the Liechtenstein athlete would not catch her.
Michelle tried to cut the deficit to third but it was clear the gap was too big and after the efforts of the bike the run was really more about survival than speed. The Swiss Jacober was clearly in the mindset.
So at the finish it was Schwalbe 1st in 4.01.33, Svendsen 2nd in 4.05.05, Uebelhart 3rd in 4.07.53 and Parsons 4th in 4.10.54.
The Mens race was won by current world leader Joerie Vansteelant from Belgium in a phenomenal time of 3.18.30 winning by almost 8 minutes.
The final race of the 2010 World Series is in Malaysia in November where Michelle hopes to improve on her previous podium finishes and to climb further up the world rankings.