The first race of the 2019 multisport season took off from where the 2018 season left – with triathletes racing in very tough weather conditions with rain, hail and thunderstorms to give an even harder challenge to the athletes. It was in such conditions that Lara Buttigieg and Nikol Micallef managed to overcome all obstacles and win the first edition of the Winter Triathlon Challenge supported by Regjun Tramuntana.
The race kicked off under the pelting rain at Gnejna, in Mgarr under the starting orders of Anton Mifsud, President of the Regjun Tramuntana and Paul Vella, Mayor of the Mgarr Local Council. The athletes crossed the bay twice for a total of 500 metres before entering Transition One. The Two Mosta Tri Team athletes, Nikol Micallef and Malcolm Vassallo completed the swim together in 7 minutes 28 seconds. However, Micallef was faster in transition and he managed to pull away 10 seconds before Vassallo. The uncompromising cycling segment took the athletes all the way up Gnejna Hill and Tas-Santi Hill before arriving at il-Kuncizzjoni. Racing a few metres away from home, Micallef strengthened his lead and by a further minute on Vassallo at the end of the cycle. However, Vassallo fought back in the run and he managed to almost catch Micallef at the end, but it was the latter who enter the Mdina Gate first in a total time of 52 minutes and 18 seconds, with Vassallo trailing just 24 seconds behind to finish in second. The third place was claimed by the Birkirkara St. Joseph athlete Jesrit Angel Camilleri who registered the best run of the day to finish less than a minute away from Vassallo.
In the female category, 2018 Triathlete of the Year athlete, Lara Buttigieg immediately set the standard by dominating both the swim and the cycling sections. Behind her, only Anjelika Ruggier could somehow keep the pace. However, Ruggier had to pay dearly the grades of the cycling leg as she Buttigieg marched on finishing her cycle a full 8 minutes ahead of her closest contender. In the running section, both Buttigieg and Ruggier registered exact time which meant that Buttigieg took the title in 10 seconds over the hour mark, while Ruggier had to settle for second. The Spanish Noemi Perez was third overall.
Both Micallef and Buttigieg appeared tested yet very happy soon after the race. ‘Being from Mgarr, I really wanted to give everything I had inside for this Challenge’ said Micallef. ‘The tough climbs, the beautiful views, and the organisation of the race made it even more exciting and challenging. I am very pleased that I managed to bring home the win and bring the trophy in the Northern Region from where I hail’ concluded Micallef. On the other hand, Buttigieg remarked that ‘it was a tough challenge to start and to finish the race. I found myself feeling strong of the uphills and gained some good times on the bike. I am extremely thankful for the whole team of organisers and the volunteers of Triathlon Malta who braved the elements to deliver this exciting race. A huge thank you also to the Malta Police Force who ensured the race was smooth and safe throughout.’
The race also had a competition for relay teams. The winning team was composed of swimmer David Sammut, cyclist Jason Vella (who registered the best cycling segment of the whole competition) and runner Johan Galea. The run event was won by Leslie Camilleri and Sharon Attard.
In the Age Groups, Nigel Camilleri topped the Over 30, Mario Muscat the Over 40 and Michailo Mishin the Over 50.
The awards of the race were presented immediately after at Mdina Gate by Anton Mifsud, President of the Regjun Tramuntana together with Mayor Peter Dei Conti Sant Manduca and Deputy Mayor Joseph Debono of the Mdina Local Council. Mifsud underlined that the Region was very encouraging of such sporting events and he declared that it was the Region’s intention to make this winter Triathlon Challenge a yearly event for the benefit of the local sporting community.
Triathlon Malta expressed its gratitude to the Regjun Tramuntana as well as to all volunteers who made the race possible, the MYTA - Malta Youth Triathlon Academy’s Parents Committee, Birkirkara St Joseph, the ARRTS Electronic Timing System, 24/7 Fitness Clubs, The Malta Red Cross, The Malta Bike Marshalls, the Malta Police Force Traffic Section, the Local Councils of Mgarr, Rabat and Mdina, FarsonsDirect, Eurosport Malta and Garmin Malta for the support of the race.
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