by Maria Vella-Galea
Saturday 18 May 2013's National Duathlon Championships, hosted by the Malta Triathlon Federation, saw over seventy five athletes taking part in the Full, Sprint and Relay categories.
The Full Distance race mirrored current International and European Triathlon Union Standards and served as a selection race for the contingent representing Malta Triathlon at the forthcoming European Triathlon Championships in Alanya, Turkey.
Whilst the race was widely expected to have an exciting competition for the two posts, the biggest surprise of the race was the fact that 2012 Champions Keith Galea and Danica Bonello Spiteri failed to make a podium finish in their respective categories.
In the males’ category, Birkirkara St. Joseph’s Keith Galea and Mellieha AC athlete Fabio Spiteri were two favourite contenders, though 2004 Duathlon Champion and Agones SFC athlete David Galea and current Middle Distance Champion, Birkirkara St. Joseph’s Rudolph Agius, were both expected to give a good fight. Whilst Keith Galea was first to enter transition from the first run, Fabio Spiteri was hot on his heels with only a two seconds time difference between them. A fast transition by Keith saw the 2012 Champion first out of transition for the bike segment. It was, however, Birkirkara St. Joseph’s Steve Chetcuti who registered the fastest time on the bike, completing the course in 56 minutes 48 seconds. Contenders for the top posts clearly showed Rudolph Agius and David Galea who registered 59 minutes 23 seconds and 59 minutes 32 seconds respectively in this segment. They were followed by Spiteri and Galea, with Galea clocking in transition a full minute after Spiteri. Fabio Spiteri crossed the finish line at 1hour 47 minutes 32 seconds thus regaining the Championship crown after an absence of a year. David Galea and Rudolph Agius came in second and third respectively.
In the females’ category, Birkirkara St. Joseph’s athlete Michelle Vella Wood kept her consistent performance, mirroring her recent result at the Mellieha AC Duathlon. Vella-Wood showed her strength by over taking reigning Champion Bonello Spiteri, by a lap, in the cycle leg, to finish comfortably in first place and clinching the National Duathlon Championship title in two hours two minutes and five seconds. Whilst not a total surprise, Hannah Pace is a triathlete to watch, showing continuous improvement in her races and becoming a force to be reckoned with. Placing second with a time of two hours nine minutes and 12 seconds, twenty year old Hannah is still quite new to triathlon though has been in athletics since the age of 13. Third female on the podium was Birkirkara St. Joseph’s Johanna Calleja, showing a consistent form and a faster bike segment than second placed Pace.
In the sprint races, the men’s category was won by Johann Galea, with a time of one hour, two minutes and seventeen seconds, followed closely by Melvin Mifsud, who clocked in thirty four seconds behind Galea and Wayne Spiteri clocking in one minute behind Mifsud. In the female category, the podium saw three newcomers to the sport, with Giannella Bugeja Persiano winning the category in one hour twelve minutes nineteen seconds, followed by Eva Reinisch in 1 hour thirteen minutes and fifty five seconds and Lynette Vella in one hour nineteen minutes and fifty eight seconds. The relay team segment was won by the team composed of Denise Buttigieg (run segment) and Kevin Mifsud (bike) in a time of one hour three minutes and fifty-eight seconds.
“We are very pleased with the success registered at the National Duathlon Championships on Saturday. We have again seen a consistent growth in participation numbers” said Cyprian Dalli, Malta Triathlon Federation President. “Organising a successful race is always challenging and changing venue makes it even harder, but the Federation is backed with a hard working and committed team which makes it possible for us to offer new race venues making it more exciting for athletes”
Trophies were presented to the Podium winners at the end of the race by incoming Kunsill Malti għall-iSport CEO Jonathan Barbara, who expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to see such hard work in action.
The race was supported by Joseph F. Spiteri (1927) Co. Ltd., Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club, Garmin, Medcomms Ltd., San Michel Water, Western Union-Malta, Magri Cycles, Zebbug Local Council, St. Dorothy's School Administration and the Kunsill Malti għall-iSport.
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