Races › Arena Games
27 Mar 2021
4 min read
Belgium’s Marten Van Riel produced a consistently strong Triple Mix performance at the SLT Arena Games Powered by Zwift in London today, taking the title ahead of a formidable field of Olympic and Ironman stars.
Like the preceding women’s race won by Beth Potter, the Arena Games would come down to the ninth and final discipline of the day, but it would be the 29-year-old Van Riel who’d score the most points ahead of Germany’s Justus Nieschlag, and Brit stars Jonny Brownlee and Alex Yee.
Once again, the men’s field at the Super League Triathlon Arena Games would be a fascinating mix of elite triathletes, arguably upping the ante even further with Olympic medallists, ITU World Champions, Ironman powerhouses, rising British stars, and plenty of contenders from continental Europe.
The presence of the 43-year-old Tim Don was one of the most intriguing additions, with the 2006 ITU World Champion and one of the fastest Ironman athletes in history rarely seen at short-course racing in recent times, even if he’s long been an inspirational presence on UK racers of all stripes.
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Britain was also represented further established forces in the form of two-time Olympic medallist Jonny Brownlee and ITU athlete turned Ironman 70.3 winner Adam Bowden, with the next generation of George Goodwin and Alex Yee also all contenders for the Triple Mix crown.
Major threats from mainland Europe included defending SLT Arena Games champion Justus Nieschlag of Germany, fellow German and Super League regular Jonas Schomborg, rising Belgian 29-year-old force Marten Van Riel, and Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca, who was second at the Arena Games in 2020.
Kicking off the men’s Triple Mix was the innovative swim-run-bike format, an unconventional endurance test that tweaked triathlon’s usual swim-bike-run discipline breakdown. The 2012 Olympic Games setting of the Aquatics Centre at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park would see 10 athletes enter the pool, but it would be the Europeans of Justus Nieschlag, Jonas Schomburg and Vasco Vilaca who would lead out the Brit-heavy field.
Onto the 1km run and Belgium’s Van Riel would enter the fray, as would the familiar stride of multiple ITU World Champion Jonny Brownlee. A group of five would complete the circuit together, with the Stage One honours coming down to the 4km bike.
The two-lap criterium city course would be largely flat bar a cobbled climb, with four contenders arriving at the 1km-to-go point with victory in their sights. But it would be Portugal’s young 21-year-old star Vilaca who’d take the victory and 10 points ahead of Van Riel, Nieschlag and Brownlee.
Once again, Stage Two would see a triathlon-disrupting run-bike-swim format. The opening 1km run would see Alex Yee’s formidable run take control, with the 22-year-old Brit completing the stage first to maintain a slight advantage over fellow Brit Gordon Benson, Van Riel and Brownlee by the end of the 1,000 metres.
Onto the 4km bike and Brownlee, who we’ve seen so many times over the years, would control the tempo at the front of the pack, establishing a lead with Van Riel, Yee and Nieschlag. Brownlee, who underperformed at the Arena Games in Rotterdam in 2020, looked back to his brilliant best as he entered the swim with Yee and Van Riel for a 200m swim off.
The four-length 200m swim again saw Brownlee push to the front, but Van Riel would pull level with just a length to go. It would be the Belgian star who’d take the Stage Two title and 10 points ahead of the decorated Brit, his advantage being a second over Brownlee and Yee.
The final stage of the men’s Arena Games event would see Van Riel on 19 points overall, Brownlee just behind him with a total of 16 points and Yee on 14 points. A 4km bike would kick-off the showdown and a pack of nine (Adam Bowden dropped out due to injury on Stage Two) would form on the course. Tim Don would often be seen pushing the pace, but the group would remain intact until T1.
Onto the 200m swim, and Schomborg would take the lead ahead of Nieschlag, Yee, Brownlee and Van Riel, and the five would enter the final transition together.
Once again mirroring the women’s event, the overall race would come down to a final leg showdown between all of the contenders. The 1km run would again be the deciding discipline and, with 500m to go, Nieschlag would be pushing the pace ahead of Yee, Van Riel and Brownlee.
With the treadmills taking a pounding and a 20km/h pace on show, Nieschlag would take the win by just 1.6secs ahead of Yee, with Van Riel in third and Brownlee fourth.
The overall result and points tallies wouldn’t instantly produce a clear winner, but it would be Van Riel who’d take the overall Arena Games title with 27 points, ahead of Nieschlag on 24, and Brownlee and Yee on 23 points.
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