23 Apr 2022
4 min read
Announcements ○ Arena Games ○ Athletes ○ Races
The majority of the bumper and raucous crowds had come to witness local lad Alex Yee secure the Arena Games London title, but Justus Nieschlag was having none of it. The German would power to victory to add another Super League title to his groaning mantlepiece, his fourth Arena Games medal and perhaps most convincing. Yee would finish second some 30secs in arrears, with Italy’s Nicolò Strada taking bronze at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London.
Home hopes were high after British Olympic Games hero Yee took Stage 1 of the three-stage bout, but Nieschlag, a Super League stalwart, came to the fore on Stage 2 before never looking like giving it up on Stage 3. The win makes Nieschlag a major contender to take the inaugural Arena Games Triathlon World Championship title in Singapore in a fortnight, with Aurelien Raphael and Alex Yee his major rivals.
Today’s format at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park saw Stage 1 host a 200m pool swim, a 4km turbo trainer bike and 1km treadmill run, before Stage 2 reversed that order with a 1km run giving way to a 4km bike and 200m swim. The standard tri format of a 200m swim, a 4km bike and 1km run would return in Stage 3 to decide the victor. Olympic Games 2024 qualification points were also up for grabs, while the event was again part of the inaugural esports Triathlon World Championship.
With a new partnership with World Triathlon, the morning saw athletes qualify for the final race via a heat that consisted of two swim/bike/run stages, whittling the field down to 10 contenders. The big drama from the heats was that Arena Games Munich champion Aurelien Raphael would miss the final reckoning.
Further news came in the form of a new non-drafting format on the bike leg, a throwback to short-course elite triathlon’s pre-Olympic Games roots in the 1980s and ‘90s. How much would this shift the tactical dynamic of the racing?
Stage 1’s 200m swim witnessed Max Stapley (Aus) and Nicolò Strada (Italy) first out of the water, with the field in close pursuit. Yee, out of sorts in Munich two weeks ago, carried plenty of the home nation’s hopes and sat 4secs behind his international rivals at the front. While Takumi Hojo of Japan was also in contention, Strada would dominate on the Zwift streets and cobbles, entering T2 with a 7sec advantage over Yee.
To raucous cheers from his local crowd, Yee had a noticeably slick transition, wiping out Strada’s advantage almost instantly on the 1km run. His 21km/h pace would soon create daylight ahead of the field, with Super League regular and former Arena Games winner Justus Nieschlag (Ger) coming into second ahead of Strada. Yee would take the Stage 1 win with a 2:36min kilometre finish, over 3secs ahead of Nieschlag and with half of the field already over 20secs in arrears.
Stage 2 would commence with a 1km run, with Max Stapley seemingly making a false start. Nieschlag lept to the front ahead of Yee and Stapley, and held the advantage until T1, 2secs ahead of Yee and Stapley, the latter receiving a 5sec penalty for that head start.
A swift T2 saw Nieschlag start the 4km bike with a 5sec advantage over Yee, and that would double by the 2km stage. Hitting 50km/h+ speeds on the Tacx turbo, Nieschlag entered T2 with a 12sec cushion over Yee and another sharp transition saw him dive into the Olympic Park’s water with a clear advantage that wouldn’t be eaten into by the chasers on the 200m swim. Stage 2 would be Nieschlag’s to set up a Stage 3 shootout with Yee.
The Pursuit-style start of Stage 3 would seemingly be a battle between Nieschlag and Yee, with 17secs between them at the start. The advantage was clearly Nieschlag’s, but the partisan crowd and Yee’s formidable run speed would ensure the German couldn’t afford to step off the gas.
The 200m pool swim saw Nieschlag extend his advantage over Yee and Strada to 25secs and 39secs, respectively, before yet another near-perfect transition saw him hit the turbos with a commanding lead. Bar technical or physiological disaster, the Arena Games London title would be heading to Germany, and the 30-year-old Nieschlag refused to give the field a glimmer of hope.
Nieschlag’s near-flawless performance would continue on the 4km bike and into the run, extending his 30secs of daylight to romp home to victory on the 1km run 30secs ahead of Yee and 53secs in front of Strada. A distant Maxime Hueber-Moosbrugger (Fra) and Simon Henseleit (Ger) would complete the podium.
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