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Belgium’s Van Riel Wins San Francisco T100 in Three-Way Sprint Finish

San Francisco, USA: Belgium flier Marten Van Riel outsprinted New Zealand’s Kyle Smith and Germany’s Rico Bogen to claim his maiden T100 victory on the Escape From Alcatraz course in San Francisco in dramatic fashion today.

Van Riel is now unbeaten in five long course races out of five, but this was by far his closest call yet. Triathlon GOAT Jan Frodeno hailed it on the TV commentary as “the greatest race’ he’d seen.

T100 San Francisco 2024 on the 8th June 2024 starting at Alcatraz, San Francisco, California, USA. (photo: T100/Polizzi Studio)

“I gave everything I had,” said the Belgian. “I just had Kyle on the line – that was incredible.”

“I think we were saying before that I’ve not been pushed to my limits in long distance racing before and I’m pretty sure that today I’ve been pushed to my limits. We’re doing a three hour twenty [minutes] race and the difference is less than a second and then 2 seconds to Rico. That’s incredible and it’s really nice to be part of that.”

Asked how deep he had to dig, Van Riel said: “I think I pushed myself really deep. I think the guys made a mistake by not going earlier because a couple of kilometres out I was really dead and I could only just hang on, but then in the sprint I found something, somewhere in myself to really take it.”

T100 San Francisco 2024 on the 8th June 2024 starting at Alcatraz, San Francisco, California, USA. (photo: T100/Polizzi Studio)

Speaking about where this puts him in the T100 series, Marten went on: “This is the start I could only dream off.  To have this on the board early is very important otherwise the other athletes would be flying away on the leaderboard.”

Van Riel now takes a break from the T100 Tour to compete in the Olympics in Paris before he returns to T100 business.

Second after the photo finish was Kyle Smith, who was phlegmatic talking about it afterwards:

“It was an incredible day. This course throws up a lot of challenges. It’s iconic. I wasn’t expecting such a big group to come out of the swim together. I guess with the nature of the swim with the current, it kept us all together. The bike was super hard, but on the run I tried to lay it down over the first 4km but Martin and Rico stayed with me. With 4km to go I knew it was going to come down to a sprint finish and I had to prepare for that.”

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“I felt really good. Rico went and then slowed down really quickly. I wanted to lead coming into the final straight but then Marten won and he’s the better man. I was thinking about diving, but even if I’d dived I wouldn’t have got there. He just had it over me, he was carrying too much speed.”

How The Race Unfolded

With Alcatraz as a backdrop, the world’s best male pro triathletes perched on the famous San Francisco Spirit above the steel grey waters of the Bay, before diving in to do battle.

Aaron Royle (AUS) quickly took to the front but with strong currents, choppy conditions and fractured groups, the 2km swim was astonishingly quick.

Ben Kanute (USA) left the water in 14:08 alongside Rico Bogen (GER) but with 19 out of 20 men all within 1 minute. That included double T100 2nd place-getter Sam Long (USA), who picked up a 30-second penalty for failing to secure his helmet clip as he began the hilly 80km bike course.

A big favourite pre-race and T100 first-timer, Marten Van Riel (BEL) was soon out front with Kyle Smith (NZL) and Bogen for company. That trio held a margin for a while, but bike power from behind steadily eroded the gap to create a large pack, led into T2 by Long – stealing seconds on the rest with a late surge but with that 30-second penalty to serve.

In the opening metres of the 18km run, Smith set an aggressive pace out of T2 to immediately distance Long, Miami T100 winner Magnus Ditlev (DEN), Mika Noodt (GER) and Bogen. Van Riel leapfrogged that trio to hunt down the Kiwi ahead, making the catch and sitting on Smith’s shoulder.

Bogen soon broke clear of the group behind to take 3rd on course and then join the two leaders in building a lead of 1 minute by halfway through the run.

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With the leaders well clear, the German was the first to surge, Bogen putting in a dig with around 6.5km to go, which was immediately covered by Smith. Van Riel took a little longer to respond but also proved strong enough to close the gap.

Fireworks over for the moment, that was the status quo deep into the final lap – the three nailed-on podium getters within inches of each other, refusing to cede position. Smith, looking powerful and exactly as he had throughout; Bogen, clearly pushing himself hard; Van Riel, sunglasses obscuring any emotion as the pace ratcheted up.

Within the last 500m, Bogen was again the animator – beginning a long-range sprint that was quickly closed by Smith and Van Riel. Face a picture of pain, the young German then tried again, but it was too little, too late as the Kiwi soared past into a clear lead. Turning onto the finishing straight, Van Riel put on the afterburners, edging closer to Smith, up to his shoulder and then by a hair’s breadth, the Belgian’s chest broke the tape just 0.23 seconds ahead to take victory in his first T100 race.

Van Riel took the win in 3:18:21, becoming San Francisco T100 Champion to earn 35 points, $25,000 and cement himself as a series favourite even as he heads to Paris for the Olympic Games.

Smith’s sensational second place was worth 28 points and $16,000 – the Kiwi certainly making an exceptional case to secure another T100 wildcard for London in July.

Bogen took third for 25 points and $12,000, the 23-year-old showing himself a force to be reckoned with at the T100 distance.

Magnus Ditlev, 1:17 back, claimed 4th – adding 22 points to his tally – while Mika Noodt rounded out the top 5 to take 20 points.

The next T100 race will be in London on 27-28 July.

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