More than one hundred triathletes gathered in the iconic Hungarian town of Tiszaujvaros for the semifinals of the ITU World Cup that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

After 750m of swimming, 20km on the bike and a 5km run, only the very best of them advance to the finals on Sunday. Russian Dmitry Polyanskiy, Spaniard Cesc Godoy and local Gabor Faldum won their respective heats, while USA’s Erin Dolan and Canada’s Paula Findlay clocked the fastest times in the women’s races.

There were clearly two methods of qualifying for the final in Tiszy: the ones saving energy for tomorrow, and the ones trying to finish in the top places so they will be able to choose the best spots on the pontoon for the finals.

“I really wanted to finish first so I pushed on the last few meters. The first buoy on the swim course is quite close, so it’s going to be very important to choose a good position on the pontoon for the start of the race tomorrow,” explained Spaniard Cesc Godoy, winner of the second semi final and who will be third in the line up for the final, with good chances of repeating his 2013 podium in Tiszy.

The same strategy was followed by Russian brothers Dmitry, winner of the first semifinal, and Igor Polyanskiy, second in his heat. Both said they will try to work on some strategies tomorrow for selecting the best possible spots on the pontoon.

On the other hand, in the women’s second semifinal and the men’s third semifinal both had packs of triathletes finishing all together without sprinting at the end.

“It was strange to see the finish line and not pushing for crossing it first,” explained US athlete Renee Tomlin after crossing the finish line in third position. “Experience is a grade, and we all knew we were all classified for the final, so I was saving some energy for tomorrow.”

The first women’s semifinal went really fast with Australia’s Emma Jeffcoat leading the race until the last lap of the run, where she was overrun by Paula Findlay (CAN), who secured bib number 1 for the final with a time of 1:00:58. Dominika Jamnicky (CAN) finished third and Lindsey Jerdonek and Taylor Spivey (USA) crossed the finish line in fifth and sixth places. The first European triathlete was Italian Verena Steinhauser in 4th.

The other athletes who qualified were Emilie Morier (FRA), Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR), Marlene Gomez (GER), Jeanne Lehair (FRA), Hideko Kikuchi (JPN), Giorgia Priarone (ITA), Elena Maria Petrini (ITA) and Yuliya Golofeeva (RUS).

The second Women’s semifinal had more of a European taste, with Hungary, Italy, Spain and France qualifying athletes for the final on Sunday.

A pack of seven athletes led the race since T1, and with all of them knowing they were already in the final, no great efforts were made to cross the finish line in the first places. The first six triathletes finished with less than seven seconds difference, led by Erin Dolan (USA), Yuko Takahashi (JPN) and Renee Tomlin (USA). After them, France’s Michelle Flipo, Russian Elena Danilova and Margot Garabedian (FRA) also made it to the final with no great efforts.

A bit more contested were the other places for the final, with them finally going to Japan’s Aoi Kuramoto, Italians Alessia Orla and Ilaria Zane, Spaniard Anna Godoy, followed by Zsanett Bragmayer (HUN), Emy Legault (CAN), Sandra Dodet (FRA), Elizabeth Boutin (CAN) and Noemi Sarzszegi (HUN).

In the first of the Men’s semifinal, Russian Dmitry Polyanskiy led the race from the beginning, with a very strong swim leg that put him up a few seconds before taking his bike. He kept the top spot until the end, followed closely by Canadian Matthew Sharpe. The third men on the finish line, Kevin McDowell (CAN) was impressive on the bike course, as was Stefan Zacheus (LUX), the fastest in T2.

Casper Stenderup (DEN), Benjamin Shaw (IRL), Matthew Roberts (AUS), Akos Vanek (HUN) and Istvan Kiraly also secured themselves a spot in the final, with Gregory Barnaby (ITA) and Lukas Hollaus (AUT) getting places for the next two best times.

In the second semifinal, Spaniard Cesc Godoy secured himself a good spot on the pontoon for the final by finishing first after impressive bike and run segments, followed closely by the other Polyanskiy brother, Igor, while American William Huffman got the third place. Theirs was the slowest semifinal, with all the favourites in a pack of exactly nine athletes: Mark Devay (HUN), Raoul Shaw (FRA), Vladimir Turbayevsky (RUS), Drew Box (AUS), Bence Bicsak (HUN) and Raphael Montoya (FRA), saving effort for the final on Sunday.

The same thing happened on the third and last semifinal, with a trio of locals Gabor Faldum, Tamas Toth and Laszlo Tarnai, leading the race from the bike segment, and the crowds going wild with them approaching the finish line all together. Italian Dalian Stateff finished third and also secured himself, as well as the Hungarians, a place on tomorrow’s start list.

With them they qualified Ilya Prasolov (RUS), Cristopher Perham (GBR), Ivan Ivanov (UKR), Alessio Fioravanti (ITA), Andras Czigany (HUN) and Ricardo Hernandez (ESP). With all of them there will be eight Hungarians in the Men’s final on Sunday, for the delight of the local crowds.