Today, the inaugural Challenge Geraardbergen took place, a triathlon race over the middle distance (1.9 km swimming, 90 km cycling, 2.,1 km run) on the 'Muur' (wall) of Geraardsbergen. This world-renowned iconic climb of Flemish road cycling was the deciding factor for the podium for both men and women.

Trevor WurteleTrevor Wurtele
(Photo: Roderik van Nispen / Marathon Photos; click to enlarge)
  Tine DeckersTine Deckers
(Photo: Challenge Family; click to enlarge)

The New Zealand athlete Dylan McNeice set down a sharp winning swim time with 21:43 but was no more than 15 seconds ahead of strongest competitor - and local favorite - Pieter Heemeryck, who came out of the water fifth. Trevor Wurtele (Canada) was 1:54 behind. McNeice was soon picked up on the bike, but stayed close by. Heemeryck held out to be the first on top of the Muur, but had to give a lot of power. Wurtele could not get closer on the bike, but appeared to have enough reserves on the run. Step by step he ran the race leaders down until he finally got Heemeryck in sight. "I noticed him while running on the 400m track, saw his face and knew: I can have him. I gave full power and got closer and closer, and then I knew that the gold was waiting for me!"

For Heemeryck, the disappointment was great when Wurtele managed to catch him in the last two kilometers, but had no power left in his legs to retake first place. Although this happened in the final kilometers of the course, De Muur was decisive according to Heemeryck: "The second climb on the Muur I had to get off my bike." Running he managed to reach the top. "There I lost one minute of my three-minute lead. Finally I was 40 seconds away from the win. The Muur made the difference." In the finish stadium, the audience also expected Heemeryck first, but got surprised by the sprinting Canadian. With a dazzling applause, the big smiling Wurtele was welcomed.

Also for home favorite Tine Deckers, the Muur was crucial in the battle. Deckers was the first pro who signed-up for the race, as she had a fervent wish to win the first Challenge Family race in Belgium. The mental pressure increased when more and more strong ladies got their names on the start list. Coming out 2:15 behind fastest swimmer Sarissa De Vries (NED), and Margie Santimaria (ITA, +0:06) she started on the bike leg. She managed to reduce her deficit to 45 seconds when she started her first Muur climb. She picked up De Vries and Santimaria and arrived at the top as leader of the race. Then she thought, "I'll do that again on the second Muur climb too, giving full speed." And that took a good deal. "Yes, the Muur really made a difference, I could build my lead well!"

"We are extremely happy with the year one of Challenge Geraardsbergen," Challenge Family CEO Zibi Szlufcik says. "It was a weekend of Triathlon celebration in the "Mecca" of cycling sport with the Muur as the world wide known Flanders icon. Tight races, excellent organization and welcoming community, marks the race as one of the "must do" races in Europe. My thanks are going to all athletes, volunteer, partners and the Team."

Trevor Wurtele won the race in 3:58:04. Pieter Heemeryck took the second place and 3:58:42, Sanne Swolfs was a happy third in 4:02:02, followed by Dylan McNeice (New Zealand) at 4:03:01, Timothy Van Houtem (Belgium) in 4:04:04 and the Danish Anders Christensen (4:06:31).

Tine Deckers finished as first lady in 4:26:00. Sarissa de Vries was second in 4:31:06, followed by Santimaria (4:35:05), Ewa Komander from Poland (4:36:49), South African Annah Watkinson (4:37:45) and the Hungarian Erika Csomor (4:40:02)