Mathys with record-breaking fourth victory, Maestri finally on top of the podium
The curtain has been raised on the inaugural European Athletics Off-Road Championships and it was hats off for some of the greats of Mountain Running.
Swiss athlete Maude Mathys won her fourth title in a row in El Paso on the Canary Island of La Palma – that’s a record! And the Italian Cesare Maestri triumphed in the men’s race, while the German Lukas Ehrle and Norwegian Ida Waldal proved unbeatable in the U20 competitions.
“This victory means a lot to me,” Mathys stated after her race. “It shows that I can compete at a very constant high level and that I can compete with younger athletes. It is difficult to stay on top all the time, therefore I’m especially proud of today’s gold medal.”
However, it’s a fact that Mathys was not really thinking of running to a record-breaking fourth Mountain Race title, but more considering of remaining the No. 1 pre- and post-pandemic. “Today, it was like a new beginning, after the interruptions caused by Covid, with a new format of the European Championships,” Mathys said and laughed: “It was very important for me to show that I am still the Queen.”
Her strategy was simple and worked. The Swiss athlete wanted to run with the best women until the middle of the race and then attack and create a gap, before going solo. But the start proved more difficult than anticipated and Mathys had to fight to keep up with Scout Adkin, who later placed fourth. “I had expected it to be easier.” However, her tactics finally paid off and shortly before Kilometre 6, Mathys went all-in for a big gap, achieved it and was able to hold her advantage until the finish line, with Austria’s Andrea Mayr and Christel Dewalle from France coming in second and third, respectively.
Maude Mathys will also take part in Sunday’s Up and Down race to try for another medal (“it is possible and, if so, it will be a bonus. But I have to rest and show my best again”) and also the winner of the Men’s race will be seen again during the Championships.
Cesare Maestri didn’t celebrate his first success today, but the first victory in his career so far on the Canaries. The Italian was European Vice Champion in 2018 and World Vice Champion in 2019, and then came the pandemic. “I thought the virus had stolen my best years,” he said. “But today, I achieved the success I have been waiting for such a long time – my emotions and my happiness are indescribable!”
Maestri didn’t really focus on a strategy as such because he had been dealing with muscle problems in recent days. But he realized in the first kilometre that he felt good and his legs were cooperating. “I knew that it was very fast up to Kilometre 6 of the course and that suited me. Therefore I came with a gap into the last part of the course and had to defend my lead.” And this he did with the style of a champion right up to the finish, which he reached before Dominik Rolli (Switzerland) and Daniel Osanz (Spain).
“I haven’t really begun concentrating on the Up and Down Race as yet because I want to enjoy this moment. I will enter it in a relaxed manner and try to give it my best.”
While the title winners in the elite class were two personalities who were expected to be in the mix, both winners of the U20 races were themselves surprised by their triumphs.
“I didn’t expect to win here,” said Norway’s Ida Waldal. “I approached the race very thoughtfully and got faster and faster the closer I got to the finish. After arriving there, I was really surprised – and happy.“ Germany’s Lukas Ehrle was also finding it hard to take in his success. “It’s my first big international race and I came to La Palma without any real expectations. Now I’m standing here with a gold medal – I simply can’t believe it!”
After the “Uphill”-day, Italy leads the medal table with three Gold (Maestri, Team Senior Men, Team U20 Women), two Silver (Vicari, Team U20 Men) and one Bronze medal (Team Senior Women) in front of Switzerland (1/3/0) and Spain (1/1/4).
Written by Egon Theiner for European Athletics. Photos courtesy of Reventon El Paso.
Full results of all the weekend's racing can be found here: ETCh-19-2022-LaPalma-ESP.pdf