Rudolph Agius and Hannah Cutajar were crowned 2020 National Triathlon champions on Sunday, when the Malta Triathlon Federation hosted the Tacx National Triathlon Championships in Salina.
Agius’ win made up for his disappointment at having his participation in the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii, postponed to 2021.
Meanwhile for Cutajar, this win was a return to champion status. Cutajar had been unable to defend her title last year, due to a serious cycling injury a few days prior to last year’s race.
Sunday’s race was a battle of wills, strategic planning and determined performances. There was not going to be an easy victory for any of the winners.
The Standard Distance Race consisted of a 1,500m swim, a 40km cycle and a 10km run. Calm conditions in the swim were a contrast to the strong headwinds encountered in the 40km bike course.
First to emerge out of the 1,500m swim was Rudolph Agius.
Agius and Joseph Galea took the lead but slowly Agius edged Galea to exit the water with a comfortable lead.
Behind them was Malcolm Vassallo followed by Steve Chetcuti and Josef Bonavia.
Agius continued to keep the lead throughout, with Galea challenging his position and narrowing the gap on the 40km bike leg.
Unfortunately, a puncture in the fourth lap put paid to his efforts forcing him to withdraw from the race.
With Galea out of the picture, Josef Bonavia was next in line to challenge Agius’ dominance. Bonavia, who had a highly successful season, was considered to be another possible contender but an early mistake in the swim, when he took a wrong turning, cost him precious time.
Despite registering the fastest bike split, Bonavia had to settle for second place behind Agius, who celebrated his first National Triathlon Championship title. In third place was Kersten Theuma who delivered a solid performance that earned him his first championship podium.
There was no doubt that the women’s race would be hard fought.
Danica Bonello Spiteri, who was unbeaten in the Sprint Series season, was definitely fighting for a championship win but was not going to be let off easily by Hannah Cutajar.
Cutajar registered the fastest swim and headed into transition with a 50-second advantage over Bonello Spiteri. Third female out of the water was Margaret Seguna.
Out on the bike course, however, Bonello Spiteri edged her way ahead of Cutajar, keeping a minimal lead throughout the six laps of the course.
With few seconds separating them as they entered into the second transition, Bonello Spiteri ran out of transition ahead of Cutajar.
The 10km run was to be the deciding factor between the two. Cutajar went on the attack to overtake Bonello Spiteri in the early stages of the run and kept pushing till the very end to win her fourth National Championship title.
Cutajar registered a finish time of 2 hours 12 minutes and 2 seconds. Third place went to Lara Buttigieg.
“Despite the challenges to host such events, the Federation pulled off a successful event, in spite of the increased measures and protocols that needed to be implemented to ensure a safe racing environment,” John Vella, president, Malta Triathlon Federation, said.
“Although the competitive spirit was high, so was the degree of fair play and the integrity shown by athletes – even when mistakes proved to be costly. This is the true spirit of triathlon and the attitude that the Federation wants to instil in its athletes.”
The Malta Triathlon Federation is grateful for the support Medcomms Malta, agents of Tacx Indoor Bikes and Trainers, Protein Malta as well as Transport Malta and Birkirkara St Joseph Sports Club who took care of logistics and the race officials.