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Watch: Rudolph Agius claims fifth Ocean Lava Malta title

Surprising Marquita Muscat tops women’s race

The annual Ocean Lava Malta Triathlon race took place on Sunday, following its postponement from its traditional date in May due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The triathlon, which is Malta’s only middle distance race, saw lesser numbers this year – which in the context of the current situation was understandable.

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A good number of international triathletes hit with quarantine restrictions, failed to make the journey to Malta. 

Local triathletes who made it a point to join, represented a good mix of veterans and rookies. Amongst those present where triathletes the likes of Rudolph Agius, Nicky Farrugia, David Galea and Dermot Galea, who have notched years of experience over this distance, battled it out on the course.

Joining them were rookies who in a short span of time have been making a name for themselves – Joseph Galea, who had a successful season this summer.

Galea, who placed second in last year’s race, was considered to be a worthy opponent to last year’s winner Rudolph Agius. 

Meanwhile in the female segment,  from the four athletes, Maureen Farrugia (third in 2019) and Juliya Azzopardi Mazur where the two with experience on this distance.  Denise Cortis and Marquita Muscat were out to prove themselves in their first foray.

If covering 113km distance is not challenging enough, the Ocean Lava Triathlon has gained a reputation for athletes having to contend with rough conditions – sea swells and strong winds particularly being the order of the day.

Agius, made no secret of the fact that he was out to retain his Ocean Lava crown for the fifth time and his determination showed in his composed and tactically planned race.

First out of the water, he gained a comfortable advantage over Joseph Galea. 

Behind Joseph Galea was Dermot Galea who was following the two on the 90km bike course.  The bike course proved catalyst for the final podium positions.

Joseph Galea registered a fantastic time, strongly narrowing the gap between him and Agius.  Despite Joseph Galea’s attack on the bike, however, a nagging injury put paid to his attempts to a possible victory resulting in him retiring in the second lap of the half marathon. 

Agius kept on his calculated strategy to win the race in a time of 4:17:51… a new course record.

Behind Agius, were Jeremy Fenech, who quitely rose up the ranks to overtake some of the most seasoned veterans and Matthew Mirabelli. Both triathletes have not been long on the scene yet provided a solid performance to make it to the podium.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was Marquita Muscat. 

Muscat, who only took up triathlon earlier this year, was taking part in her first middle distance triathlon.

First out of the water was the more experienced Azzopardi Mazur, who gained a near five minute advantage over Muscat.

However out on the bike course, Muscat slowly edged Azzopardi Mazur to lead the way onto the run.

Despite the latter having a faster run it was not enough for her to beat Muscat who crossed the finish line in a time of 5 hours 41 minutes and 53 seconds. 

Azzopardi Mazur finished the race 5 minutes 32 seconds to claim second place. In third place was Denise Cortis, who also claimed her first podium. 

During the race 21 relay teams took part.

The relay teams attracted a good number of high level swimmers, cyclist and runners who are no strangers to podiums in their respective sports. 

Marquita Muscat in action during the bike segment. Photos: Andrew Large

The first team to finish was Mosta Cycling Club (Leah Satariano, Mark Zammit, Luke Micallef), followed by Maxed Out (Bernard Sant, Mark Bonnici, Ryan Farrugia) and in third place was team Jam (Maya Schembri Rogers, Antoine Sultana, Josann Attard Pulis).

“Organising Ocean Lava is always challenging. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic things were even harder,” said Charlie Demanuele, the Race Director.

“We had to postpone the race from the original date and to organise today’s race we had to implement strict protocols and measures to ensure a safe racing environment.

“Thankfully athletes understand the hard work we put in and their cooperation made things slightly easier. We now look forward to the next edition of Ocean Lava Triathlon which is planned to be held on Sunday, May 15, 2021.”

In a statement, the organisers thanked Birkirkara St. Joseph for their logistical support, The Cyclist Bike Shop for bike mechanic services, ARRTS Timing System, Intersport, Transport Malta, Naxxar Local Council, the Malta Police Force – Naxxar and Birkirkara Districts, Malta Bike Marshalls and the race officials present on the day.

Results

Men

1. R. Agius 4:17:51; 2. J. Fenech 4:28:33; 3. M. Mirabelli 4:49:19.

Women

1. M. Muscat 5:41:53; 2. J. Azzopardi Mazur 5:47:25; 3. D. Cortis 6:23:28.

Age group winners

30-34 Steve Ritchie; 35-39 Mark Lewis; 40-44 Kristian Briffa; 45-49 David Galea; 50-54 Charles Camilleri.

Team relay

1. Mosta CC; 2. Maxed Out; 3 JAM.

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