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Matto gets podium at Sprint Triathlon

Robert Matto finished in 1hr 11mins and achieved a podium place by finishing 3rd in the Veterans category at what was his first sprint triathlon since 2020.

After practically a full year of almost no racing activity for local triathletes, the Andalusian Triathlon circuit is finally gearing up to a long-awaited return to competition, albeit under a slightly different guise, as Spain slowly eases out of the latest Covid-19 state of emergency.

Due to the strong levanter onshore wind and rough sea-state characteristic of the Cadiz coast, the first race of the 2021 calendar was certainly a baptism of fire. The San Fernando Sprint Triathlon [part of the Andalusian Triathlon Championships] was held on Saturday 15th May and consisted of the usual short-distance legs of 750m swim, followed by 20km bike and finishing with a 5km run. All the top regional triathletes [semi-professional, sub-elite and ranked age-groupers] were present in a very strong field of approximately 350 competitors.

However, short-distance triathlon racing has been radically changed [at least for the foreseeable future] due to safety protocols imposed by the Triathlon federations. Mass starts with swimmers jostling for prime positions and draft-legal cycling groups are no more. All competitors are set off individually every 20 seconds to avoid any close contact during the course of the entire event. This means that the race has to be approached in a very different manner, where positional strategy and reacting to individual attacks is no longer the prime characteristic or concern. The event has to be approached as an individual time-trial where the triathlete is reliant more than ever on his recent training data to measure the effort required – essentially, the individual against the clock.

Local triathlon enthusiasts Christian Celecia and Stephanie McKinnon completed the gruelling event with respectable times of 1hr 35min and 1hr 55min respectively. Island Games and Commonwealth Games veteran Robert Matto finished in 1hr 11mins and achieved a podium place by finishing 3rd in the Veterans category, despite now being in direct competition with a growing field of triathletes who are more than 5 years junior than him.

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