Following the EURO TOUR’s biggest stop in Bilbao the week before, lots of pro riders decided to stay in Spain to compete in San Sebastian. Indeed, the likes of Connor Baxter, Michael Booth, Titouan Puyo or Jake Jensen were competing in La Concha Beach on Saturday along several other world class paddlers.
Saturday’s long distance was a two laps 17km race, starting on the Beach, getting out of the bay to reach the river and go back to the bay. The conditions were very tough with some hard upwind/sidewind sections and a lot of backwash and current. Fortunately, there were some downwind parts that made the race very interesting. I really enjoyed the conditions because after 3 weeks in a row of flatwater (boring) racing, it felt good to finally have some oceanic conditions. Even the river was an exciting part, trying to avoid to hit the rocks on the sides and playing with the strong current around the bridges.
After the start, Connor Baxter, Titouan Puyo and Michael Booth took an early lead alongside with Leo Nika while Zane Schweitzer was not too far behind. After a slow start on the first upwind leg, I was able to catch a few bumps to make my way back to the top10, chasing Zane with Joseph Gueguen and Trevor Tunnington. Jake Jensen quickly suffered from his board choice, racing a 21″ board that wasn’t stable enough for the conditions, and chose to quit the race.
As the four guys lead pack stayed together to break far away from us in front, we were able to catch back Zane Schweitzer but another group including Giordano Capparella and Roman Frejo and caught us back from behind.
Titouan Puyo was unbeatable on the choppy conditions
For the second lap, Titouan made a move on the bumps to break away from the pack, then nobody was able to catch him before he crossed the finish line.
A big effort went from Michael Booth who was sitting in 4th position, 50+ meters behind Leo and Connor, after the first lap and caught back on them on the short flatwater part (~2-3km) in the river to claim a strong second place finish half a minute behind Titouan. Finishing in third position was the Italian Leo Nika who once again put on a big performance on this year’s EURO TOUR while Connor Baxter finished in 4th position after slowing down on the last kilometers.
Trevor Tunnington was the strongest in the second pack to cross the line in 5th position but unfortunately missed one buoy on the last leg and was disqualified. After him, I was fighting with Giordano Capparella for the 6th (then 5th) position and had enough energy to out-sprint him on the last kilometer. Finishing 7th was Gabriel Bachelet who made a big come-back during the whole race after having a bad time on the reef after the start of the race. Just behind, my fellow training mate from Brittany Joseph Gueguen arrived in 8th position while Zane Schweitzer made his return to racing with a 9th place finish and Spanish Pepe Oltra rounded the top10.
Olivia Piana surprised everyone (except her french supporters)
On the women’s side, the big favorite of this stop Fiona Wylde took an early lead on the upwind/downwind leg to the river but got soon caught back by Olivia Piana. The french woman made her come back to racing last summer and looks like she is improving at every race. On Saturday, she looked unstoppable on the upwind/sidewind/downwind legs and claimed the victory with a strong lead.
Finishing in second position was Fiona Wylde, who told me after the event that she felt energy less during the race, which is understandable after more than 3 hard weeks of racing in a row. Coming home in third position was April Zilg, who really enjoyed the oceanic conditions to end up her European campaign with a great result. Another great performance came from the young 16 years old Mélanie Lafenêtre who claimed an impressive 4th place in front of the Spanish Laura Quetglas (5th).
On Sunday, the organizers decided, like in Bilbao, to set up a BIG SUP race with the Red Paddle Co Inflatable XXL SUP. It was a very fun and inspiring moment once again with the pros riding alongside the amateurs.
San Sebastian has been an amazing stop of the EURO TOUR, with an incredible organization and some exciting racing. This event is for sure one to put on your bucket list for 2017.