The Bottom, Saba- Saba’s 2020 triathlon took place on Saturday, January 18 with more participants than ever, 73 in total and with 50 starters. For the seventh time in a row, the Saba Triathlon was won by Gregory Pigeon from St. Martin, followed by Alwin Hylkema and Peter Johnson, both from Saba.
The top female individual was Morgane Triballier from St. Martin, with Celine Verdonck, also from St. Martin, placing second and Geertrude Hellema came in third place.
The weather and racecourse conditions were good. Participants swam 800m in the rough seas outside the Fort Bay harbor, biked 7kmn uphill with an elevation of nearly 700m and ran two connecting trails of 7km through the National Park. In total, there were 24 individual male participants, nine female individuals, three youth individuals, nine adult teams and three youth teams
Two top male individual competitors were able to improve their personal record. Pigeon completed the race in 1:44:20, his fastest time ever. This was the 50th race that Pigeon won in the Caribbean. Johnson also set a personal record and finished in 1:57:32, 13 minutes faster than last year. Hylkema, who moved to Saba in May last year, did the race in 1:52:47. Hylkema also won the Steve Giles trophy: a new award for the highest placed Saba resident. Giles, or Scuba Steve,” was a former scuba diving teacher who died last year at the age of 49. He took part in many triathlons and restarted the Saba triathlon in 2008. He came up with the Saba Triathlon’s slogan, “Where even the swim is uphill.” The trophy, a scuba tank, was donated by the Friends of Giles by Gersh Geenty.
The fastest woman, Triballier, completed the race in 2:01:30, followed by Verdonck with 2:15:27 and Hellema with 2:34:26. Manu Luzon Jenao from St. Martin won the youth individuals’ category with 2:11:18. John Mosquera from Saba placed second with 2:21:13, while Mathis Natchimie from St. Martin crossed the finish in 3:06:37.
Megan and Quirine from Saba won the adult team category. The two ladies, of whom one just became a mother a little over three months ago, completed the course in 2:17:09. The second-place winner was a special team, consisting of three Saba general practitioners. Dr. Koot, Dr. Lennart and Dr. Ruth finished in 2:22:18. It was the first time that a team of three doctors participated at the triathlon. Patricia of St. Martin and Barbara from Saba placed third with 2:38:38.
There were three youth teams, all from Saba. Jair, Devon, Thabio and Zyonn finished in 2:14:55. Gabby, Seneca, Edwin and Kimson completed the race in 2:40:38, and Caleb, Tobias and Greco came in third with a time of 2:44:27.
Twenty-four starters came from Saba. With 15 participants, the group from St. Maarten/St. Martin was the largest from abroad. This time, St. Martin came with a new team, the Xtreme Team. There were also participants from St. Eustatius, Aruba, the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Five members of the Dutch Royal Marines stationed in St. Maarten participated as individuals. The 11 other Marines from St. Maarten provided assistance along the racecourse. The Marines come to Saba every year for the triathlon, and they love the experience. “It is a special race and a tough course, which makes it challenging,” they said. The highest placed Marine, Robert Bosscha, received a special award.
The big star of the Saba Triathlon is 7 times winner Gregory Pigeon, a 37-year-old teacher from the Lycée in St. Martin. “I come back each year to participate. It is very special, much unlike the other races. It is hard to compare it to other races. I find the biking the best. The course is the steepest there is. The race is nicely organized and it is a good thing for the island. Many people come out to support. Everybody enjoys the race, not only the sportsmen.” Pigeon participated in and won the Saba Triathlon for the first time in 2009. Since 2012, when the races resumed after a short gap, Pigeon has come back every year. The 2020 Saba Triathlon was the 50th race that he has won. Pigeon takes part in many triathlons throughout the Caribbean, including Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico and of course on his island, St. Martin.
Jochem de Roos (18) was perhaps the youngest male individuals to participate in the 2020 Saba Triathlon, and he did very well with a time of 2:09:11. This was the fourth time he took part. He has lived on Saba up to 2.5 years ago before moving to the Netherlands. “This is a super cool race. Swimming in the ocean, biking on the steepest roads and running through the beautiful nature. If it is up to me, I will be here every year,” said De Roos, who trains at the Arnhem Triathlon Club in the Netherlands.
The Saba Triathlon is hosted by the Saba Triathlon Foundation, headed by Peter Johnson and Koen Hulshof. “This is thé Saba race. It takes up to 100 volunteers and sponsors to make Saba’s biggest event happen, and I am so grateful for each and everyone of them. From focusing on youth participation to getting as many Saban volunteers as possible, I want people to know that exercise and fitness can be as simple as going for a swim or walk through nature,” said Johnson.