Spirig had time to celebrate her gold medal in the closing stages ©Getty Images

Switzerland’s Olympic champion Nicola Spirig powered away from her rivals in the final discipline of the women’s triathlon here today, to add the European Games title to her impressive collection of medals.

The race marked the first time that Azerbaijan had hosted an international triathlon event and it had been billed as a re-match between Spirig and Sweden’s Lisa Norden, the silver medallist at London 2012, after the two women had been separated in a photo-finish.

Having not raced each other since, due to Spirig giving birth and Norden’s injury problems, the pre-race focus was always likely to be on the Olympic medallists.

But Ireland’s Aileen Reid was tipped as a potential contender to upset the favourites.

It was The Netherlands' Rachel Klamer and Russia's Anastasia Abrosimova who led the women out from a choppy 1.5 kilometres swim, held in windy conditions, but Abrosimova’s stay at the head of the race was to be brief as she dropped back at the start of the bike leg.

The Russian athlete was replaced by Norden and Spirig as the favourites began to set a high pace during the 40km bike section, which saw them pull away from the chasing pack.

Despite appearing to suffer from the high pace, 24-year-old Klamer stuck with the Olympic medallists to all but secure a podium position as the bike leg ended with the trio two minutes clear of the fourth-placed athlete.

Klamer would be forced to fight out the silver and bronze medal positons with Norden, as Spirig launched an early attack in the 10km run and never looked in trouble, perhaps down her expertise in the discipline, having represented her country in the marathon at the 2014 European Athletics Championships.

The three podium finishes were well clear chasing pack by the end of the race
The three podium finishes were well clear chasing pack by the end of the race ©Getty Images

Spirig continued to build her advantage and never looked in trouble on course to completing her victory in 2 hours 28sec, with the Swiss athlete even having time to celebrate in the closing metres.

"It feels amazing to win the first European Games and to have won a qualifying spot for the Olympics in Rio [2016] makes this a perfect day for me,” Spirig said.

"Winning the qualifying place means I can go an unconventional way to the Olympics and gives me that freedom to prepare my season as I want.

"Now I can do some long-distance races and plan my own schedule.”

While the Spirig and Norden showdown did not quite play out, there was an element of déjà vu from London 2012 as Norden found herself pipped to the line in a sprint finish.

The Swede was behind Klamer by just a few metres but the Dutch athlete proved to have enough as she finished 7 seconds behind the winner to earn silver with Norden taking bronze a further two seconds back.

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