The winter triathlon season will culminate this weekend in Cogne, Italy with the 2013 ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships. Defending champions Helena Erbenova (CZE) and Pavel Andreev (RUS) will each attempt to preserve their respective titles in the run, bike, ski race on Saturday, February 23.
Along with the elite races, the men’s and women’s Under23, junior and age-group races will be contested in Italy for the first time since the championship’s inception in Brusson in 2002.
Helena Erbenova will be the woman to beat this year as she looks to claim her second consecutive world championship title. Erbenova overtook 2011 world champion Borghild Løvset (NOR) last year to earn her first world title, but recently finished one minute, 28 seconds behind the Norwegian powerhouse at the ETU Winter Triathlon Championships in Tartu.
However, with 2012 runner-up Maija Oravamäki and Løvset missing from the start list, Erbenova could go unchallenged for another title. Russia’s Tatiana Charochkina could be dangerous, as she just missed out on a medal at the ETU Winter Triathlon Championships, while European Championships bronze medallist Elisabeth Sveum (NOR) will attempt her first elite world championship medal.
Reigning champion Andreev is the clear favourite heading into the men’s race, as he is coming off a win at the Tartu ETU Winter Triathlon Championships. Andreev has medalled in the race on three previous occasions, and has won the last two years.
Last year’s runner up Daniel Antonioli (ITA) will put up stiff competition for the title, but his form is questionable after finishing fifth to a strong team of Russians at the ETU Championships. Both men will have strong support from deep teams, with Italy having entered seven men to compete. Meanwhile, the four men representing Russia occupied the top four spots in Tartu. Russia’s Maxim Kuzmin and Dmitry Bregeda will no doubt be looking to make their first elite podiums after medalling at the European Championships.
The Under23 women’s race will be made up of a small contingency consisting of just four athletes. Margarita Ovsyannikva (RUS) looks to be a top threat as the veteran competitor in the category with three years’ experience in the age group. However, while she won in 2011 and finished second last year, she will face tough competition from teammate Tatiana Bregeda, who won in Tartu in January.
The Russians continue their strong trend in the men’s U23 category, with the all-Russian podium from 2012 returning again this year. After making the seamless jump to the U23 division last year in winning form, Pavel Yakimov is coming off a solid silver medal finish from the European Championships.
Seven women will toe the line in the women’s junior race, headed by defending champion Natalie Grabmullerova (CZE). The Czech will face off with Stefania Shamshurina (RUS), who just claimed the junior women’s European title by 33 seconds.
ETU junior medallists Roman Vasin, Zhorzh Basyuk and Nikita Mandrik continue the strong Russian male trend, as they are the names to watch in the men’s junior race. Basyuk won last year, but finished just 10 seconds behind Vasin in Tartu.
Action will get underway with on Saturday at 9:00am with the men’s and women’s junior events. The elite and U23 women will start at 11:00, while the men will take off at 1:00pm. The age-group races will be contested on Sunday, along with the Mixed Team Relay.