By Erin Greene on 12/08/14 at 12:16 pm
This weekend will showcase one of the grittiest and grimiest disciplines in triathlon with the 2014 Zittau ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship. Set over a 1.5km swim, 36km off terrain bike and 9km cross country run, athletes will grind it out for a chance to call themselves the world’s best. With a 978m climb on the bike and another 105m climb on the run, this race isn’t for the feint of heart.
Thanks to the surge in popularity cross triathlon has received, Saturday will feature a mixture of veterans and newcomers that is sure to be scintillating. In addition to the elites, the Under23, junior, age group and paratriathlon divisions will be contested.
Helena Erbenova (CZE) returns as the multisport queen with two Cross Triathlon World Championship titles to her name, as well as a winter triathlon crown to boot. Last year, Erbenova destroyed the competition by a whopping five minutes for her second cross triathlon gold medal. With Zittau on the border of the Czech Republic, the race will practically be a home event for Erbenova.
Chantell Widney (CAN), who earned bronze last year, will line up second next to Erbenova. While she finished eight minutes behind the Czech last year, it was her first time racing the discipline and has since gained valuable experiences in the XTERRA Pro Series this season.
Renata Bucher (GER) and Katrin Muller (SUI) both downed Erbenova recently at the 2014 Sardinia ETU Natura Cross Triathlon European Championships. Bucher did so in formidable fashion, winning by nearly four minutes.
While Bucher hasn’t been as steadfast on the XTERRA circuit as in previous years, elite triathlete Flora Duffy (BER) has begun to sketch out a spot for herself in the XTERRA rankings. Duffy, who recently competed at the Commonwealth Games, has won every XTERRA race that she’s entered so far this year.
Like Duffy, Emma Garrard (USA) and Suzanne Snyder (USA) are listed further down the start list, but are tucked just behind Duffy on the popular XTERRA Pro Series rankings. Also on the this weekend’s start list is Olympic bronze medallist Erin Densham (AUS), who earlier this year won an XTERRA race in which she entered as a part of her training for her return to the World Triathlon Series.
The king of cross triathlon himself, ‘The Caveman’ Conrad Stoltz (RSA) returns as the three-time consecutive reigning champion. While his trifecta of world titles speak for themselves, the sport has grown tremendously and is producing higher and higher levels of competition.
Ruben Ruzafa (ESP), who finished second to Stoltz last year, will this year line up next to him for another shot at taking out the South African after winning the XTERRA world title the last two years. Next to them will be France’s Brice Daubord, who completed the podium at the 2013 Championships.
While Josiah Middaugh (USA) hasn’t competed in an ITU race since finishing off the podium at the 2012 Shelby County ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships, Middaugh tops the charts in the XTERRA rankings. Fellow XTERRA competitor Bradley Weiss (RSA) will also toe the line come Saturday. The race will be his first on the ITU calendar since winning the Under23 World Championships in 2012.
Australia’s Ben Allen has been historically strong in international cross triathlon races, but has failed to make an impression in ITU racing to date. A strong swimmer, Allen last year challenged the leaders until the final run lap when he ran out of steam and forfeited his chance at a medal.
Kris Coddens (BEL) will also be hot to finally collect a top three finish for himself, having just missed the podium last year. A strong biker and runner, Coddens will needs to keep the leaders in sight on the swim if he wants a shot at a medal.
Find more details about this event - 2014 Zittau ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships