By Merryn Sherwood on 29/08/11 at 6:11 am
The longer, more grueling version of the duathlon world championships is back on the ITU calendar, and it’s an exciting time for the sport as the ITU has officially partnered with the International Powerman Association for the 2011 Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships.
The ITU has previously partnered with the International Powerman Association to stage this event in 1997 and 1998, but this year the partnership is ultimately more poignant as it is also a legacy for the late Benny Vansteelant. Benny was a duathlon legend, a multiple ITU Duathlon World Champion who won almost every race he entered, before tragically passing away after a training accident near his home in Belgium in 2007. The Vansteelants, including his younger brother Joerie Vansteelant who is favourite to win the elite men’s race this weekend, have helped to bring ITU and Powerman together to secure a stronger future for duathlon.
The titles will be decided in Zofingen over a 10km run, 150km bike and then a 30km run. The course has some interesting hills, twists and turns, including almost half of the second run taking place in a forest and the final three kilometres to the finish line all downhill.
Elite Women’s Preview
Other competitors have been trying for years, but once again it’s going to be hard to knock Erika Csomor (HUN) off the top of the Zofingen podium. Csomor first made the Zofingen podium back in 2001 with silver, but since 2004 has been the only woman to win, which means she’s lining up her eigth straight Zofingen title this week, but first that would also be an official ITU World Championship.
But in the shorter distance Powerman event in Zofingen last week, Csomor was beaten, by Denmark’s Susanne Svendsen. Svendsen will lead the charge to chase down Csomor again this week in the long distance event. There are also plenty of athletes who have won silver and bronze behind Csomor since her reign started in the field, like Switzerland’s Maja Jacober who has three bronze medals from the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Zofingen championships and Jacqueline Uebelhart, who finished second in 2010.
The others who are competing for a chance to be a duathlon world champion are Michelle Parsons (nee Lee) who finished second behind duathlon legend Catriona Morrison at the 2007 long distance duathlon worlds, Oceania duathlon champ Melanie Burke (NZL), long distance age-group world champion Katrin Esefeld (GER), regular Powerman winner May Kerstens (NED). Then there are those who also delve into more of the ITU’s multisports, like Kristina Lapinova (SVK), (she competes in Cross Triathlon and Winter Triathlon), and Eve Nystrom (SWE), another Winter triathlete who finished second to Csomor in Zofingen in 2007 and 2008. Ulrike Schwalbe (GER) is a previous top-10 long distance duathlon worlds finisher.
Elite Men’s Preview
Joerie Vansteelant already has two ITU Long Distance Duathlon titles, one Zofingen title and last weekend, won the shorter distance Powerman Zofingen race. Put simply, the new dad, who crossed the finish line with son Nils last weekend in Zofingen, is the one to beat in the race that is also a legacy for his late brother Benny.
He will have to beat Andreas Sutz (SUI) though, as the defending 2010 Zofingen champion will be keen to make up for last week’s second place behind Vansteelant. France’s Anthony Le Duey finished third last week and will back up again in the longer distance, and hopefully move up a rung or two after bronze medals in 2009 and 2010. Last year France claimed silver and bronze on the podium, thanks to Thibaut Humbert, who is also a great chance again this year. Like in the women’s field, there are also some all round multisport stars on show, like two-time winter triathlon world champion Sigi Bauer (AUT).
Overall, there are an exciting number of athletes from a diverse range of countries competing in Switzerland, including Malaysia, Greece, France, Luxembourg, Austria, Great Britain, the USA, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark and hosts Switzerland.
The 2011 Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Powerman Duathlon gets underway when the women’s elite field starts at 8am (local time) on September 4, followed by the men’s start at 8.50am.
Find more details about this event - 2011 Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships