Nestled at the foot of the majestic Austrian Alps, Kitzbuhel is synonymous with winter sports bliss. Home to the legendary Hahnenkamm and one of the most storied downhill ski races in the world, Kitzbuhel will come alive this weekend when it welcomes the ninth stop in the 2007 BG Triathlon World Cup series. Although international triathlons have been staged in Kitzbuhel since 1989, this race marks the first time Austria will host an ITU world cup event.
A full field of 80 men and more than 65 women will vie for the inaugural Kitzbuhel world cup title, as well as the victor’s share of the US$100,000 prize purse and valuable Olympic qualifying points.
The home team will get plenty of support from the locals as Austria fields its largest team of the world cup season. All eyes will be on current Olympic gold medalist Kate Allen who is certain to thrill the crowds. She is coming off a silver medal at the European Championships in Copenhagen but has been hampered by a muscle injury recently and is still questionable for Sunday’s start. However, the locals will have plenty to cheer about with Olympian Eva Dollinger, Tania Haiboeck and Lisa Hutthaler all set to compete.
The women’s field is highlighted by current world number two Annabel Luxford of Australia. After struggling with injuries last year, the 2005 world cup series champion is back in top form after back-to-back podium finishes in Des Moines and Edmonton. If Luxford finishes in fourth place or higher, she will overtake Portuguese star Vanessa Fernandes as the new world number one. But Luxford will find worthy challengers, among them, Canadian prodigy Kirsten Sweetland. The current Junior World Champion took silver at the last world cup in Edmonton and comes into Kitzbuhel ranked number three in the world.
A strong Swiss team will also be in contention for the podium with Olympic bronze medalist Magali Di marco Messmer and former Junior World Champion Nicola Spirig. Veteran Michelle Dillon of Great Britain has made the world cup podium already twice this year and looks to make it three in Kitzbuhel. Andrea Hewitt, the 2005 Under23 World Champion, has only competed in two world cups this year but raced to an impressive silver medal in Madrid and will be eager to make a move in the world rankings. German Christiane Pilz has been solid in 2007 with two world cup medals and winning last week’s German national championships.
In the men’s field, five-time world cup winner Brad Kahlefeldt of Australia will be one of the heavy favourites. He began the year with a win in Mooloolaba and a bronze in Lisbon but has cooled off since then after failing to finish in Madrid and Des Moines. The current Commonwealth Games gold medalist will be keen to assert himself as one of the contenders for the overall world cup series title. But the Aussie isn’t the highest ranked man in the field, that distinction is reserved for the 2000 Olympic gold medalist Simon Whitfield. In four world cup races this year, the Canadian has finished in the top ten each time, including a win in Vancouver, his first since 2004.
Others to watch include Olympic bronze medalist Sven Riederer of Switzerland who’s coming off a podium finish in Edmonton, and veterans Shane Reed and Volodymyr Polikarpenko who can never be ignored. Two-time European champion Frederic Belaubre of France will make his world cup debut in Kitzbuhel, after missing the first half of the season due to injury. He competed in Copenhagen to defend his European title but the lack of races showed and he finished in seventh place. A full squad of eight Austrian men will take the start line lead by Simon Agoston, the highest ranked Austrian in the men’s field.
At the foot of the world renowned Hahnenkamm mountain, athletes will swim two 750-meter laps in Lake Schwarzsee with a dive start in the non-wetsuit swim. After exiting the lake, they will bike a technical 40-kilometer, eight-lap course before a flat run course that consists of four 2.5-kilometer laps.
The women will begin race day as they start at 9:30am (local time) and the men take the start line at 1pm.
|Results: Elite Men|