By David Peddie on 15/04/12 at 9:19 pm
For the first time, the European Triathlon Championships will be held in Israel in Eilat.
Eilat is no stranger to hosting top class International Triathlon events and has been a fixture of the European race season since its first European Cup in 2005.
Towards the end of last year, the LOC and Israeli Federation showed their versatility and commitment by hosting the U23 European Championships simultaneously with a European Cup race.
Now, Eilat will host the biggest event on the ETU race calendar, in what will be a particularly special European Championships in this special sporting year.
Although these Championships are being held much earlier in the year than usual, these Championships promise to ignite the European Triathlon season and with Olympic Games places still available, every athlete on the start list will have something to fight for.
ELITE MEN PREVIEW
Following a disappointing and, at times, controversial European Championships on home soil last year, Javier Gomez will be the favourite to reclaim his European title.
Gomez, the 2009 European Champion, is the highest ranked athlete in the Men’s field and with no Brownlee brothers to deal with at this year’s competition he can get 2012 off to the perfect start.
However, Eilat is new territory for the Spaniard, having never raced here in his Triathlon career.
Sven Riederer (SUI) and Alexander Brukyhankov (RUS) are the next highest ranked athletes on the start field. Riederer returns to European Triathlon action for the first time in two years following a DNF in his last European Championship in Athlone.
A quintet of French athletes will provide difficult opposition for the field and if they can work together tactically they will have a big chance of success here. Frederic Belaubre, Pierre Le Corre, Aurelien Raphael, Vincent Luis and Tony Moulai have all secured podium places in International races before.
Raphael and Le Corre in particular led home a French one-two in the opening European race of the season in Quarteira and so are in good form heading into these Championships.
Dmitry Polyansky was third on the European Championships podium last year, behind only the Brownlee Brothers. He also has experience of an Eilat podium having again finished third in the European Cup race here only six months ago.
Of course, the quality of the athletes racing mean anything can happen on the day. But a couple to look out for are German Justus Nieschlag and Joao Silva (POR). Silva is the three time U23 European Champion who arrived on the International stage last year with a breakthrough win in Yokohama.
Nieschlag was the Junior European Champion last year in Pontevedra and makes the step up to the Elite field.
The Elite Men European Championships race takes place on Saturday 21st April, 1500 local time.
ELITE WOMEN PREVIEW
Emmie Charayron (FRA) is the defending champion and she will be going for her third European title. The 2009 Junior European Champion mastered the stifling hot temperatures in Pontevedra last year and will need all of her experience in the heat of Eilat.
She will up against Nicola Spirig (SUI) who is gunning for a fourth European title. She won back to back titles in 2009 and 2010 to add to her maiden title in 1998. She is the highest ranked athlete in the Elite women’s field and secured a 5th place finish in Sydney at the opening ITU World Championship series.
Both Charayron and Spirig face strong opposition in Ainhoa Murua (ESP), Jessica Harrison (FRA), Vendula Frintova (CZE) and Helle Frederiksen (DEN).
Frintova was runner up to Charayron last year and has the ability and the experience to go one better here.
Frederiksen posted a second place podium finish here in Eilat in 2009 so has experience of the course. But the women who beat her that day, Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR), has won here at all levels and is one of the most experienced of racing in Eilat.
Yelistratova has won a Junior Cup (2006), a Premium European Cup (2009) and was 5th last year in the U23 Championships.
The Women’s competition is always so open but Lucy Hall (GBR) and Ester Dudas (HUN) will interest spectators. Both had sterling years in 2011 in the Junior fields and have made the step up to elite level.
Hall has already proved that the step up with two podiums in three International races so far in 2012. Dudas was runner up in the Junior European Championships last year and has also competed in some elite races but this will be a major test for her.
The Elite Women’s race is on Friday 20th April at 1500 local time.
JUNIOR MEN PREVIEW
With a number of the Junior athletes making the step up to Elite level in 2012 the platform is open for another young superstar to make the breakthrough and announce themselves onto the European Triathlon scene.
However, the two main contenders remain Jelle Geens (BEL) and Matthias Steinwandter (ITA). Both men excelled in 2011, winning 5 Junior European cups between them as well as a Duathlon European title (Steinwandter) and a European Junior No.1 ranking (Geens)
Both Geens and Steinwandter made the podium in Pontevedra last year. Steinwandter looked to have the race in the bag before being caught on the last lap by Nieschlag and Geens to finish 3rd.
Both will be determined to go a least one better here and Steinwandter has already laid down a marker with 1st place in the only Junior European Cup of 2012 in Quarteira at the beginning of the month.
Other athletes to watch out for are Bob Haller (LUX), Raphael Montoya – part of the blossoming French Triathlon team who has a European Cup victory under his belt - and Britain’s Gordon Benson, who secured three podium finishes in 2011 and began this year with a solid 5th place in Quarteira.
David Pap (Hun) had a solid, if unspectacular, debut season in 2011 but he will look to break out of the shadow of sister Eszter, who has performed so brilliantly at junior level in the women’s category.
The Junior Men’s race takes place on Saturday 21st April at 1200 local time.
JUNIOR WOMEN PREVIEW
The 2011 Junior Women’s season was the most open competition of the European triathlon season. From 15 races, came 13 different winners.
With only the Quarteira Junior Cup completed in 2012, it will be intriguing to see if any of these athletes can emerge from the field to dominate this year.
One of the main contenders will be Eszter Pap (HUN). Pap has experience of competing in Eilat, having finished 9th in the Elite field at the European Cup last year. Her step up to elite action that day was a result of an impressive year at junior level, as she finished the No.1 European ranked junior female.
Monika Orazem (SLO) was consistently good last year. One of only two junior females to win more than one European Cup race and this was reflected in her final ranking position (No.2)
The conveyor belt of talent emerging from the British Triathlon federation will see all eyes on Sky Draper and Madelaine Winzer, following Lucy Hall’s progression to the Elite field. Draper suffered a DNF in the heat of Pontevedra last year but posted an impressive third place in the opening European race of the year in Quarteira.
The Junior women’s race takes place on Friday 20th April, 1300 local time
The Paratriathlon European Championships offer some intriguing matchups across all the classifications – with 48 athletes in action.
Some of the most prominent names in the sport will grace Eilat, with multiple champions keen to defend their titles. Peter Boronkay (HUN) has the carrot of four consecutive European Championships titles in Tri-4 to aim for.
But Tri-4 has the highest contingent of athletes and amongst them is Toni Franco (ESP) – a European Duathlon Champion (2010), a World Cross Triathlon Champion (2011) – but 2nd is his highest European finish.
In Tri-6 we have a mouthwatering clash between Iain Davison (GBR) and defending Champion Lazar Filipovic (SRB).
Dawson, the 2010 European Champion, suffered a DNF in Pontevedra last year as Filipovic secured his first title and the two will go head to head here.
Across the classifications, British trio Charlotte Ellis (Tri-6), Faye McLelland (Tri-4) and Jane Egan (Tri-1) will all be going for their third European titles in a row.
All Paratriathlon Classification races take place on Sunday 22nd April at 1300 local time
Also competing in Eilat are over 600 Age Group Athletes across the Sprint and Standard distances and the Age Group Standard distance has the honour of opening the Championships on Friday 20th at 0700 local time.
The extremely popular mixed relay races will also take place once again with 18 teams scheduled for the Junior relay and 10 in the Elite event.
Good luck to all competitors and see you in Eilat.
Find more details about this event - 2012 Eilat ETU Triathlon European Championships