By Paul Groves on 26/09/14 at 7:09 am
Looking at the photos from an event and you will often think to yourself, “That looks nice there. Might be worth a trip”. TNatura, working with ETU to deliver events to European athletes, has this as its stated aim, “to become a life style and a reference brand for both European and international Off-Road triathlon”. We saw stunning scenery in Sardinia along with tough racing and great victories. This last weekend TNatura and ETU gave the opportunity to amateur and professional athletes of all ages to compete in quite simply the most spectacular location we have seen this season. The location of Lake Bohinj, situated under the massive Pokljuka Plateau, took our wonderful sport into the very heart of nature and combined well, to the satisfaction of the eagle-eyed local community who are keen that their paradise is not disturbed. The local leaders were very complimentary about the race and how it impacted so little upon nature but at the same time delivering a truly amazing race with great performances from the athletes. LOC support came from organiser Tadej Valjavec and his family. They provided accommodation for the Elite athletes in Villa accommodation that is used for altitude training.
The day before the race was a chance to relax before light rain settled in for the evening. The lake was not going to see athletes without wetsuits but just how cold it would be in the morning had everyone wondering what would happen to the swim. The water, clean enough to drink, really was crystal clear and well-stocked with trout. Race day saw low cloud cover and as the LOC, having set the buoys, emerged from the mist that covered the lake, the reports were that the water would be a shade over 150C. Weather reports indicated that the sun would soon burn off the mist and that was, for a change, a truthful forecast. As the athletes were checking in the sunshine came out, the heavy jackets came off and to the delight of everyone there we got to see the lake in all its natural beauty. Lake Bohinj certainly scores very high on the “WOW” factor.
The swim was a two lap 1500m with a mass start for all athletes. Two decided that they were “tough enough” and went in without neoprene. Others opted for two hats. It was Fabio Guidelli ITA who led the swim quite comfortably. Once the athletes exited the swim they had a run along carpet and up into the grassy Transition Area. A strong swim from Kathrin Müller GER took her into the leading group of men and she entered T1 just behind the leading five men. In that group were Jim Thijs BEL and Arthur Serrieres FRA. Race favourite Kris Coddens BEL and Jan Kubicek CZE swept through T1 and were soon out onto the bike course. Helena Erbenová CZE lost time in the water and it looked as if her chance of a podium place was lost. “I'm not a good swimmer, although I'm working on it, progress is very slow. In today's race I had enormous respect for the cold water. It burned my face, hands and feet -such cold water ! I could not take off my wetsuit, I was so cold.”
Swim done. T1 done and with the lake behind them all the athletes could see was the valley stretching away into the distance and the mountains to the left. The bike was a 4-lap, 22k run along grassland, road and track with a good climb in each lap and great spectator support at the turn point by Transition. The mud-spattered athletes clocked fast times and it was during this section of the race that Erbenová started to catch up the leading Müller. Amongst the men a peloton had formed. They had a commanding lead and it was clear that the podium would be fought over by these leaders.
Amongst the women it was catch-up time for Erbenová who could see Müller on the last lap and then the big question was, “Can she run fast off the bike?”
Out onto the run and it was Müller holding a narrow lead. Erbenová dug in. Her pace picked up and after the first lap she had passed her biggest rival for the gold. “In the middle of the run I got the first place and started to build a lead that lasted me until the end.”
She extended her lead to take a well-deserved gold. Müller finished comfortably in second with Maud Golsteyn NED taking bronze.
The men had finished already so let's go back and see how that race unfolded. They were grouped well together as they came off the bike. Coddens, Kubicek, Thijs and Serrieres were closely grouped together. Tomas Kubek SVK was a shade off pace. Out onto the run course and after a brief downhill the athletes had to climb some thigh-straining steps before they headed off into the woods. Coddens quickly pushed and broke free of the chasing athletes who began to settle into the six-lap run.
Thijs was playing catch-up and had Serrieres in his sights. Coddens pace was strong and it took him way into the lead to secure his well-deserved gold. Kubicek, posting the second fastest run came home to take silver and bronze went to the second Belgian athlete Jim Thijs who overtook the Frenchman.
For Erbenová “the organization of the event was absolutely amazing”. Kathrin Müller took the microphone from race announcer, Paul Kaye and told the crowds how much she had enjoyed the race and in particular how much she had enjoyed being in Slovenia. For Coddens, who recognised that the LOC had faced last-minute challenges about the course, “the organisation had to do it with short loops which were not so challenging but thanks to the solid climb in both bike and run lap it was however a very tough course”. Having won the event he explained that it had not been his intention to race the series, “In the beginning of the season I only planned to take part in TNatura at the European Championship in Sardegna but after I saw the beauty of the race and the good cooperation between TNatura and ETU I was glad I could still add two of their races to my program. After the last of the races I can conclude for sure there is a very good new wind blowing through the sport of cross triathlon with the coming of TNatura.”.
So, what makes this exciting new co-operation work so well? Coddens has the final word, “The man behind, Sandro Salerno, really understands what’s it all about and also really thinks about the athletes and takes care of them. Thanks Sandro! Good job and looking forward for what is coming in the future.”
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Find more details about this event - 2014 Pokljuka ETU TNatura Cross Triathlon European Cup