By Paul Groves on 27/01/17 at 2:09 pm
Otepää was such a good event last year that not only has it been nominated for event of the year 2016 but also it has been awarded the Winter Triathlon European Championships title again for 2017. With almost double the number of participants this year will show the world just what they are missing. Winter Triathlon is a wonderful mixture of running, mountain biking and then cross-country skiing. Hard work, technical and exciting with so many things that can go wrong. Races will not take place if the temperature drops below -180C and sometimes the events are raced at altitude. Snow conditions can change overnight and so the real-time cooperation between the Local Organising Committee and the ETU Technical Delegate is crucial. In 2016, one of ETU’s most experienced Technical Delegates, Eugène Kraus, gave praise to the LOC and described the snow conditions as “the best we have ever seen for a European Championships”.
Perhaps due to Eugène’s enthusiasm and certainly in no small part due to the continued hard work of promoting the sport by Hans-Peter Grünebach who has worked so closely with ETU Media, we now have athletes from all over Europe arriving in Estonia’s Snow Capital.
The weekend starts today with an Opening Ceremony, to be held at the Tehvandi Stadium. Opening speeches last year was followed by an energetic dance display in temperatures approaching -200C. The fireworks looked really impressive against the black night sky. This year the format of the Opening Ceremony remain a secret but the temperatures are holding around the freezing point.
Saturday | 2017/01/28
- 08:00 – 14:00 Race number pick-up in Tehvandi Sport Centre stadium hall
- 09:15-09.45 Transition area opened and Check-in for I start
- 10:00 Start (wave-start) Junior/Paratriathletes, men/women
- 11:00-11:15 Start Check-out
- 11:15 Start flower ceremony in stadium
- 11:15-11:45 Transition area opened and Check-in for Elite start
- 12:00 Start (wave-start) Elite/U23, men/women
- 13:30 Start flower ceremony in stadium
- 13:30-14:00 Start Check-out
- 14:00-14:45 Transition area opened and Check-in for AG/Teams start
- 15:00 Start (wave-start) AG/teams
- 16:30-17:30 Start Check-out
- 20:00 Awards Ceremony in the nightclub Comeback (Tartu street 16, Otepää)
- 22:00 After-party in the nightclub Comeback
The LOC has been busy adjusting the course to the weather conditions. This morning we had the news that due to the rise in temperatures, the bike course was more like an ice hockey stadium and far too dangerous for the bikes. Rafa Solis, very well-known to us all, went out to see just how icy it was!
Working closely with Eugène Kraus, the LOC led by Siim Ausmees have agreed with the local authorities to take the bike course out onto the local roads, following a 3.5km loop. The course, only 2km on public roads, will be controlled by a rolling road closure.
So, who should we be watching?
Well, the Elite Women see an exciting line up with the defending World Champion from Russia, Yulia Surikova.
Her silver medal here in 2016 was preparation for her next race, which was Zeltweg. She went on to win bronze in Târgu Mureș. Her regular appearances on the podium mean that she really is the one to beat here in Estonia. She will be racing against Austria’s Romana Slavinec. Former world U23 champion and bronze medal winner in Zeltweg last year, she too is a regular visitor to the podium.
Will this last-minute change to the bike course work to her advantage or will this enable Surikova to establish a big lead out on the snow-free bike course?
A Winter Triathlon is not complete without Šárka Grabmüllerová and, with 23 podium finishes and fresh from her silver medal last weekend in Cheile-Gradistei she will be racing here and hoping to improve upon her top 5 placing last year. Her daughter, Aneta Grabmüllerová, 2010 and 2011 World Junior Champion, 2010 European Junior Triathlon Champion and the 2016 World U23 Cross Triathlon Champion, make up the Czech hopes for medals.
Relatively new to Winter Triathlon but with two appearances at the Winter Olympics in cross-country skiing, comes Romania’s Monika Koncz. Her bronze medal last weekend was achieved with some immensely powerful skiing. This course, so technical and challenging, might well work to her advantage, especially now that the bike course is on asphalt.
After an absence of a few years, the powerful cross-triathlete also from the Czech Republic, Helena Erbenová returns to the snow. 2012 European Champion, 2012 and 2014 World Champion and so powerful out on the Cross-Tri Circuit, she will really influence the front end of the race.
Coming to the race with a gold medal won just a few days ago is the Slovakian long-distance specialist, Kristina Lapinová. We saw her power last year over the challenging course in Transylvania and last week, again in Romania, she dominated the race from the very start. Building up a considerable lead on the run, she worked hard on the tough bike course and then held on to secure gold. In her first international Winter Triathlon, we welcome from Russia, Elena Lebedeva.
Amongst the men, we will see once again the might of the Russian Team battle against the Italians. Over recent years we have seen the Russians establish a lead up to T2 and then for the Italian ski power to push and push. With two sprint finishes in back to back championships, it was gold to Russia on both occasions with Italy just missing out. With an Italian victory last weekend but with no Russian opposition, will tomorrow’s race see a change at the top?
Well, from Russia and 8 times ITU World Champion, 9 times ETU European Champion and current Russian National Champion, Pavel Andreev is most certainly the race favourite.
He will have the support of teammates Pavel Yakimov , 2 times World Junior Champion, 2 times World U23 Champion, 2011 ETU Junior Champion and 2012, 2013 ETU U23 Champion and Elite bronze medal winner in last year in Otepää and the 2010 ETU U23 Champion and top 10 finisher here last year, Dmitriy Bregeda.
In recent years there has been a turn of fortunes and last weekend it was Lamastra who dominated the bike to build a massive lead in the race in Romania. It was Lamastra who won the bronze medal in the 2016 Zeltweg ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships and following his gold from last weekend’s 2017 GRADISTEI ETU WINTER TRIATHLON EUROPEAN CUP, he has the edge over Antonioli, the current Italian national champion, former World U23 Champion and silver medal winner from last weekend.
Norway has hosted some great Winter Triathlon races and can rely upon a massive pool of cross-country skiers.
Coming this year are two who finished in the top ten. Wearing #4, from Norway, top 5 finisher last year in Otepää and top 5 finisher in Zeltweg, Øivind Bjerkseth.
He is joined by the vast experience of Kristian Monsen. His pace on the run last weekend was impressive. He won bronze in Romania and we can expect to see him in the lead pack as the race unfolds. Slovakia has sent Tomas Jurkovič whose 4th place last weekend came after a top ten finish in the 2016 Zeltweg ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships. Winter Triathlon neighbour from the Czech Republic, Pavel Jindra also had a top ten finish in Romania and will hope now to improve upon that position. The Latvian Federation are using this race as their national champion ships and so, wearing #10, Oskars Muiznieks will be hoping to impress.
Having arrived this morning at 03:00 after a 1700km journey, they are out on the course to check out the snow quality. Joining Monika Koncz will be from the world of Romania biathlon, 2015 Romanian National Winter Triathlon champion, Marian Danila and Viorel Palici, both top ten finishers last weekend at the 2017 GRADISTEI ETU WINTER TRIATHLON EUROPEAN CUP.
Amongst the U23 athletes, we see once again the depth and strength of the Russian Federation. The reigning European Champion, Iulia Baiguzova RUS will go head to head with the 2016 winner of the World U23 bronze, Karina Sakhno. Hopes for a medal on home soil lie with Estonia’s ETU Junior Silver medal winner at the 2016 Otepää ETU Winter Triathlon European Championships, Mairis Õispuu.
The men’s race will see Russia face Italy as the 2013 ETU Junior Champion, 2014 World U23 silver medal winner, 2016 European and World U23 Champion, Roman Vasin goes against the 2016 World Silver U23 medal winner, Davide Vuerich and 2014 World Junior Bronze medal winner, 2016 European Junior Silver and 2016 World Junior Bronze, Marco Liporace. The Russian will be supported by his young teammate, 2016 World and European Junior Champion, Anton Matrusov. For Estonia, the cheers and support will be going to Arthur Kooser and 2016 ETU U23 Bronze medal winner here in Otepää, Andres Nops.
The Juniors will race a shortened course and the medals will be fought over by athletes from Austria, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Russia and Slovakia.
We also have a number of ParaTri athletes on the start line and of course, there are the Age Group athletes. With this year, so many federations represented, the completion will be truly exciting and if the Internet allows us, we will be posting photos and updates during the day to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
Find more details about this event - 2017 Otepää ETU Winter Triathlon European Championships