By Paul Groves on 22/06/17 at 11:51 am
Kitzbühel has a truly great reputation for triathlon. We have celebrated our sport there for many years now, with Championships and World Cups and once again the small but dedicated local team that has worked so hard over the months leading up to the race, delivered a wonderful event that looked good, felt good and was, so very good.
From the moment you arrived in the town you knew that it was special; the surrounding mountains were magnificent, the welcome was warm and the course was simply perfect.
We know that the Para-athletes raced in terrible weather but once the rains had gone, the sun was shining and the town was ready. Saturday saw the Age Group women race, along with the 60+ men. It was an overall victory for Leonie Konczalla, GER, the defending champion. She was first across the finish line, with a dominant swim and bike, just easing off on the run and keeping ahead of Austria’s Anna Przybilla, who won the Sprint in Lisbon and who went on to win gold in Düsseldorf.
After the Sprint Championships she shared her delight, “Gestern konnte ich erfolgreich meinen AK Europameistertitel vom Vorjahr bei den ETU Age Group Europameisterschaften über die Sprint Distanz in Düsseldorf verteidigen! Nach der Silbernen Medaille letzte Woche über die Olympische Distanz, ist das noch mal eine tolle Steigerung.” In their category, 25-29, bronze went to GBR’s Samantha Rose, who had the fastest swim amongst all the women medal winners.
The men put on a good show that morning, with Alfi Caprez SUI coming home first and confirming his domination in this age-group, after his double crown in Lisbon, where he took both Sprint and Standard crowns.
Battle of the day was between two athletes in the 65-69 category. A blistering run over the final 10k saw John Redwood BEL chase down and almost catch the winner, Jörg Schläppi SUI. So close but so far, a mere 2 seconds separated them at the finish line and Schläppi, racing internationally now for 11 years, finally got the gold medal he deserved after collecting a bronze in Lausanne, way back in 2006, then a silver in Lisbon in 2008, sprint silvers in Geneva and then in Lisbon, a standard silver in Lisbon and now, he topped the podium. Bronze went to Austria’s Norbert Plank.
It was also on the Saturday, this time in the 70-74 category that two athletes met once again and where gold went to Klaus Kübler AUT. Kübler has been on the podium in each and every race he has entered since Holten in 2009. European and World titles have been held by him but he now faces Michael Smallwood GBR. Smallwood has been on the podium regularly since 2008 and has also held European and World titles. The pair raced against each other in Cozumel, where Smallwood was beaten. In Kitzbühel he again took silver but when they raced, a week later, in Düsseldorf, the tables were turned and gold went to Great Britain. It is really a great honour to watch these “Elder Statesmen” and of course “Elder Stateswomen” race over the years; proving that age is no barrier to racing triathlon. Bronze went to France and to Bernard Le Royer.
When he raced here in 2014, Frenchman Daniel Escoffier won silver. In Geneva it was bronze and in Walchsee last year he was back up to silver. This time around there was no doubt and he dominated the race to come home almost 13 minutes ahead of GB’s Selwyn Parker. Long Distance triathlon and Winter triathlon have given Erwin Helml GER, silver medals. He adds bronze to his collection now with standard distance triathlon.
For the women, Maltese athlete, Hannah Pace pushed hard to chase Anna Moitzi AUT who eventually took silver ahead of her. Gold went to Kate Mactear who won silver over the middle distance in Walchsee. Pace went on to win a second bronze a week later in Germany.
In the 30-34 category, it was GB’s Victoria Baker who improved upon her Lisbon silver to win gold. A powerful ride gave her the advantage over Janina Lorenz who could surely find something positive after winning bronze in Walchsee. Bronze in this category went to Cyprus and to Carmen Macheriotou. Macheriotou was the title holder in 2013 in the heat of Alanya and had since raced Elite over the middle distance.
The 35-39 category saw the GB clean-sweep. So strong were the British women that they took the first 6 positions. Lisa Webb boosted her Lisbon silver to take the 2017 title. Silver went to Candice Heys who went on to race the Sprint but missed the podium by just over 30 seconds. In the past, British athletes were pretty much denied the chance to go for the double by British Triathlon, such was the demand for participation amongst age-group athletes and the need to open up opportunities to race to a wider audience but with the two distance now being raced at different locations on different dates, there is even more competition in Great Britain for those much sought-after “GB Slots”. Bronze medal was won by Erica Booth who improved upon her placing over the sprint with a silver.
Gold went again to Great Britain with Mireille Cook taking the 40-44 title to the delight of her supporters who were there to see her become European Champion. Her final 42:08 for the 10k was a clear statement of intent and we look forwards to seeing her race again soon. It was the Swiss athletes who filled the remaining places, with silver going to Vera Notz and bronze to Jacqueline Uebelhart who is more often seen at Duathlon Championships, with Zofingen finishes and silvers in Copenhagen and Soria.
Her performances in 2017 have been impressive and improve upon her 2015 bronze in Chicago and last year’s Lisbon bronze. Reigning ETU Aquathlon Champion Kai Sachtleber could not match the run power of Fisher or the bike power of Funk but sees, with this result, a significant improvement upon her Lisbon fifth.
In the 50-54 category, it was once again the Brits who filled most of the top ten places. Germany’s Bettina Haas came home in bronze medal position and showed us that she can race on-road as well as off road, having previously won gold and bronze in cross events. Britain’s Sheila Jansen, having taken her lead in the swim and held it together just long enough to cross the line comfortably ahead of the German. The title went to Switzerland and Brigitte McMahon.
The host nation got their second gold of the day when Bernadette Deisenberger crossed the finish line in 2:41:33. When she raced here in 2014, it was silver. A bronze was her reward in Geneva but this time everything went to plan and the Austrian Federation could rightly be delighted. Silver went to GB with Joanne Stephens-Smith having the race of her life and posting a screamingly fast 51:00 for the 10k. Fellow Brit, Deborah Lloyd can add her bronze to the one she won in Soria and she can be delighted that her bike power gave her the fastest split in this 55-59 Age Group.
In the 60-64 category, more medals went to Team GB but the title was held by Germany’s Margit Bartsch. A successful defence of her Lisbon title, Bartsch followed up with a bronze in Düsseldorf. Kim Shaw got silver for GB in a repeat of her Lisbon performance and Rosemary Symms did the same with bronze but was unable to repeat the result in Düsseldorf.
The 2015 ETU Sprint Duathlon Champion, Patricia Bell was a comfortable winner of the 65-69 Age Group ahead of Germany, Inge Stettner. Her silver was matched a week later on home soil with a Sprint silver and improves upon her Lisbon bronze. The 2016 ETU Middle Distance Champion, Dr Margaret Sills is usually seen over the longer distances. This weekend she went for the standard and came away with a bronze, looking resplendent in her GB top at the awards ceremony.
Sandra Abrams took gold for GB in the final category raced by the women. She adds this title to her European and World titles won last year.
Saturday got the crowds together and in a great party mood for the afternoon Elite races.
Sunday saw the remaining Age Group men go for gold and it was an Austrian delight when, in the 35-39 category, Nikolaus Wihlidal crossed the line in 2:00:13. His swim was a neck and neck race against the silver medal winner, Gabriel Perez SUI but then Wihlidal kicked into overdrive to dominate bike and run. Bronze went to Germany’s René Dörmbach.
It was nice to see that his hosts, the owners of the Schwarzer Adler Kitzbühel Wellness-SPA Hotel were delighted to have a champion staying with them, making a special mention of him on their website.
Lithuania managed another medal in the next category with Tautvydas Kopūstas claiming silver.
The title went to Germany’s Michael Haas, with bronze going around the shoulders of Brett Hallliwell GBR who so narrowly missed out last year in Lisbon. The winner of his category then is now racing Elite, so we can see how satisfying this medal must be in 2017. Kopūstas, based in Leeds was selected tor ace Elite in Düsseldorf and although he finished well down the pack he was philosophical, “This is it!!! Completed 2 European championships and made my debut as Elite in the sprint. Finished 47th, which is nothing special but also I can't be sad with that result as it reflects my level at the moment, anyway I am satisfied to race with the best triathletes in Europe, hopefully next year I will be more competitive in the elite field. Good job to @alcasber (Alberto Casillas Garcia) who ended up in 37th position and made the best Lithuanian performance so far at the European Championship. Next stop European cup in Tartu, Estonia.”
A bronze in Lisbon was replaced by gold and with the fastest run of the day, it was Norway’s Kristian Rød who claimed the 25-29 title with Great Britain once again featuring in the medals with Edward Castro as defending champion just unable to match the Norwegian’s pace over the 10k. Bronze went to Tim Van Hamme BEL. This year has seen the Belgian Federation invest heavily in supporting their Age Group athletes and it was great to see so many of them racing in their distinctive uniform.
Moving up now to the 30-34 age group and it was gold once again for the Brits with Daniel Jenkin who finally makes it to the international podium and does so with a blistering final run to overtake the local favourite, Peter Müllner AUT.
Bronze went to Italy and to Alessandro Terranova who returns to racing after a ten year gap and, previously Elite, now races amongst the Age Groupers.
Our sport is full of heroes; some from within the swim/bike/run world and some from their work outside the sport but every so often an Age Group athlete can have the chance to race against someone who has reached the pinnacle of the sport, an Olympian.
In the 40-44 category, they had just that chance and indeed in the 45-49 category too but let’s have a look at the younger guys first. Csaba Kuttor raced both Sydney and Beijing and is the defending ETU Sprint Champion in his age group. So here was the chance to race against a living Olympian and the race was definitely on. Out of the water in 17:47, Kuttor led them out onto the bike but this was where GB’s Daniel Brooks absolutely dominated. A 1:05:35 saw that he could ease up on the run and claim the title, improving on his Lisbon silver. He won silver in Weymouth over the Long Distance and clearly has great potential. Did Kuttor hold on to silver? Well, a fast final run from defending champion, Bruno Pasqualini ITA took him to silver and pushed the Olympian into bronze. The Italian, four times European Champion over Standard and Middle Distance can go home satisfied that his run pace was better than anyone else, that he beat Kuttor but he will, no doubt, be looking seriously at Tartu for the 2018 Standard Distance Championships to see if he can regain his title.
The second Olympian racing on the Sunday was the legendary Ukrainian athlete, Volodymyr Polikarpenko. He raced Sydney, Athens and Beijing and is now based in northern Italy, where his family is continuing the great triathlon tradition. He left the water after a mightily impressive 16:51 swim but was soon caught on the bike. Defending Champion, from Denmark Pelle Grønberg battled against Germany’s Udo Van Stevendaal to take the title and then they both met again a week later where once again the Dane beat the German to take gold in Düsseldorf.
The Olympic theme continued, with Austria’s Norbert Domnik. Representing Austria in Athens in 2004 he has, since ending his Elite career, raced consistently and successfully at Age Group level, collecting World and European titles along the way. In 2014, he collected the double crown with Sprint and Standard titles and in Kitzbühel was soon able to make his mark on the race.
A convincing victory, to the delight of the crowds but for Hugo Van Hamme a vast improvement on his 2014 4th place and just to make the podium balance nicely for the home crowds, it was Thomas Hackner who took bronze. Van Hamme went on to race Düsseldorf but missed out on the podium by a few paces. “Na het Europees Kampioenschap over de olymische afstand vorige week stond vandaag het EK sprint in Düsseldorf op het programma. Te snel vertrokken in het zwemmen, even buiten adem en de kopgroep laten ontsnappen en pas 12de uit het water. Slechts 1 plaats verloren in het fietsen en met de snelste looptijd terug opgerukt naar de 4de plaats na een Fransman en 2 Duitsers. Op 6 seconden van het podium een ondankbare plaats maar toch tevreden.”
The oldest category to race on the Sunday was the 55-59 Age Group. This was where GB’s Stuart Robinson showed his tremendous experience. Although second out of the water, his faultless transition from swim to bike gave him a massive advantage over the Swiss athlete, Reto Schawalder but out on the bike and the Swiss was a real threat to Robinson. A final run of 40:48 ensured that gold went to GB and silver went to Austria and to Thomas Huber who just edged out Schawalder into bronze.
To end, though, a story that will make you feel good. Really good.
Before the race, everything was "business as usual".
There was a special presentation for an athlete who was placed on the very top of the podium without even finishing the race. Austrian athlete, Katharina Przybilla may look back at the DNF result but her actions out on the bike course were truly in the highest order of sportsmanship. She was not the first on the scene when Rosemary Baker GBR had crashed. Quite astonishingly, many riders simply went past the prone athlete, despite the clear evidence that she was very badly injured. Her bike helmet was smashed and she was in a very bad way. Przybilla, a doctor herself, with extensive experience in intensive medicine, remained with Baker until the medical team arrived.
Her actions were reported in the Austrian Press, “Wie lange die Frau bereits auf der Straße lag, weiß Przybilla nicht. „Es war ein abschüssiges Waldstück ohne Zuschauer und Streckenposten. Alle riefen ,Oh mein Gott‘, aber stehen geblieben ist niemand.“ Sie bemerkte sofort, dass es um Leben und Tod ging. „Sie lag leblos auf der Straße, war schon ganz blau.“ Sie befreite die Frau aus den Clips und stabilisierte sie. „Da es dort keinen Handyempfang gab, dauerte es eine gefühlte Ewigkeit, bis die Einsatzkräfte da waren.“ (How long the woman had been lying on the ground, Przybilla did not know. ‘It was a steep wooded section without spectators or marshals. Everyone was shouting, “Oh, my God!” but nobody stopped.’ She noticed immediately that it was a ‘life or death’ incident. ‘She was lifeless on the ground and had already turned blue.’ She released the athlete from her clips and stabilised her. ‘As there was no mobile telephone reception there, it lasted quite some time until the emergency services arrived.’
Once the team was working on the British athlete, Przybilla continued to T2 and, upon arrival on the dismount line, looked as if she had been in a crash herself. She was covered in blood, shaking and clearly in deep shock. The immediate attention of officials and referral to Herwig Grabner, Secretary General, ensured she was looked after and checked out. She had no idea that she would be called up onto the stage for a special presentation and of all the applause that day, for this athlete, who sacrificed her race to look after another, the applause for Katharina Przybilla was loudest. Yesterday she got extra good news, Baker had been released from Intensive Care and was on the road to recovery. She was operated on – only to mend a broken collar bone and looks likely to have escaped death quite simply because Katharina Przybilla cared enough to stop and use her skills.
We will be having a look at the medal tables next week - Herning, Kitzbühel and Düsseldorf will have boosted some nations - who will be leading?
Find more details about this event - 2017 Kitzbühel ETU Triathlon European Championships