By Paul Groves on 09/10/15 at 12:15 pm
On the other side of the world there may be the annual long one, but here on the Northern shores of Spain in glorious sunshine and with spectacular views, there are the super tough athletes ready to battle for the very first medals in the newest addition to the ETU hall of fame.
The 2015 Castro Urdiales ETU Cross Duathlon European Championships has attracted athletes from all over Europe and will form part of a weekend of sporting challenges as Spain enjoys a public holiday weekend and as tourists flock to this coastal town. 860 athletes will descend on the town and enjoy brilliant sunshine.
The local mayor, Ángel Díaz Munio, welcomed the Spanish Federation as well as ETU to his town and wished all participants the very best of success.
The transition area is set on the promenade of the Playa de Ostend and has stunning views out over the sea.
The first run takes the athletes up a massive hill before they are able to once again see the blue seas. A sweeping run down towards the cliffs then sees them turn left along the edge of the cliffs, climbing again as they pass an ancient cemetery. A turn point above the town and then they have views down to the beach and the old town. One lap is 3km. The legs will be tired but then another lap has to be run to get the 6k before the athletes drop down onto the beach for a final power-draining run to the entrance to T1.
The bike course, naturally, starts with a big climb and then once out into the countryside, the athletes can expect a tough and challenging ride. Muddy it is. Steep – certainly. Spectacular – oh yes!
Three laps of 7.5k and then back to T2 and a final one lap and then to the finish.
The LOC will be incorporating their own National Championships into the European Championships and so the top European Elite will have competition a-plenty. The men’s wave has over 70 athletes. The vast majority are Spanish who have entered through their Federation’s selection procedures, having raced at the Spanish Elite level during the year. They will have a tough race, as the two Belgian athletes, Kris Coddens and Seppe Odeyn are here. Coddens will be hoping to close the season with a good result after his top ten place in the worlds. Odeyn, silver medallist in the super-tough Zofingen World Championships only a couple of weeks ago is dropping right down the distances to race here. Has he recovered from Zofingen ? From Croatia we have three athletes; Filip Turk, Perica Kišićek, who has already been out on the course and thinks it is a great challenge PIC and Vedran Jović. From Norway and more commonly found racing in the Winter Triathlon events, comes Øivind Bjerkseth. From neighbouring Portugal comes Octávio Vicente and the last-minute entry of Russian King of the Snow, the multiple World and European Winter Triathlon Champion, Pavel Andreev will make it very interesting at the front end of the race. Spanish hopes will rest with Jose Miguel Gomez Garcia.
The Elite Women start 5 minutes after the men and will at some point meet up with them out on the bike course but the width of the course means that congestion is likely to be minimal. The degree of difficulty on this course means that drafting will be impossible. 16 women will contest the medals and leading the rankings is Spanish athlete Natalia Fischer Egusquiza. She comes to this race following a successful career as an Age Group athlete, with a silver medal in her age-group in Pontevedra in 2014 and then a gold in Alcobendas this year. She will have stiff competition from Britain’s Louise Fox who is no stranger to these tough events and who has been out exploring the bike course for the past few days. Linda van Vliet NLD won her Age Group in Sardinia recently but is back here to race Elite.
There are medals up for grabs for the U23 and Junior athletes and of course for the ParaAthletes. The start lists are available on the above links.
A huge number of Age Group athletes are here but a special welcome goes out to our oldest competitor. Having arrived and been told that his bike did not make it out of Frankfurt, Günter Birnbaum , aged 76, was philosophical, “I asked around but they don’t hire out bikes. So I waited and they delivered the bike. It’s OK.” He went off, looking very much younger than 76, to cheers from locals who were relaxing and having a beer in the sunshine.
Find more details about this event - 2015 Castro Urdiales ETU Cross Duathlon European Championships