By Paul Groves and the European Triathlon Union
Many thanks to Lisa Hedley (Team GB) and Judy van den Berg (who was with the Nederlandse Triathlon Bond) for the photos, to Stefan Roth (DTU) for photos and to TNatura for their images.
The Cross-Triathlon world put on a great show this weekend. Top marks to the Deutsche Triathlon Union, to the local organisers and to TNatura who have been in partnership with ETU for some years now. The combined efforts of a lot of people delivered a stunning event to Schluchsee, with upsets in the Elite races, with great performances from the Age Group and Para Athletes and with the supporters and spectators going away buzzing with the thrill of this off-road challenge.
The venues selected for our events are done so with great care. Limited impact but lasting legacy for the community is high on the agenda.
Spectacular locations are a must and the word “easy” does not form part of the course designer’s vocabulary.
With athletes from all over Europe descending on the beautiful Schluchsee, there were worries about the weather, concerns about how tough the course would be and of course last-minute worries about the bikes, shoes and equipment. Race day dawned and the water was warm enough to allow the Elite a wetsuit-free swim. The 1500m, 30k, 10k race awaited them.
In the Elite Women’s field there was a wealth of experience and the podium certainly could not be predicted. With the return to the circuit of Renata Bucher SUI after knee-surgery and having seen her take the silver last year in Sardinia, speculation was strong as to whether her return would challenge Helena Erbenová CZE whose bronze in Sardinia was matched with a world bronze in Zittau, or Germany’s Kathrin Müller who holds European and World titles from 2014 but who has been beaten by Erbenová in Cup races before. Coming back again after an absence and a poor performance in Sardinia, was Carina Wasle AUT. She has been racing now since 2003 and readily mixes Winter Tri with Cross-Tri, winning titles in 2007 in Ibiza at the European Cross-Triathlon Championships and 2010 in Slovakia at the Myjava ETU Cross Triathlon European Championships and in Gaishorn am See in the 2009 Winter Triathlon World Championships. Missing from the Elite line-up was young promising Italian athlete, Elisabetta Curridori. She raced here last year and took bronze but this year had to settle for Age Group racing.
It was Müller who comfortably led the swim – on the run up to T1 she even had time to chat with Lars van der Eerden NED.
Her swim was 2 minutes ahead of the chasing women but with the very tough course that is Schluchsee, that was all going to change. The run up to T1 was a climb in itself and biking is where in the past she has shown some weakness against the likes of Erbenová and Bucher. Her training and racing programme over the past few weeks began to hit home and the opposition caught her.
After the race Müller commented that she just didn’t have it in her legs but she nevertheless dug in on the run to see just what she could do.
It was Bucher who was showing great strength on the bike and who made up many places with a masterclass in MTB riding. The course was technical, hilly and in places very fast.
Wasle too, was cutting through the pack and so it would be that the running, off the bike, would sort out the podium. Erbenová has shown strength again and again on the run and even with a battle to make her way through the Age group athletes, she pushed harder and harder.
First to the line and jubilant in her come-back was Bucher.
Her combined power over the bike and run allowed her over a minute advantage over second-placed Erbenová who, despite having easily the fastest run of the day, could not make up that five and a half minute deficit in the bike. Behind them Wasle was having a great race and her light feet over the tough terrain took her to bronze. Müller had to settle for fourth place but can take a positive away from the race in that despite the tiredness in her legs she still rode and ran well.
After the race, Erbenová said, “A wonderful place for Cross Triathlon, a huge lake, beautiful hills and amazing scenery. The water was 20.4 and I think that was higher than the air temperature. It was good to swim without a wetsuit, as somehow this year, swimming in neoprene just has not worked for me. We all started together, with the Elite men. There was some wind out on the lake and this made the swim quite hard. I ended up swimming with Sabina Rzepka http://www.triathlon.org/athletes/profile/50329/sabina_rzepka POL. I thought I’d lost time in the swim but it was not as bad as my internal clock told me. Out onto the bike and right from the start it went well. I caught up with Renata and we shared the work. Gradually we caught Carina. Soon after that my rear wheel caught a tree root and I crashed. My handlebars were in a mess and loads of athletes were passing me. Eventually I got that sorted and for a while I was riding alone. I did wonder whether I should quit there and then but came into T2 in 6th place. The run course was lovely and I knew it would be tough but I paced myself off other athletes. On the third lap I could not believe my eyes, there was Kathrin Müller. For a moment I thought she was a lap ahead but then someone shouted that I was in third place and I pushed into the final lap, overtaking Carina. I never thought that I could finish with a sprint but I did ! Renata was masterful and what a race after an injury. Congratulations too to Carina with her bronze.”
For Bucher, after a very tough year it was a truly great achievement. “I risked everything on the bike and appreciated every step on the run, I can’t believe I just did this.”
For the men there would also be surprises. It would also be a day for domination by the powerful German team racing on home soil. For some, the water was too cold and none of the swim times were fast. Multiple world Powerman Champion Rob Woestenborghs BEL decided it was not worth the risk and pulled out of the swim.
It was Jens Roth GER, 2013 AG winner in Den Haag, who led the men out of the water. He was having the race of his life and it had only just started. Coddens was over 5 minutes back and possibly suffering from his exertions over the previous weeks.
Malte Plappert GER, the biggest threat to Roth, was 2 minutes back and he was racing for the U23 podium. 2014 European silver medallist, Arthur Forissier FRA was over three minutes off the pace. Russian multi-world champion winter triathlete Pavel Andreev was down on the swim but once onto the tough bike course, made it look easy.
Roth worked hard on the run but it was the stunning run pace of the Frenchman that decided the day.
He took gold with a lead of almost 2 minutes, leaving Roth and Plappert to sprint for the silver and bronze. It was Roth who just had enough to ensure that the U23 did not upset the record books.
After the race Coddens said, “Biggest off-day in my career today. Disappointed but still happy to have other things in life.” Fellow Belgian, Jim Thijs reflected too, “14th at the Euro Champs, a big difference from being 3rd last year. Last year the Euro champs were my big goal, this year it was part of my preparation for the world champs in a few months. And at this level, there are no secrets. I’m really happy with my swim and run, but I lost too much time on the MTB to race at the front. Congratulations to the German team, they were very strong and it feels like even if I was 14th, there were 30 Germans in front of me.”
The Deutsche Triathlon Union was rightly happy with the positive results from their men. Having seen the strength of their new athletes in Geneva only a few days before, we now see in the top ten in Schluchsee, four German athletes, of which two are U23.
The U23 race proved to be again a strong finish for the German team. As we saw above, Malte Plappert won the race just having enough pace to hold off the promising Frenchman, Arthur Serrières. Bronze went toAndreas Theobald GER. Serrières took us inside the race, “Silver medallist. A great result that I really wasn’t expecting. After a good swim I caught up with Arthur Forrisier and Pavel Andreev on the bike. We rode well together but unfortunately on the last descent I was blocked by an Age Group athletes and fell. I must have lost about 30 seconds and finished the lap alone. I got to T2 and heard that I was 3 minutes down. Incredible. So I really pushed and on the final descent to the finish I could see them. I finished 8 seconds behind the leader of our race but he was also the 3rd overall. I am really very happy with my performance and to have had the chance to share this trip with Pierre Roblot, Kheira Touhami and Arthur Forrissier. Thanks to my sponsors too. Now I have a great motivation for the worlds.”
A great battle it was too for the first and second places.
The organisers were able as well to accommodate a ParaTri wave for the PT2 and PT4 men. Medals were shared between Austria, Spain and the Netherlands.
It was of course a chance for the mass teams of the Age Groups to race in their national uniforms. For once, Team GB was not the biggest. For once, it was not Team GB that walked away with pockets full of medals. This time that particularly sweet pleasure went to the host nation. It was a massive 28 medals that the host nation won and they celebrated in style; 9 gold medals, 10 silver and 9 bronze.
The fastest Age Group athlete was Martin Schädle from Freiburg. “I had a very successful weekend at the European championship of cross triathlon. On the final lap of the run course i took over the lead and won 1st place overall of the age group athletes.”
Especial congratulations went from the German Triathlon Union to two new athletes; Cristoph Gawens, from Memmingen and Nadine Jackel, from Gelnhausen. Both of them won their entries through the DTU Facebookcompetition and distinguished themselves with medals in their first appearance as Age Group athletes.
The medal table for Age Group athletes showed Germany clearly in the lead.
It was Team GB who returned home with 3 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze. Marc Preece as Team Manager, was greatly motivated by the Brits’ performances and is now recruiting for Sardinia and of course for Castro Uridales. His team members can look back at the photos provided by Lisa Hedley with fond memories.
Italy can celebrate with their medal haul. Performance of the day was by Elisabetta Curridori who romped home with over 16 minutes to spare. Her time would have given her a top ten place in the Elite and the fact that for this race she was not selected may have been extra motivation for her to push hard. Her reward – the gold medal. This young woman is one to watch in the future.
A great weekend. A great race. Recht vielen Dank Schluchsee!
|5.||Thomas Francesco Previtali||ITA||01:31:12|
|1.||Lindy Van Anrooy||NED||01:34:04|
|5.||Anna Pauline Saßerath||GER||01:39:40|
Find more details about this event – 2015 Schluchsee ETU TNatura Cross Triathlon European Championships