Spectacular racing conditions in Estonia

When the ETU Executive Board decided to appoint Otepää as the venue for the 2016 ETU Winter Triathlon European Championships they could not have made a better choice. A venue that boasts such a great reputation for winter sports and with pretty much a guarantee of top quality snow, in a country where value for money really does exist.
Race morning saw temperatures at -23C and concern that we could not start the race until the sunshine did its job. We had to delay the start until 10:00 and then set off the Junior Men and Women together. The same would happen for the Elite Men and Women but there was never any danger of one gender taking advantage of the other – the very challenging courses here meant that it was tough from start to finish.

So, first up it was the Juniors. They would race one run lap of 3k, 1 lap out on a very tough bike course of 5k and a final ski over 2 laps, making 4k. The PT Categories set off a minute after the junior athletes.
The sun was beginning to climb above the trees and with the first rays heating up the finish area it was a convincing victory for Anton Matrusov RUS. He was able to hold off the powerful biker from Italy, Marco Liporace, who too silver. Host nation supporters cheered loudly as Henry Räppo took bronze.
For the women, it was an Estonian clean sweep. Merli Sirvel dominated the bike and her power was enough to hold off the faster ski skills of Maris Õispuu. Bronze went to local athlete, Liis Jääger who gave everything she had to secure that medal on home soil.

The PT race was a battle between Aivar Lipp EST and Rafael Solis Torres ESP. Solis ran powerfully and had a commanding lead as they entered T1. They were similarly paced on the bike but Lipp’s power on the skis took him to gold.

As the sun warmed up the stadium and the temperature rose to a comfortable -15C it was time for the Elite and U23 athletes to check-in their bikes and skis and then to make their way to the start.
More and more people arrived to see the top European athletes race over the longer distance of a 6k run (2 laps), a 10k bike (over 2 laps) and an 8.05k ski (over 3 laps).

The U23 women saw an exciting chase between Natalie Grabmullerová CZE and Iuliia Baiguzova RUS. The Czech athlete held the advantage in the first run but suffered out on the bike course. This allowed the Russian to push forwards and win the title.

For the Elite women, defending champion Olga Parfinenko RUS ran neck and neck with team-mate Yulia Surikova who was cheered along by her husband and very young baby. These two stamped their mark on the race and it looked as if they would not face any challenge. On the bike, Parfineno pulled away and once out on the ski she was so powerful that her victory was a convincing one.

Surikova crossed to take silver but then had to rush away to comfort her daughter who had been waiting with dad on the finish line. Bronze went to Austria’s Roman Slavinec who, despite the fastest bike split, could not quite catch up. Šárka Grabmüllerová CZE, could not quite catch up and challenge for bronze but with her family all racing, she has proven once again that the Grabmuller family is the best family winter tri team.

The U23 men also saw a Russian victory. Roman Vasin was the strongest over all three disciplines and was comfortably ahead of his team-mate Fedor Golubev. Estonia snatched another bronze with Andres Nops posting the strongest ski split.

The Elite men had everyone talking and everyone wondering whether we would see a repeat of the fantastic sprint finishes that we have seen over recent years between Italy’s Daniel Antonioli and Russia’s Pavel Andreev. From the start there was a fast-paced group trying to break the determination of Antonioli but it was a tight group that led into T1. The bike saw blisteringly fast transitions allow Andreev and Maxim Kuzmin break away. They worked hard together and built up a good lead over the chasing athletes. Antonioli has tremendous power on the ski but with the leaders hitting 50 km per hour on the perfect snow conditions, it was going to be a real challenge for him to break into the top three.
Out onto the skis and Andreev left everyone behind. He gave a masterclass on the skis and crossed the line alone. Kuzmin took a well-deserved silver and bronze went to Pavel Yakimov to give the Russian team a full podium.

Andreev’s first act after the race was to hand his bike to the oldest athlete at the race so that he could use it in the Age Group event. This wonderful gesture really does say so much about the man and about the mentality amongst Winter Triathletes.

Race results can be found http://www.racetecresults.com/Results.aspx?CId=16573&RId=74

Photogalleries (author Matugraphy)

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7c6qpj4r63bs6lc/AAD5SNTzEN7DJndAyDilKtS1a?dl=0

Autor: Paul Groves, ETU official web site