Duathlon, outlook with OC President Stefan Ruf on 31st Powerman Zofingen
«Increase technical quality»
The Powerman Zofingen will also be held in the next two years as ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships. Stefan Ruf, who is starting his 17th year as OC President, has signed a contract with the International Triathlon Union (ITU). On 8 September 2019, the World Championship race will once again take place on the new track, which was held for the first time last year. 2019 is a year of consolidation with the aim of improving quality, especially in the technical area.
Stefan Ruf, on 7th/8th September 2019, in a few weeks, the 31st Powerman Zofingen will take place. Is everything ready?
Stefan Ruf, OK President Powerman Zofingen: A month before the event is always the moment when the nervousness rises. Have they thought of everything? Are all precautions taken? Fortunately, this year we don’t have the hectic pace of 2018, when we had to use every means at our disposal to find a new bike course at very short notice. This year it will be the same course as planned, so that we have been able to work on improvements, for example in track safety.
Last year there was a new bike route, are there any adjustments in view of this year?
No, the route is exactly the same. Unfortunately we still have to drive on the dangerous Renzlingenstrasse in Reiden, although we have worked out other variants together with the municipality of Reiden. Unfortunately, the Lucerne police did not support them.
“12 transit communities – one race” is the slogan used in connection with the new cycle track that was introduced last year. How are the transit congregations involved in this?
During the last months we were allowed to present the Powerman Zofingen event to the authorities in various communities, especially in the new transit points, and met with a very positive response. We appreciate that very much. The permanent dialogue with the communities is an important concern for us. A first concrete positive consequence is that the local fire brigade can be deployed in various municipalities for stretch safety tasks.
What are the changes for the 31st Powerman Zofingen?
2019 is a year of consolidation with the aim of improving quality, especially in the technical area. I’m thinking, as I mentioned, of route planning and safety or of food stations, where the experience of 2018 will be the basis for improvements in details. Furthermore, we try to simplify wherever possible. For example, for the first time all starts, including the Kids race and the CHARITY run, will take place at exactly the same location.
What needs to be even better in the future?
There is always much to improve! With regard to the next few years, we have to put all our efforts back into marketing the event. We laid a foundation for this just a few weeks ago with the addition of new staff to our media and communications team.
The contract with the ITU (International Triathlon Union) was newly signed. So there will be also 2019 and 2020 in Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships. After 1997, 1998, 1999, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, the ITU (International Triathlon Union) and the IPA (International Powerman Association) are now staging the World Championships in Zofingen for the twelfth and 13th time in a row for the ninth and tenth time. Is this becoming routine?
Routine is a central element for the success in our organization and should be strived for with it. However, cooperation with international associations in particular is a constant challenge. Each new Technical Delegate has his or her own ideas and it is important to find a common denominator.
In 2019 you will personally tackle your 17th year as OC President of Powerman Zofingen. Is the momentum still as great as in the first year of office?
I don’t count the years and think that’s a good sign for me personally. What I am very happy about is the development of duathlon in Switzerland. Switzerland is one of the leading nations again and new names have discovered the Duathlon for themselves. Something worries me at the moment the international development. The number of races of the worldwide Powerman series has settled at ten to twelve. I would prefer to see 20 to 25, otherwise the Powerman brand cannot be sufficiently publicized.
In the women’s category, Petra Eggenschwiler (SUI), Melanie Maurer (SUI) and Antonia Reznikov (ISR) will probably be on last year’s podium. So we can expect a top race?
This is indeed the case, and it is of course very gratifying that two Swiss women should be able to fight for victory at the same time. I expect a very close race between Petra Eggenschwiler and Melanie Maurer.
For the men, the start of defending champion Gaël Le Bellec (FRA) is anything but certain due to an accident in May. The race for the podium seems more open than ever?
I expect three athletes at the top who were not in the ranking in 2018. First, the Swiss shooting star and former marathon runner Michael Ott, who dominated the national competitions in 2019. Then the 2017 World Champion, Seppe Odeyn (BEL), will certainly do his utmost to make his failed 2018 competition forgotten, and then his young compatriot Diego van Looy, who has already won several Ironman competitions this year and who has already achieved excellent marathon times and will therefore have to be considered on the final 30 km run.
Speaking of Le Bellec. Over and over again duathletes are shot down by cars during training. You, too, were the victim of an accident like this a few weeks ago. Do these accidents make you sick to your stomach?
This of course also applies to cyclists and triathletes and not only to duathletes. On the one hand, it is a consequence of the fact that there is now simply more traffic than 30 years ago, but it also has to do with the behaviour of road users, which in my opinion has become more inconsiderate. In addition, there are the most diverse sources of distraction, which did not exist 30 years ago. I myself cycle about 5,000 km of bicycles and 50,000 km of cars every year and am therefore not a missionary representative of one side or the other. Unfortunately, I do not have the magic formula for solving this problem either. In my opinion, no solution is to displace cyclists on narrow, dangerous pavements or so-called cycle paths that do not deserve this name.
The OK has now grown to about 50 people. Where are there still vacancies that can/must be filled?
With this size there are always some changes and thus free positions. What we need above all are colleagues who are prepared to take on a planning or management task that requires commitment throughout the year, but significantly less work immediately before and at the event.
In the upper areas of the OC, quite a lot of new staff has been recruited recently. Was this necessary in view of the future of the Powerman Zofingen?
We are constantly on the lookout for the optimal organizational structure. The one thing is the structure, the other is the people. The second is much more important in an honorary organisation that organises an event once a year.
The number of participants has stagnated somewhat in recent years. What for?
The last two years we had to use too many resources for personnel renewals and route changes. These have been lacking in the recruitment of participants and therefore the number of participants has not grown in the last two years. More participants must therefore be the big target for 2020.
Also with the Powerman CHARITY and the PowerKids you stir the advertising drum more intensively. Do the participants benefit from this as well?
These are the possibilities for everyone to be a Powerman, a Powerwoman or a PowerKid and to take part in the Powerman Zofingen event. Sporting talent and a lot of training are not required. I hope that many readers will make use of the unique opportunity to start at the same place and run through the exact same goal as the World Champion will do 24 hours later.
Interview: Raphael Galliker