Preview of the 31st Powerman Zofingen
Swiss top duel among women
In view of the 2019 Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships, the spectators can look forward to a Swiss women’s top duel: As has often been the case this season, 31-year-old Wikon Melanie Maurer, who lives in Liebefeld, is trying to beat defending champion Petra Eggenschwiler from Solothurn of the same age. For the men, the race for the World Championship title is completely open, especially as it is still unclear whether French title defender Gaël Le Bellec will be able to start at all. It is quite possible that there could also be a Swiss success with men this year.
On 8 September 2019 ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships will take place again in Zofingen. The fact that the ITU (International Triathlon Union) and the IPA (International Powerman Association) have now awarded these for the 12th time after 1997, 1998, 1999, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, nota bene for the ninth time in a row, after Zofingen, is unique for triathlon and duathlon sport. It’s a pity that not both defending champions will be at the start. Whether Gaël Le Bellec will be able to defend his title on 8 September 2019 in Zofingen is completely unclear. The French world number one Gaël Le Bellec was shot down by a car on May 5 at the Powerman Michigan in Frankenmuth on the second bike lap and is still injured. “I’m trying my best to defend my world title.”
Top favourite Petra Eggenschwiler
The defending champion Petra Eggenschwiler is the top favourite among the women. For health reasons, the Solothurn native, who grew up in Laupersdorf, had decided not to start at the Powerman Zofingen in 2016 and 2017. The newly designed 10 km running course, 150 km cycling course and another 30 km running course took the then 30-year-old in just 7 hours and 39 seconds. She was over 22 minutes faster than the runner-up, Melanie Maurer from Bern, who grew up in Wikon. In Viborg, Denmark, she became European Champion in Powerman ETU middle distance duathlon, ahead of Maurer. Only at the Swiss Duathlon Championships this year was she relegated to 2nd place by Maurer. Now Eggenschwiler is also showing off in triathlon: 5th place at the PRO Women Halbironman Rapperswil 2019 at her debut and 6th place (3rd European) shortly after at the Ironman Frankfurt (Ironman-EM). “I’ve improved a lot, especially in terms of race length, I’ve got more stamina.” On September 8 Eggenschwiler wants to defend her World Championship title. “At least I want to get on the pedestal. “When asked what she could do even better this year compared to last year’s Powerman Zofingen, the woman from Solothurn said: “Everything!”
The toughest competitor in Zofingen will again be Melanie Maurer, who now belongs to a French team and confirmed her start in Zofingen at the end of July 2019. “I want to confirm my top performance of 2018 and want to be at least in the top 5 at my third start in Zofingen,” she said. She is satisfied with the course of the season so far. There’s not much more you can get Maurer to do. “No, except my cat’s pregnant and I’m looking forward to the kittens.”
And with Antonia Reznikov, last year’s world championship third will also start in Zofingen. The 37-year-old Israeli has so far relied mainly on triathlon this season. “I finished four races over the Ironman distance and once I even won.” For Reznikov, Zofingen was something like love at first sight: “When I made my debut last year, I liked the race so much that I decided to be back at the 31st Powerman Zofingen right at the finish line.”
Former winners lurk
Since the individual nations select their elite athletes only a few weeks before the Powerman Zofingen, the question of favourites is always a difficult one. Personal contact to the cracks is thus in demand. “Yes, I am at the 31st Powerman Zofingen at the start”, emailed there about Maxim Kuzmin on 22 July, on his 31st birthday. The Russian had won the world championship title in Zofingen in 2017 in a completely surprising way, last year he was fourth. As in previous years, Kuzmin has his own preparation program for the Powerman Zofingen. At the Russian Duathlon Sprint Championships he finished second and at the Russian Triathlon Championships fourth over the middle distance: “I’m not completely satisfied with the course of the season so far, as I broke my right arm in June after a fall from my bike”. But for September 8, the recovered Russian has a crystal clear goal: “I want to win!”
Seppe Odeyn announces the same and radiates even more self-confidence: “I come to Zofingen to win – what else?”. The 32-year-old Belgian competes for the sixth time in Zofingen, where he has been on the podium three times: in 2017 and 2015 on the 2nd place, in 2016 he won. Odeyn had some problems at the beginning of the season. “I had an injury and had to stop the race at Powerman Alsdorf, then I got sick and had to cancel the European Championships in Viborg. So far this season the current world number 28 has only won one race, the Powerman Greece. At the end of September last year, Odeyn became the father of a son named Vik, who perhaps stands for “Victory”.
Van Looy wants to know
The 30-year-old Frenchman Yannick Cadalen (2nd place each in 2018 and 2014), the world number 6, has contested only a few races this year: “At my sixth start in Zofingen I’ll do my best to get on the podium at the top.” And then there’s Diego Van Looy. The 28-year-old Belgian has had a top season so far and is concentrating on the triathlon. “I won three Ironman races and would like to finish the season with a top result,” said world number 28. “In Zofingen I certainly want to make it to the podium, if possible all the way to the top.” Van Looy already denied the Powerman Zofingen once. “2015 and this just for fun and already then I ended up in 9th place.”
This year, many athletes have declared “Top-5” as their goal at the Powerman Zofingen. For example, the 29-year-old Dutchman Thomas Bruins, who lives in Australia. “For professional reasons, I had to slow down my training and competition program a little. I spent more time on the mountain bike and went running with my dog.” The 31-year-old Michele Paonne from Liechtenstein reached rank 3 at the Powerman Mallorca and rank 2 each at the Powerman Greece and the Powerman Swiss in Tramelan. “I’m very happy with the first half of the season and would have liked to finish it at this level.” But then came the 7th of July and a training crash on the bike at 55 km/h over the Rhine dam now changes the appearance: “I try everything to be fit again in time for the 8th of September”. Even more modest is Peter “Oz” Ellis. “I want to finish in the top 10 in Zofingen,” says the Englishman, who was born on 16 August 1983. The Powerman world ranking second place is in top form: “I proved this with my two victories at the Powerman Hawaii and at the Powerman Michigan”. Anyway, Ellis wants to do better in Zofingen this time than at his premiere two years ago. “That’s when I ended up in a disappointing 23rd place.”
The fact that the Powerman Zofingen is not simply a normal duathlon race is proven by statements made by several duathletes from the top ten world rankings Powerman 2018/19: “Two years ago I mastered the short distance in Zofingen, but this year it’s still too early for the long distance,” says Jan Petralia, World Ranking Number 6. The 26-year-old Belgian was European vice-champion and Belgian national champion this year via the middle distance duathlon. 33-year-old Austrian Sandrina Illes, number 7 in the world rankings, has similar respect for the Powerman Zofingen: “Like last year, I’m concentrating on the sprint and standard courses and skipping Zofingen.
Swiss trump cards
Sami Götz, Head of Competitive Sports Duathlon at Swiss Duathlon, believes in defending the women’s title in Switzerland: “I expect Petra Eggenschwiler and Melanie Maurer on the podium again. With the men, I believe Michael Ott, who is not a member of the national squad, is the most likely to do this, and Rolf Wermelinger is also very popular with me.”
Ott himself is ready for great deeds at the Powerman Zofingen: “I want to be on the podium for the best places on September 8th”. So far the season has gone better than expected. The 37-year-old from Zurich became Swiss Champion Duathlon over the short and medium distance, won the Powerman Tramelan “and except Gürbenthal I won all races of the Eisenhorn Swiss Duathlon Series”. Ott is a part-time sportsman, still works 50 percent as a carpenter and comes from running. He has competed three times in Zofingen so far: 2006 over the long distance (61st place), 2007 and 2008 over the short distance.
Wermelinger starts in Zofingen for the fourth time over the long distance. With rank 6, the 40-year-old Kirchenthurner achieved his best result so far. “My goal is the top 10.” After the submission of his diploma thesis, the student was able to make up for his shape deficit from spring. “Since the beginning of July I haven’t done any work and can focus fully on the preparation of the Powerman Zofingen.” Wermelinger’s last results were correspondingly good: 3rd place in the Powerman Tramelan (2nd place in the SM). 3rd place at the Zytturm Duathlon and 38th place overall at the GP Bern.
The 32-year-old Fabian Zehnder from Wädenswil, Germany, will start in Zofingen this year for the seventh time over the long distance, whereby his best result so far was rank 9: “I want to be in the top 5, I am satisfied with the season sales so far”. Zehnder was fifth at the European Championships in Viborg and also vice Swiss champion over the duathlon short distance. The 26-year-old Jens Gossauer from Uster wants to gain experience this year in Zofingen for an attack on the World Championship podium 2020: “After the last season with World Championship rank 8 at my debut in Zofingen, I had hoped for more, but the form curve points upwards with me.
The 32-year-old churner Nina Zoller, current fourth in the world rankings, takes it rather easy: “Primarily I want to enjoy the race and be surprised. The competition is strong, but of course I’m happy if I can get a little involved. “And Zoller was always involved in the front, as she was fourth every time in Zofingen (2017 and 2018). Daniel Schwarz from Winterthur also has podium chances. The world ranking number 13, which will be 34 years old on September 9th, is in top form, won the Gigathlon 2019 (single), the own age group at Ironman Switzerland 70.3 and rank 2 at 140.6: “At the premiere over the long distance in Zofingen I was fifth last year and this time I want to deliver a great performance”.
Always good for a top result when she starts in Zofingen is the 37-year-old German Katrin Esefeld. The current eleventh in the world rankings, which now focuses mainly on triathlon (age class victory at the Ironman Zurich 2019 and thus qualified for the Ironman Hawaii), landed last year in Zofingen on rank 7, shone in 2017 with World Championship bronze.
list of absences
This year in Zofingen, the 35-year-old German Felix Köhler, who lives in Basel, will not be at the start of the World Championships. He became Vice World Champion in 2016 in Zofingen. “My duathlon season has unfortunately already ended and I will start in Zofingen this year in one relay at the most.” 23-year-old Matt Smith (AUS), fifth in the world rankings, is not coming to Zofingen due to an injury he sustained at Powerman Germany in April. “Since the Powerman Zofingen seems to be an incredibly great event, I want to come in 2020.”
The Powerman Zofingen will soon be missing serial winner Emma Pooley. The Englishwoman, who lives in the canton of Zurich, won the Powerman Zofingen four times in a row between 2014 and 2017. “Unfortunately, Emma Pooley no longer competes in duathlons, but concentrates on mountain runs and occasionally participates in bicycle races,” says her trainer David Newport.
Miriam Van Reijen isn’t in the game either. The 35-year-old Dutchwoman became Vice World Champion in 2017 in Zofingen: “We have the European Triathlon Championships in Holland at the same time, which appeal to me too much.”
The 39-year-old Japanese rider Airi Sawada, third in the world rankings, will not be at the start on 8 September: “I simply had no good preparation for Zofingen, but I love this race and will be there again in 2020. And then this year, of course, there’s also someone who was almost sure of bronze in the last few years: 35-year-old Dane Søren Bystrup finished third at the Powerman Zofingen four times, ending his elite career last year.
Text: Raphael Galliker
Here you can find more information about the registration for the Powerman Zofingen 2019