Gomez & Spirig high hopes at European Championships
The 2012 Eilat ETU Triathlon European Championships mark the final Continental Championships with two guaranteed Olympic spots allocated to the countries of the winners. France is hoping to snatch the women’s spot with reigning champion Emmie Charayron and additional strength in Jessica Harrison and Carole Peon, but Nicola Spirig (SUI) will have very different ideas. While Javier Gomez (ESP) makes his 2012 ITU debut, he is up against the likes of Alexander Bryukhankov (RUS) and Sven Riederer (SUI) who along with Spirig, has the potential to produce a Swiss double.
The elite women’s race will see reigning European Champion Charayron in her first race of the 2012 season. However, Charayron will have her work cut out to beat Spirig, a two-time European champion (2009-2010) and did not race in the event last year. She recently claimed silver in the opening ITU World Cup in Mooloolaba followed by a fifth place finish at the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series opener in Sydney last week among a top class field.
Finishing just behind Spirig in Sydney was Spain’s Ainhoa Murua. Even though a European Championship podium has eluded Murua on more than one occasion, she recently won the 2012 Quarteira ITU Triathlon European Cup in March and will certainly be aiming for the Olympic spot in Eilat.
The French team is strengthened by Harrison and Peon. Harrison has proved good form in the last six months, racking up her first World Cup title in Korea last year. With Peon also claiming her first World Cup victory in Guatape in November, and a past silver medallist at the 2010 European Championships, both are capable of powerful performances on the world stage.
While a podium in Eilat would be a dream come true for Mateja Simic who is hoping to become the first ever Slovenian triathlete to qualify for the Olympics, a good result will also keep her points on track to fulfil this goal.
Local hope Fanny Beisaron and Team ITU member along with Simic, looks to produce a good race on home soil, while Vendula Frintova (CZE) will hope to improve on a poor result in Sydney after finishing just behind Charayron at last year’s European Championships for silver.
A number of names stand out among the elite men’s starting line-up with Gomez and Riederer appearing in their first race of the season along with Bryukhankov arriving straight off the back of Sydney.
Gomez ended 2011 with a sixth place finish in the 2011 Beijing Grand Final, enough to secure third position on the overall World Championship rankings of 2011 behind Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee. At the 2011 Pontevedra ETU Triathlon European Championships where Gomez struggled to a disappointing 40th place finish, but in the absence of 2010-2011 European Champion Alistair Brownlee, Gomez will be hoping to reclaim his title from 2009.
Bryukhankov enters the European Championships just one week after Sydney where he and Ivan Vasiliev were the highest finishing Russians in fifth and sixth respectively. Competitors in Eilat will need to keep a close eye on Vasiliev after he was part of a two-man breakaway on the bike in Sydney, while leading a substantial part of the run.
Riederer will be hoping to begin 2012 in Israel as as he finished 2011; on the podium. Predominantly competing in ITU World Championship races last year, he finished fourth in the 2011 World Championship rankings and will aim to solidify Switzerland’s Olympic position with fresh legs in Eilat.
Dmitry Polyansky also raises the likelihood of a Russian win after he took bronze in Pontevedra last year behind the Brownlees. However, Portugal’s Joao Silva has the potential to surprise the crowd after a breakthrough win in Yokohama where he shared the podium with silver medallist Bryukhankov and Polyansky who took bronze. In addition, Silva has enjoyed success in Eilat before, winning the 2011 Eilat ETU U23 Triathlon European Championships.
France’s Aurélien Raphael is also one to watch after recently winning the 2012 Quarteira ITU Triathlon European Cup in March.
Athletes begin with a mass beach start into calm open waters for a two-lap swim with an expected water temperature of 24°C. A six lap technical bike follows with a final three lap flat run on an asphalt surface.
Elite women begin at 16:00 on Friday 20 April with the elite men racing at 15:00 on Saturday 21 April. The packed weekend of racing also includes the elite mixed relay beginning at 10:00 on Sunday 22 April followed by the Paratriathlon at 13:00.
With a number of the Junior athletes making the step up to elite level in 2012 the platform is open for another young superstar to make the breakthrough and announce themselves onto the European triathlon scene.
However, the two main contenders remain Jelle Geens (BEL) and Matthias Steinwandter (ITA). Both men excelled in 2011, winning 5 Junior European cups between them as well as a Duathlon European title (Steinwandter) and a European Junior No.1 ranking (Geens)
Both Geens and Steinwandter made the podium in Pontevedra last year. Steinwandter looked to have the race in the bag before being caught on the last lap by Nieschlag and Geens to finish 3rd.
Both will be determined to go a least one better here and Steinwandter has already laid down a marker with 1st place in the only Junior European Cup of 2012 in Quarteira at the beginning of the month.
Other athletes to watch out for are Bob Haller (LUX), Raphael Montoya – part of the blossoming French triathlon team who has a European Cup victory under his belt - and Britain’s Gordon Benson, who secured three podium finishes in 2011 and began this year with a solid 5th place in Quarteira.
David Pap (Hun) had a solid, if unspectacular, debut season in 2011 but he will look to break out of the shadow of sister Eszter, who has performed so brilliantly at junior level in the women’s category.
The junior men’s race takes place on Saturday 21 April at 12:00 local time. Click here for the junior men’s start list
The 2011 junior women’s season was the most open competition of the European triathlon season. From 15 races, came 13 different winners.
With only the Quarteira Junior Cup completed in 2012, it will be intriguing to see if any of these athletes can emerge from the field to dominate this year.
One of the main contenders will be Eszter Pap (HUN). Pap has experience of competing in Eilat, having finished 9th in the elite field at the European Cup last year. Her step up to elite action that day was a result of an impressive year at junior level, as she finished the No.1 European ranked junior female.
Monika Orazem (SLO) was consistently good last year. One of only two junior females to win more than one European Cup race and this was reflected in her final ranking position (No.2)
The conveyor belt of talent emerging from the British Triathlon federation will see all eyes on Sky Draper and Madelaine Winzer, following Lucy Hall’s progression to the elite field. Draper suffered a DNF in the heat of Pontevedra last year but posted an impressive third place in the opening European race of the year in Quarteira.
The junior women’s race takes place on Friday 20 April, 13:00 local time. Click here for the junior women’s start list
The Paratriathlon European Championships offer some intriguing matchups across all the classifications – with 48 athletes in action.
Some of the most prominent names in the sport will grace Eilat, with multiple champions keen to defend their titles. Peter Boronkay (HUN) has the carrot of four consecutive European Championships titles in Tri-4 to aim for.
But Tri-4 has the highest contingent of athletes and amongst them is Toni Franco (ESP) – a European Duathlon Champion (2010), a World Cross Triathlon Champion (2011) – but 2nd is his highest European finish.
In Tri-6 we have a mouthwatering clash between Iain Davison (GBR) and defending champion Lazar Filipovic (SRB).
Dawson, the 2010 European Champion, suffered a DNF in Pontevedra last year as Filipovic secured his first title and the two will go head to head here. Across the classifications, British trio Charlotte Ellis (Tri-6), Faye McLelland (Tri-4) and Jane Egan (Tri-1) will all be going for their third European titles in a row.
All Paratriathlon Classification races take place on Sunday 22 April at 13:00 local time
Also competing in Eilat are over 600 age-group athletes across the sprint and standard distances and the age-group standard distance has the honour of opening the Championships on Friday 20 April at 07:00 local time.
The extremely popular mixed relay races will also take place once again with 18 teams scheduled for the Junior relay and 10 teams in the elite event.
With files from David Peddie / ETU
Related Event: 2012 Eilat ETU Triathlon European Championships
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