By Erin Greene on 30/05/13 at 7:53 am
The ITU Long Distance World Championships returns to France after a six-year absence on Saturday 1 June as Belfort welcomes some of the world’s best athletes battling it out for glory. The men’s and women’s races at the 19th Long Distance World Championships are full of former medallists including Caroline Steffen (SUI), Jodie Swallow (GBR), Dirk Bockel (LUX), Martin Jensen (DEN) and Sylvain Sudrie (FRA).
France has a close affiliation with the event, having hosted the very first race in 1995, and the 2013 race in Belfort marks the sixth time the race has been held in the country. The last time it was held in France – in Lorient in 2007 – the Elite Men’s race was dominated by French athletes and it is the only time in the event’s history where one nation has occupied all three places on the podium.
Please note, the 2013 world titles will this year be decided over a 9.5km run, 87km bike, 20km run, as opposed to the original triathlon course proposed, due to unforeseen cold weather and water temperatures. While the circumstances are unfortunate, athlete safety is the top priority. New course maps and details can be found here
Elite Women’s preview
Reigning women’s champion Steffen is aiming to become the most successful woman in the history of the Long Distance World Championships. Having won gold in 2012 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain and in 2010 in Immenstadt, Germany, Steffen is hoping for an unprecedented third victory which would see her surpass Germany’s Ines Estedt, who won in 1997 and 2002.
Steffen will face fierce competition from Pederson. Pederson dominated the field earlier in May at the ETU Challenge Middle Distance European Championships in Barcelona, Spain, winning the race by almost six minutes. She will be aiming to go one better than last year’s world championships having finished second behind Steffen, but she does have experience of triumphing in the gruelling Long Distance format, having won the Long Distance European Championships in Tampere, Finland in 2011.
Great Britain have enjoyed an enviable record at the race in recent years. Five different British women have won gold in the last seven years – Steffen’s victories in 2010 and 2012 are the only non-British victories since 2005. Jodie Swallow (GBR) carries British hopes at Belfort. Swallow won world championship gold in Perth, Australia in 2009 and finished third in last year’s race in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
Virginia Berasategi (ESP) could also factor, just having missed the podium last year and with three Long Distance World Championship medals to her name, including gold at the 2003 event in Ibiza, Spain. Berasategi claimed bronze in 2002 and 2010 and is a two-time Long Distance European Champion with victories in Prague, Czech Republic in 2009 and Vitoria-Gasteiz in 2010.
Elite Men’s preview
Jensen will be hoping to claim an elusive world championship gold medal in Belfort. Jensen has twice finished third (in 2008 and 2009) but goes into the 2013 event in good form after finishing second at the Middle Distance European Championships in May.
Bockel won bronze at the 2012 Long Distance World Championships and is the highest finisher from Vitoria-Gasteiz competing at Belfort for the 2013 race. Bockel also came second in the 2009 Prague Long Distance European Championships and competed at the Olympic distance at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
Former world champion Sudrie has excelled since focusing on the long distance format. As well as winning gold in Immenstadt, Germany in 2010, he claimed silver in Perth, Australia in 2009 and bronze in Henderson, USA in 2011 meaning he achieved a podium finish in three consecutive Long Distance World Championships. Sudrie also claimed silver at the 2012 Long Distance European Championships and will be the locals’ main hope for glory in Belfort.
Another former world champion in the field is Viktor Zyemtsev (UKR). Zyemtsev claimed gold in Fredericia, Denmark in 2005 and narrowly missed out of the podium in 2009 when he finished fourth.
The Elite Men’s race starts at 08:15 and is followed by the Women’s Elite race at 08:18.
Article written by Adam Petrie
Find more details about this event - 2013 Belfort ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships