For the majority of ETU folk, the summer has slipped away and, for some, the snows have arrived already. But, for the lucky few who are racing this weekend at the 2015 Alanya ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup the sun is shining and history is about to be made.
This event has been running now for 25 years. As a small event it attracted the attention of some visiting Dutch tourists who happened to have an interest in our sport. They helped the local organisers and gradually the event grew and grew. For many years it was the end of season finale for the ETU cups, with the most amazing after event party you could imagine. Athletes knew that the race was good, that they got their prize-money on time, that there would be a great welcome and that aside from the race there was also that 5k swim where they could possibly collect even more prize money. Triathlon Alanya is the place to be this weekend.
The Turkish triathlon scene has grown and grown and indeed amongst the European Federations has shown one of the biggest growths over recent years. With a philosophy that promotes “Elite & Lifestyle” participation they appear to have hit the right buttons and more and more races are coming onto the calendar.
2013 saw a great European Championships; 2014 saw the event host an ITU World Cup alongside the ETU Junior European Cup and again this year the format has held.
Age Groupers can race here too. They will race the Standard Distance on Saturday morning and the Sprint Distance on Sunday morning and if you were a lucky winner of your category in Geneva then you get a free entry to the race here.
The Junior Women follow the Age Groupers and will start at 11:00 local time.
As I look out of the window in the late morning there is a slight mist over the lower hills but the air temperature is currently 240C expected to rise to 290C in the high afternoon. The water is dead flat. It looks lovely.
The athletes are all out and about checking their bikes, riding where they can, jogging put the air-miles and just chilling. So many of them are sending home images of the sunny location to their friends and families. Let’s face it, Alanya really is the place to be at this time of year.
The juniors will race over the sprint distance; a 750m one-lap swim, followed by 3 laps of 6,880m on the bike to get a slightly long 20.64k bike, followed by the final 5k run over two laps. So, who will be racing ?
It is great to see athletes returning to a race to defend their title. This year we have Alberte Kjær Pedersen DEN. Narrowly missing the podium in Chicago, she will be keen to stamp her mark on this event where, in 2014, her run pace pretty much destroyed the field. She will take the top number and has first choice on the swim start. Next up is Hungary’s Noémi Sárszegi. Her best performance this year was in Tulcea where her strong running took her to silver. Her performances during the year helped the Hungarian Team into its current second place in the Junior European Rankings Nations standings.
From Israel and part of the team who swept the podium in Kupiškis this year, comes Yuval Gome. Following her gold she has yet to repeat that form but on this course perhaps getting it all right in the swim and bike and then using her run pace will see her return home across the water with a medal. From Romania comes third-ranked, Bucharest-based Andreea Balan. As Romanian Junior Champion for the past two years she will now be looking to consolidate her work on the international stage and a podium here would be icing on the cake. Ranked 5th and part of the Israeli team that took gold, silver and bronze in Kupiškis, comes Lianne Witkin. Will her new bike be ready for the race? Will it make all the difference and take her to the podium? Only a few hours to wait now. The Turkish fans will be giving their support to their two athletes who are racing but with greater international experience it will be Sinem Özdil who most likely will take the lead.
9 nations; only 16 athletes but top quality competition is expected.
For the men we will see a defending champion return. Following his devastating kick on the final 100m Max Studer SUI, blew away any challenge. After Alanya 2014 he had a solid season, but never quite regained that form. He has a tough battle in front of him, with to powerful Kazakh athletes taking the top places in the rankings. On paper Studer should be able to beat Temirlan Temirov and Ayan Beisenbayev but with greater international racing experience and more points behind them and Beisenbayev’s gold in Tabor, these two could well create a massive race at the front end of the pack.
Sweden will be hoping for medals from Alanya. If not from their Olympic silver medallist, racing in the Elite Women, then from Gabriel Sandör. Gold in Bled over the super-sprint distance and a silver in Vienna over the more common spring distance shows that this young man can deliver. Powerful on the bike and run and with only the 750m swim, he will be a force to contend with and with the podium so close to him last year, he will certainly be hoping to improve on his 4th place. Turkish hopes will rest upon Gültigin Er who had a great swim but then had to work hard to keep up. A top ten in Burgas showed he was working on his race and here, on home soil, the crowds will be supporting him all the way round.
52 athletes, 18 nationalities.
To celebrate the 25 years of triathlon racing here athletes have been visiting an exhibition on triathlon photography.