Let’s talk about the bears and bees - Cross Triathlon success in Transylvania

By Paul Groves | 04 Aug, 2017

Days three and four of the Transylvania Cross Festival were for the Triathletes, swimmers and runners with a packed programme of cross-triathlon and then a scary night swim, in the dark, in Dracula’s back garden. Sunday morning saw runners fill the tracks and paths for the XIII Memorial “SZASZ ALBERT” Trail Run, with 3k and 11k options.

The rains had stayed away and the tracks up in the forest were now dried, well-used and fast in sections. With the race briefings out of the way and with the build going on well at the swim venue, it was a chance for the athletes to explore the city more, to try the local food more and also for their supporters to find the short cuts through the woods to get to the best position possible on the climbs.

It was really nice to see so many athletes and their supporters finding time to thanks Peter Klosz and his team for the work they had done here. For those who raced last year, many felt that the 2016 event was the best they had been to but now, seeing the changes that had been created and having enjoyed the electric atmosphere for the first couple of days, 2017 had topped!!

First up down at the lake, were the Age Group athletes. The younger men would start and then would be followed by the Men 40-59. After a suitable pause, all women and the Men 70+ would race. There had been some concerns voiced before the race by the older athletes and with the agreement of all, they would race the shorter course, the same as the Juniors and Para in the afternoon. This was achieved with relative ease. They were issued with swim caps of a completely different colour and, as there were only five in total, the swim team were easily able to identify them. The Timing Team knew about it and so everything was in place.

The lake is not usually used for “Official Swimming” but has attracted people to its safe waters over the years. The lake, an artificial one, was drained and cleaned a few weeks back and then re-filled with water from the river that flows nearby. The air temperature was rising and for the early starters it was 21C with the water at 24C. Reports of large frogs made it a terrible experience for those who suffer from ranidaphobia but after the terrors of the previous days, with bears and vampires, this was a relatively small challenge.

The 1,000m swim was easily marked with lane ropes and the athletes swam around the lake, under a bridge and then back to the swim exit before T1 in a soft grassy field. The bike course took them over a railway line (swim waves had been calculated to fit in between train movements) and then across a major road (closed and managed by the city and county police together) before rising up past one of the local cemeteries. A total of 3.7k would take the athletes away from the water and onto the more familiar surroundings of the bike course but to get there they had a beast of a climb that had been the run course.

The first athletes to run down to the finish were in the 70+ Male category with GB’s William Hammerton making history with a double crown, having won the Cross Duathlon Championships a couple of days earlier.

It was Germany’s Marianne Grünebach who took gold for her country in the women’s 60-64 age group.

Fastest male athlete of the day was France’s Theo Dupras whose power on the bike took him past fellow Frenchman, Gaetan Vivien. Dupras was racing in the 20-24 category and Vivien raced the 25-29 category but had started in the same wave and so around the course, the cheers from the French supporters rang out loud.

The women’s race was a similar battle between German athletes and it was a lesson for the younger ones, delivered by Bettina Haas in the 50-54 category. Coming home in 2:25:25 she edged out Sara-Diane Gorges in the 35-39 category, who finished in 2:27:17. It was Haas’ run of 33:46 that did the damage and a delighted German team cheered her across the line. A special mention for GB athlete, Emily Harper. A snapped chain on an early lap on the bike saw her push up and freehweel down each hill to finish with a superb run and a silver medal!

In the afternoon it was the chance for the Junior athlete and the Paras to race. The Junior Men started and it was for Italian coach, Alessandro Alessandri a delight to see the top three exiting the water wearing the Azzurri uniform. ETU spoke to Alessandri early on in the four day Cross Festival. He explained that he had big plans for the young athletes and with the successes of the Cross Duathlon, he was confident of a good set of results in the Cross Triathlon.

Top ten international finishes for Thomas Francesco Previtali, a silver in the Cross Duathlon for Filippo Pradella and solid training and support for Daniel Polizzi made the Italians look like the team to beat. With them, coming out of the water, was Ukraine’s Dmytro Shabanov. Hoping for a “better day at the office” was Spain’s Miquel Valls Alemany. He crossed the finish line at the Cross Duathlon in second place but was denied the silver and DQ’d for not going to the Penalty Box for an earlier violation. A valuable lesson learnt and in the most costly manner. This race would be his chance to get things right and show his coaches a good performance.

The 3.7k climb to the forest went well for the stronger athletes and soon there was a clear lead for Pradella, with Valls close behind and newly-crowned Cross Duathlon European Champion, Miguel Riusech trying to make up lost time after the swim.

It was Pradella who had the pace and the crown went to him with Valls at last getting to hold the silver medal. Riusech had the greater pace but could not make up the deficit that Pradella had created with his immensely powerful 37:58 bike split.

With her convincing victory in the Cross Duathlon, there was a lot of expectation that a double crown would be won by Italy’s Marta Menditto but, having lost her crown on Thursday, Ukraine’s Sofiya Pryyma used her greater swim power to lead them out of the water.

With Hungary’s Fani Soós close behind, the pair sped through T1 and out onto the bike course.

The Ukrainian soon put the power on and broke free to post the fastest bike split.

She then dug deep and as the cheers from her supporters echoed around the forest, she held onto her lead to come home for the gold a full two minutes ahead of Menditto. Soós had incredible run power and nearly claimed that silver. An astonishing 14:56 on that run course so nearly took her past the Italian who could hear the sprinting Hungarian as she crossed the finish line.

The crowds went wild with their cheers. Racing on this course is tough but a sprint finish – just incredible!

The Para Wave was a chance for three athletes in two categories to show us their power on this immensely testing course. Hungary’s Péter Boronkay had added the gold from the Cross Duathlon to his huge collection of medals and titles and was now back for the Cross Triathlon.

On such a course as this, control of the bike was a real challenge but Boronkay’s times were impressive all the same. He was racing with Austria’s Martin Falch whose many titles have come from cross and standard triathlon and duathlon events and with Romania’s Robert Tamirjan who just two years ago, could not swim.

It was Boronkay who left the water first with a 10:43 swim. Falch followed in 13:17 and Tamirjan, only able to swim backstroke, exited in 19:35. It was once they were on two wheels that the whole dynamics changed and a 40:54 ride from the young Romanian took him right back into contention.

Boronkay could not answer that ride but had greater pace over the final run and it was he who crossed the line first to win his category.

Tamirjan followed close behind to win his category and Falch claimed silver in one of the most exciting and impressive races of the day.

The Medal Ceremonies were well-attended and it was the German Age Group Team that went away with the biggest medal haul.  We will get the Age Group Medal Table up to date soon, with all the medals from this season.

Sunday morning was an easy day, unless you were the ETU Vice-President. Chris Kitchen took up the offer of the 11k Trail Run and was running away from wasps and bears for the early part of the morning. Showered and refreshed he was back at the swim venue for the Elite and U23 races. As for the Cross Duathlon, the U23 and Elite would start together. Under ITU Rules, this gives the U23 a chance to win not only prize-money but also a chance to get across the line in front of an Elite athlete and, as we saw last year with the Cross Duathlon and that amazing victory from Spain’s Xavier Jové Riart, take both Elite and U23 titles. He missed out defending his title this year due to work commitments but came back to try his luck at the Cross Triathlon.

The LOC had really done well this time and the atmosphere and management of the steep climb was absolutely amazing. Just a look at the faces of the athleets as the cheers rang out tells you that the LOC got it 100% right this time! The hill was so big and with so many twists and turns that you could hear the cheers from the spectators but could not see through the dense forest. As the noise from the spectators increased you knew the riders were getting closer and closer and then suddenly they emerged from the trees and you could really feel the power and determination as they raced past.

But first, it was the women who raced and it was local favourite (and new to using a mountain-bike) Antoanela Manac who left the water first, much to the delight of the local crowds.

Manac is more usually found on the European Cup circuit and for her, this was a relatively new venture. World U23 Silver medal-winner, from Germany Anna Pauline Saßerath was almost a minute behind but caught up Manac on the bike.

Bronze medal-winner in the 2015 Worlds in Sardenga was Hungary’s Brigitta Poór. From leaving the water she had to really work hard and her subsequent 1:12:02 on the bike was enough to take her into a commanding lead. Out on the run she had time to asses her position and enjoy the cheers.

She cruised to victory with a three minute lead over the chasing athletes. From France, Morgane Riou biked hard and ran the fastest final leg to comfortably take silver ahead of Austria’s Carina Wasle who went home with bronze.

The last athlete to leave the water was Russia’s Cross Duathlon ETU U23 Champion, Daria Rogozina. Wearing the 2017 ETU Winter Triathlon U23 crown, she was supreme on the cross duathlon but struggled in the water and hers was the last bike in a lonely transition area down by the lake.

She soon put the swim behind her and was soon passing athletes on the bike course. With several still ahead her as she entered T2, it was her final run of 31:25 that secured her a convincing victory and clearly showed her coaches that with a bit more training and work on the swim, she will in the years to come, be a truly impressive cross triathlete in the same way that she reigns supreme in the cross duathlon and winter triathlon world.

Our visiting athlete from South Africa, moving up from the junior rankings and silver medal winner last year in the Snowy Mountains World Championships, Mikaela Jonsson crossed the finish line in second place and Manac came home in third.

As we saw above Spain’s Xavier Jové Riart, missed out defending his Cross Duathlon title but came back to try his luck at the Cross Triathlon and was joined by Friday’s winner, Brice Daubord. Despite a great swim and bike, digestive issues meant that Daubord had to quit out on the run course. Such a shame as the double would have been a great result for him and also, he was doing so well when his troubles started.

The Men’s swim was led by Portugal’s Tiago Maia with Daubord a stroke of two behind. Michal Svorc was just behind the Frenchman and once out on the bike course soon it was U23 athlete and fellow Frenchman, Arthur Serrières who had powered up the course and was jostling for the lead with Daubord.

Slovakia’s Tomas Kubek was pushing the pace and soon Jan Kubicek CZE had joined in the race for the front.

The battle for the front was not between the French athletes. Ahead of them the Italian, Marcello Ugazio had edged into the lead.

Behind them, more Italian athletes were racing in a peloton and in there was 5 times World and 5 times European Winter Triathlon Champion, Pavel Andreev. He had been out on the course earlier in the day to support the Elite Women. Following his race in the Cross Duathlon he had lent his bike to an Age Group athlete and had supported them. Now, despite having no rear brake (caused variously by a crash and a mechanical failure) he was giving a masterclass in riding and not only holding his earlier position but was in fact moving up through the field.

T2 saw the Italian U23 athlete in the lead but behind him there was a tremendous battle between Daubord, Serrières, Kubicek and Andreev.

It was Andreev who tired first with Daubord exiting the course and this left the battle to Kubicek and Serrières who did their best to catch Ugazio.

It was not to be and the U23 Italian cruised to victory leaving the sprint finish to Serrières and Kubicek. 

A final kick from the young Frenchman in the final 100m saw him edge ahead and it was down to the photo finish to show that he was indeed a pace ahead of the Czech.

Two U23 athletes on the Elite Podium – amazing performances from the “New Kids on the Block” and a second Italian athlete on the U23 podium. All this gave a thrilling finale to the weekend of races.

The 2017 Transylvania Cross Festival was in no simple way a huge success. From its conception, through to the advertising and promotion and then to the logistics of moving athletes from an airport some distance away, to the support and assistance provided to athletes, officials, supporters, team officials and spectators, the LOC hit all the right buttons.

Thank you Târgu Mureș, thank you Peter Klosz and your dedicated team. Memories of Romania will be many and varied and very positive - and full of bears and bees.

All photos have been published!

Day 0 - Opening Ceremony

Day 1 - Cross Duathlon
Day 1 - Award Ceremony
Day 1 - Dracula Night Run

Day 2 - Cross Duathlon
Day 2 - Award Ceremony

Day 3 - Cross Triathlon
Day 3 - Award Ceremony
Day 3 - Dracula Night Swim

Day 4 - Cross Triathlon
Day 4 - Award Ceremony
Day 4 - Memorial “Szász Albert”

We would like to thank the LOC photographers for capturing the struggle, the pain, but also the joy we experienced last week. Great job guys!

Article gallery
Related Event: 2017 Târgu Mures ETU Cross Triathlon European Championships
29 - {entry_finish_date format="%M, %Y"} • event page
Results: Elite Men
1. Marcello Ugazio ITA 01:44:09
2. Arthur Serrieres FRA 01:45:20
3. Jan Kubicek CZE 01:45:20
4. Pavel Andreev RUS 01:47:50
5. Mattia De Paoli ITA 01:48:21
6. Tomas Kubek SVK 01:48:41
7. Fausto Fognini ITA 01:49:17
8. Emanuele Aru ITA 01:49:36
9. Dominik Wychera AUT 01:49:56
10. Xavier Jové Riart ESP 01:50:02
Results: Elite Women
1. Brigitta Poór HUN 01:59:49
2. Morgane Riou FRA 02:02:51
3. Carina Wasle AUT 02:05:45
4. Eleonora Peroncini ITA 02:06:02
5. Yulia Surikova RUS 02:10:35
6. Daria Rogozina RUS 02:13:58
7. Mikaela Jonsson RSA 02:15:09
8. Antoanela Manac ROU 02:19:55
9. Aina Picas Zorilla ESP 02:20:01
10. Marica Romano ITA 02:22:12
Results: U23 Men
1. Marcello Ugazio ITA 01:44:09
2. Arthur Serrieres FRA 01:45:20
3. Emanuele Aru ITA 01:49:36
4. Xavier Jové Riart ESP 01:50:02
5. Tommaso Gatti ITA 01:51:05
6. Michael Haas GER 01:56:48
7. Roman Vasin RUS 01:56:55
8. Michal Svorc CZE 02:01:14
9. Eugen Popović CRO 02:03:08
10. Ondrej Petiska CZE 02:09:23
Results: U23 Women
1. Daria Rogozina RUS 02:13:58
2. Mikaela Jonsson RSA 02:15:09
3. Antoanela Manac ROU 02:19:55
4. Marica Romano ITA 02:22:12
5. Anna Pauline Saßerath GER 02:27:23
DNF. Hrista Stoyneva BUL DNF
DNF. Sina Hinteregger AUT DNF