On this date ....

By Paul Groves | 04 Jun, 2020

We are using this “lockdown time” to have a look back and see what happened before, in the “good old days”. Fortunately for ETU, our history is rich and long and so we are able to use a borrowed TARDIS to travel back in time.

This week, we will look at races that took place in 2019, 2015, 2009, 1999 and 1989. Once again, great names and great memories.

It would be great if you could look in your own archives and share with us some of your memories from those races.

In 1989, the ETU European Triathlon Championships were held in Cascais, a coastal resort not far from Lisbon. With a strong westerly wind whipping across the course, this was a tough one.

This event was a major success for the Portuguese triathlon fans. They held their first event in 1984, organised by the Câmara Municipal de Peniche. Disputou and on 15th August, over a distance of 400m swim, 17k bike and an 8k run, 30 athletes made history in Portugal. The sport was born and in 1987, the Portuguese Triathlon Association was founded. The “APT – Associação Portuguesa de Triatlo” created a national calendar of races and the first long-distance event was held in 1988.

Photo: FTP

The original governing body evolved and in 1989 the FTP-Federação de Triatlo de Portugal, replaced APT and to this day, the Federation is delivering top quality events. All we need are some old photos. Can you help? Please send your photos to

Photo: FTP Erin Baker, David Hofman, Sarah Springman 1989

The women’s race saw defending champion, Sarah Springman GBR up against a tough line-up. Winning the title in Venice the year before and already with the runner-up medal from the 1986 Milton Keynes event and then the 1987 Marseille race, she was clearly the one to beat.

Coming out of the water one minute and 42 seconds down on the race leader, Kirsten Ullrich FDR, Springman had a lot of work to do if she was going to claw her way back onto the podium. Overtaking two athletes ahead of her, she was unable to match the biking power of West Germany’s Simone Mortier who had powered ahead and entered T2 over 4 minutes ahead of the defending champion. With Mortier now comfortably in the lead and with Ullrich ahead, the GB athlete dug deep but could not match the pace and had to settle for bronze.

Since that race, Ullrich failed to deliver the same level of results and faded from the rankings but for Mortier, this debut championship appearance saw her claim silver the following year in Linz, a bronze over the tough Zofingen course and a series of podium appearances right up to the 25th anniversary of her 1989 win, when in 2014 she stood tall on the ETU Kitzbühel podium, crowned ETU Champion in her 50-54 Category. There is a great article about her on the DTU website (in German). Springman went on to win a second bronze in October at the Rødekro ETU Long Distance Triathlon European Championships, held in Denmark.

In the men’s race, it was defending champion, Rob Barel NLD who would use his knowledge of racing from the Venice victory in 1988 to try and outwit the competition. Barel held the Standard “Olympic” Distance title as well as the Middle-Distance title after his victory on home soil in Stein. He really was the man to beat but with the likes of Jürgen Zäck GER and Yves Cordier FRA, the much older Barel would have to race his heart out.

Barel came out of the water just ahead of Cordier but with work to do in order to catch up on the race leader, Germany’s Wolfgang Dittrich. Using the tough winds to his advantage, Cordier dug deep and blasted the bike course, leaving everyone trailing behind, including the might Germans who would later go on to achieve so many top performances at the longer distance.

As the temperature pushed up towards 40 Degrees, it was clear that the weather would really impact upon the athletes. No ITU Competition Rules then. It really was a different world.With the final 10k looking like being the longest 10k the athletes had ever run, it was Barel, with a 2-minute deficit to make up, who went through the gears trying to catch Cordier. The Frenchman, slower on the run than most of the finishers, was aware of the massive threat behind him but somehow found the reserves to hold on, win and take the 1989 title. Barel just held off Zäck in what was a nail-biting finish as the German posted the second-fastest run of the day.

Cordier claimed the title this year but it was Rob Barel whose racing career has lasted longest. Read about his induction into the ITU Hall of Fame here.

Check out the results for both races here.

Fast-forward to 1999. This was a time when athletes focussed on the racing circuit in Europe, where Eurosport provided TV-coverage that was sometimes even live and where prize-money was paid out on the spot.

The 1999 Blumau ETU Duathlon European Championships saw Age-Group athletes (Masters), Juniors and Elite all race around the beautiful countryside in Steiermark, Austria.

In the Junior Races, held on the Thursday, the host nation took a well-deserved silver, with Franz Höfer having just enough pace to keep the fast-paced Alex Santz ESP at bay. Neither of them could match the power on the bike of Portugal’s Marco Lourenço, who powered away with 100m to go before T2 and, out of sight, out of mind, the race was won.

The Junior Women’s race was dominated by two young Swiss athletes. Establishing an early breakaway on the bike, the pair worked hard together on the tough and challenging course, leaving the pack to fight for the final medal.

With one using duathlon platforms to get the quick transition and with the other using traditional bike shoes to get that extra power on the bike, it would all come down to the final run and that was where Nicola Spirig simply kicked and left Simone Aschwanden, defending European champion and reigning World Champion,  with nothing left in the tank to reply. Gold, the first of many, for Spirig and a silver for Aschwanden ahead of Spain’s María Bravo.

The Elite Races on the Saturday were just as thrilling, with the very best names in Duathlon racing on the start list. The venue had a fantastically smooth, race-circuit class road running through the centre of town, lined with crowds all cheering every time the pack swept through.

Irma Heeren NED was no stranger to the podium. Arriving in Blumau as reigning World Champion and with a number of other titles behind her, she was going to be the one to beat. Over the 10k – 42k – 5k course, there was no chance to ease up. The flat sections were fast; the hilly sections were tough and it was a humid day with little breeze. Battling with the defending European Champion, Alena Peterková the pair broke away from the pack and entered T1 with a massive 1:45 advantage. Losing valuable time in the shoe-change, Peterková had to chase Heeren but on the last lap, the Dutch athlete’s chain came off and almost 60 seconds ticked away as she struggled to fix it. Behind her the battle was hotting up with Swiss athlete Dolorita Fuchs-Gerber and Edwige Pitel FRA gaining on and then passing the Czech athlete. With the final run it was Heeren who, despite the problem with her chain, who claimed the title. Behind her, Fuchs-Gerber and Pitel were unable to match the incredible pace of Peterková who later went on to race at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games in the marathon, clocking 2:53:30.

The Men’s Race was as nail-biting as the women’s, with reigning World Champion, Yann Millon FRA up against Belgium’s Benny Vansteelant. In the mix too was Spain’s Fernando Gómez Cubero. Millon ran hard from the start but with Vansteelant tracking him. The “Lion of Flanders” was a real threat but in the opening stages, far enough behind Millon … or so he thought. Into T1 and the Belgian athlete was joined by Raul Llamazares (ESP) and Gómez. Soon enough the pressure on Millon was too much and together, Vansteelant and Gómez took control. Their lead grew and in the fifth lap, Vansteelant just upped the gears and pulled away. Gómez had nothing to answer with and by the time the crowds roared the Lion home into T2, Vansteelant was over 90 seconds ahead of the Spaniard. Between them, they had beaten the World Champion, who settled for bronze.

Since that race, Vansteelant was the dominant force in Duathlon. His 1997 Junior World title set him on a path to glory that gave him 9 World titles and 4 European titles over a variety of distances. His untimely death robbed the world of a great athlete but his time on earth showed us just how exciting the sport of duathlon can be.

The full results can be found here and you can watch the edited highlights here. See if you can recognise who is in charge of the dis-mount line in the Elite Men’s race.

In 2008, Vienna hosted a successful European Cup. 2009 saw the venue open its doors to the ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup and it was to host this race for five more years, each time delivering a classic event for new generations of athletes.

The 2009 edition saw a 40-strong line-up for the women and a well-placed attack in the swim from the Austrian team. It was Lisa Perterer and Sarah Vilic, joined by Slovenia’s Monika Orazem who soon overtook the race leaders and, putting on a powerful display of riding within a pack of almost a dozen athletes to establish a lead group. Within the group were some fast runners. Perterer, the 2008 European Winter Triathlon Junior champion, had done enough on the bike to ensure a good place to run home and, with the crowds cheering her on, managed to hold on just enough to keep the faster Sofie Hooghe BEL behind her. Gold to Austria, silver to Belgium but only just, as Hungary’s Eszter Dudás lost out to the bronze medal by just one second.

Since then, Perterer has gone on to collect a number of World Cup podium finishes, including victory at the incredibly tough Cagliari course in 2018 and a 2020 title at the Punta Umbría European Duathlon Championships. Hooghe went on to win the 2010 Junior title at the Edinburgh Duathlon World Championships and was U23 runner up in 2011 in Gijón at the World Championships before claiming silver at both the U23 Horst European and at the Nancy World Championships. Dudás came back the next year to Vienna and won the race. She then went on to win Gold as part of Team Europe at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games before the Pontevedra World Duathlon Championships in 2011, where she was runner-up.

Want to hear about Perterer’s journey to triathlon? Then click the photo below.

The Junior Men’s race was massive, with 75 athletes on the start-line. Denied a gold in the women’s race, Team Hungary was determined to make this one count and with 13 athletes travelling the short distance to Vienna, the chances were good.

The swim was frantic and it was two Belgians who headed the race. Thomas Jurgens and Peter Denteneer pulled Hungary’s Kristóf Király along and out of the water. The three had broken away from the main pack and with wins in Bled and Tiszaújváros in 2008, Király was now supremely placed for another gold.

A huge pack formed and several athletes had to pull out before the finish but once into T2, Király knew the race was in his reach as he could outrun anyone on the start list. His lead was more than enough to take the gold, despite Davide Uccellari ITA digging deep to try and catch up. Uccellari settled for silver, comfortably outrunning Jurg Buhler SUI.

Király went on to win junior bronze behind a couple of well-known athletes at the 2009 Dextro Energy Triathlon - ITU World Championship Grand Final Gold Coast.

In 2015 at the Kupiškis ETU Triathlon Junior European Cup, history was made with a clean sweep of medals for the Israeli women and with gold and silver going to the Israeli men. 5 places on the podium - a truly impressive result.

The President of the Israel Triathlon Federation at the time, Yuval Hets, said “The Israeli NF decided to have Vienna and Kupiškis ETU Junior cups as the Israeli criteria to ETU’s European championship for the juniors. Kupiškis as a favourite destination also in 2014. As a former National Federation in category 3, we found that we may still contribute to other National Federations by being involved in developing-countries events. The competition between the Israelis triathletes themselves was in order to achieve the criteria, while winning was a task as well. We understand that in order to achieve a medal, you have to work hard and feel the hunger to another one. In Kupiškis we succeeded. Now our team is hungry for more. I wish our young athletes will learn this lesson and it will motivate them to work harder.”

Read the full race report here.

Our final race is the 2019 ETU Dnipro event. The weekend gave a chance for both Junior and Elite athletes to show off their racing skills and for hundreds of Ukrainian Age-Group and Para athletes to enjoy the top-quality event that has grown and improved over the years since it first came onto the calendar in 2014.

A spectacularly wide river, almost 2k wide at the swim start, with a tough current is perfect for the strong swimmer. The sweeping bike course with snappy climbs and fast descents and then the pan-flat run course along the banks of the river make it a favourite for athletes from all over the world.

The 2019 edition saw athletes from 22 nations, including Australia.

The Junior Women’s race provided us with a masterclass in biking from Latvia’s Daniela Leitāne. She was so strong on the bike that her run to the finish was assured ahead of a determined push by Ukraine’s Sofia Tkach and Monika Dobrovolska.

For the Junior Men, it was to be a win for Levente Karai HUN. The hard work from Slovenia’s Žiga Hutter with Karai was not for long, as they were joined by Tsikhan Shchamialiou BLR and a powerful biking session took the three into T2 looking as if they would collect the medals but neither the Slovenian, nor the Belarus athlete could match the blistering pace of Vitalii Vorontsov UKR. Urged on by the crowds, he carved through the pack and although he could not catch Karai, he sped past Shchamialiou into silver.

You can read the whole report here.

The Elite races were hotly contested with a good mix of experience and enthusiasm guaranteed to thrill the crowds. The women’s race saw a huge peloton out on the bike course and coming into T2, it was impossible to call the medal winners. As soon as the athletes spilled out onto the out and back course, it was Germany’s Lisa Tertsch who looked like a winner. She ran so easily and every pace seemed to take her further into the lead. After just a third of the run nobody could be in denial. Here was the winner and, returning to the race circuit after a couple of years recovery, she was to go on to win at the Antwerp World Cup, the Holten ETU Premium European Cup, the U23 Valencia European Championships and the Funchal ETU Cup Final. The success was not to end in Funchal as she was announced ETU Female Athlete of the year at the ETU Minsk Awards Gala. Silver went to her teammate, Marlene Gomez-Islinger and bronze to Léa Coninx FRA.

Azerbaijan’s Rostyslav Pevtsov was strong. His performance in Weert had been good and, having been born in Ukraine, there must have been a hope that gold would come to him. Everything went to plan until the run, when a much younger Australian athlete, Callum McClusky had other ideas and a wonderful cat and mouse game began over the closing stages of the race. We had seen Pevtsov in sprint finishes before but this time, he could not respond and had to settle for silver behind the Aussie. Florin Salvisberg SUI claimed bronze.

You can read the whole race report here.

That ends this week’s look back in time. As before – if you have any photos or images from the older races, please send them in for the ETU archives.

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