The athletes are all in Eilat. The bike familiarisation has been completed. Swim fam done. Briefing in a grand theatre has been held (wow, what a venue!) and now it is that sort of vacuum until it all starts tomorrow morning.
You can watch the race live. It will be broadcast through Eurosport for those who have access, but also with a live stream available here.
We have just checked the temperature. It is noon and 32 C. Very dry but with a slight wind. The Israeli Triathlon Association held its national championships today, with a huge open race and with events for children of all ages. A total of 1,160 athletes had made their way to the Duty-Free city on the Bay of Eilat to race the course that will host the 2018, ETU Eilat U23 Championships. From all accounts, it was hot but not too hot and the breeze coming into the faces of the athletes on certain sections of the race was more than enough to make up for the sunshine above.
The Technical Delegate, Maisie Bancewicz, herself no stranger to these conditions (she was in charge last year in Velence when the heat was even more intense) has worked hard with the LOC and between them they have brought both male and female starts forwards and following extensive checks with the local medical team and consultation with the coaches, it has been decided to bring the women’s event forwards by another 15 minutes so as to reduce even further the impact of the heat on the athletes as they compete for medals.
Great cooperation from the national coaches and with great support from sponsors has made the job a little easier for the technical team who have an early start tomorrow of 04:30hrs to make sure the venue and facilities are ready.
With the men racing at 07:00, who should we be looking out for?
Well, with wings on his feet at the moment is the current ETU Rankings leader, Roberto Sánchez Mantecón ESP. A silver medal in Alanya and a bronze medal in Tartu at the Sprint Triathlon European Championships his performances this year have been consistent but he will have to work hard on the bike to ensure that he has a solid enough lead to avoid the blistering pace of Sam Dickinson, Barclay Izzard from Team GB and of Max Studer SUI, who recently won in Alanya and was comfortably faster than the Spaniard. Dickinson’s silver in the U23 world’s show that he is in form and with his teammates alongside him, he could well improve on his 4th last year in Velence, where the weather was equally scorchio.
Márk Dévay HUN should be well ahead in the swim and can certainly ride strong and the course here has a snappy hill that the athletes will have to climb repeatedly as the sun rises and makes it hotter. If he is accompanied by Poland’s Michał Oliwa, whose swim power is well-known and if Oliwa’s bike goes well, there might even be a successful breakaway.
With the local crowds already gearing themselves up to support their own athletes, the strongest representative from the host nation is Ran Sagiv https://www.triathlon.org/athletes/profile/74989/ran_sagiv . He has been focussing more on the ITU events to collect points for Tokyo and so for some his form might be a bit of a shock for some of those on the start line. A good bike from him and the crowds might well carry him to the podium.
For the women, it will be hot. No doubt about it. But the LOC, officials and local medical teams are fully set up ready to cope and the run course will see aid stations at every 1,000m. Ice baths, cold towels, air-conditioned ambulances and a medical pod with full air-co will be there to support them.
Amongst them are some familiar names for us. Having raced the circuits as juniors and now U23, many of them race against the Elite over sprint and standard races and along the way they have picked up valuable experience that will make this race a delight to watch.
Switzerland’s Julie Derron leads them out. Gold in Quarteira at the start of the season and a bronze in Gran Canaria, when added to her performance in Karlovy Vary and in Tartu; both top ten places, has given her a solid foundation that secures her the #1 pick at the start. A DNF in the Czech race was further misery for Russia’s Ekaterina Matiukh whose season was interrupted badly by a nasty crash in Weert when she looked as if she would be on the podium. She too started the year with a gold in Olsztyn in torrential rain. The heat here and the ability to open the power on the bike might give Matiukh the chance to work with the Swiss athlete.
Spain brings medal potential in the form of Marta Sánchez Hernández and Cecilia Santamaria Surroca. Sánchez is currently 3rd in the ETU U23 Rankings and Santamaria is laying in 7th. Together they can make an impact on the race.
Watch out for Olivia Mathias GBR. Her impressive 5th in Tartu amongst the Elite brings her to the race knowing that she is in good form.
For the local supporters, they will be torn between Raz Poradosu and Gal Rubanenko. Rubanenko has just that little bit more power at the moment. This will be her last race in Europe before she moves continents to follow her studies in the USA and so she will be hoping to make this a big one, on home soil.
With the individual races taking place on Saturday, the mixed relays will be on Sunday.