Considering McCormack trained with and raced against some of the best in the world in both triathlon and duathlon, that’s a statement not taken lightly. His words echo the sentiments of most athletes that complete this grueling race. It doesn’t seem so bad on paper, but executing is a different story.
What is Powerman Zofingen?
Thanks for asking! Launched in 1989, Powerman Zofingen is the longest championship duathlon. It’s also the most prestigious, as many call it the “Kona of Duathlon.” It’s one of the few duathlons that attract spectators. I’d say it’s one of the most competitive, and it is, but everyone from front to back suffers in equal measures. It’s the ITU Long Distance World Duathlon Championships as well as the International Powerman Association duathlon final.
The event consists of a 10K run-150K bike-30K run. Much of the runs traverse up and down through forests, while the bike goes up and up and up (and down) through hills, valleys and villages.
Here’s what I know about the course, until they changed it for 2018:
The first 10K starts with a steep 1.5K climb (about 8% grade) and continues up and down gravel trails. You do one 5K loop twice.
The bike consisted (until this year) of three 50K loops. Each loop has/had three solid climbs ranging from 5 to 3K-ish, which grades up to 10 to 15% on the Bodenburg ascent, as well as sweeping descents and a flat stretch. After 93 miles of riding, you get to “du” a 30K run.
For the final run, once out of transition you head(ed) up a long climb and then run up or down to complete three or four loops, depending on the year (the course has been tinkered with through the years).
Powerman Zofingen: a few historical tidbits
• In 1989, its inaugural year, the event was still called a biathlon. Yet, it was a three-legged sport: a 1.5K run, 150K bike, 30K run. In 1990, banana-hammock-wearing American Kenny Sousa won the men’s race.
• In 1993, the prize money in Zofingen totaled $200,000—more than Ironman Hawaii.
• In 2000, attendance started to fall in Zofingen and at other duathlons worldwide. Why? Triathlon became an Olympic sport, which means the major players started swimming, biking and running for what became the more lucrative sport. [Biting my tongue here]
• On the 25thanniversary, in 2014, combined Powerman Zofingen events attracted 1,480 participants. (That includes PowerKids, charity and long and short distances)
• In 2018, nearly 700 athletes will line up for this incredible race (that’s not including PowerKids and charity, only long and short). About 383 athletes will do the full long-course event, according to today’s start list.
Powerman Zofingen today
Due to what were essentially permitting issues, Powerman Zofingen changed the bike and second run course. (Honestly I can’t remember if they altered the first run.)
The 2018 bike course is still 150K, but traverses through different villages and takes athletes over one of the hills in a different direction. It still has a comparable overall elevation profile—from a little over 1800 meters of climbing to a little under1800, depending on who you talk to.
The new course also features about 300 meters of cobblestone. The race directors promote this as a perk (oh yay! Like riding Paris Roubaix!). I see it as a potential tire-puncture risk. The descents are either technical or sweeping, depending on who you ask.
4 years ago I first toed the line at the long-distance duathlon world championships in Zofingen. I didn’t know what to expect from the race, but I did know that I love cycling and running, which seemed good enough reason to have a go! 😆
Since the… https://t.co/t7WG90M8IS pic.twitter.com/EbYXwFnXKj
— Emma Pooley (@PooleyEmma) September 1, 2018
Best of luck to all the Powerman and ITU competitors. By the time this posts, I hope you are all sleeping soundly and wake up early in the morning feeling fantastic and ready for the path ahead. I’m cheering for you all!
CODA: Powerman Zofingen will be missing a bright light this year: professional triathlete/duathlete Alistair Eeckman. He died when a bus collided with him while he was on a training ride in Austria. He had just finished sixth in Powerman Austria and was gearing up for Zofingen. He is deeply missed.