Powerman Zofingen: Race reports and updates

What’s considered the toughest and most prestigious duathlon, the ITU Long Distance World Duathlon Championships, Powerman Zofingen, took over that lovely Swiss city the first weekend of September.

On Twitter, I promised I’d compile race reports for an upcoming blog. To date, there aren’t many full reports, but I did find some good nuggets of info about this epic event.

From ITU

First, here is the official report from ITU. Switzerland and France took the wins, with Petra Eggenschwiler (SUI) claiming the women’s title and French athlete Gaël Le Bellec winning the men’s race for the third time.

Powerman Zofingen winners

Check out the full report for photos and a list of top finishers.

One thing I noticed when perusing the results (particularly in my age group): the times appear to be faster this year than last. Is the new bike course faster than the old? If anyone has insights, please share!

Here’s the profile of the 2018 bike loop, which athletes complete three times:

2018 Powerman Zofingen bike course

A view from the top

In his inaugural Zofingen race, dominant U.S. athlete Albert Harrison finished sixth in the elite men’s race with a blazing-fast 6:25:52.

He published one of the few race reports I could find, and it’s a thorough one. He starts with the training, shares his goals and continues with his thoughts on the race and USA Triathlon’s lack of support for its duathletes.

He was on TV too. A lot.

Albert Harrison 2018 Powerman Zofingen

Most inspirational athlete

One of the most inspiring tidbits I found came from the Twittersphere. Blind athlete Fernando Raino didn’t just finish Powerman Zofingen. He finished strong.

For random info about Powerman Zofingen, including its history and a general course description, check out my post from September 1.

Got anything to add re: the 2018 Zofingen ITU Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships? Please share in the comments below! We’d love to hear your story.

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Powerman Zofingen: what to know about the longest ITU duathlon

powerman zofingen
Photo by Ozzymate [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Michael McCormack, a former professional Ironman champion who won Ironman Canada in 1991 and 1995 and broke the course record, once told me Powerman Zofingen was the hardest race he had ever done.

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.

Kenny Souza
Kenny Souza in 1993. Hope he wore more clothes in Switzerland. It can get chilly in September!

• 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.

 

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.

Du’ing it as a pro: Alistair Eeckman

Alistair Eeckman has stood on a lot of podiums since taking up cycling at age 13. But when the 22-year-old from Berkeley, California crossed the line at Powerman Panama in January 2017, he had an even bigger reason to celebrate. It was his first win as a professional triathlete/duathlete.

Powerman Panama

It was only a matter of time before Eeckman, a top finisher since his first multisport race, would claim an elite license. He earned it in 2013, the year he won age-group gold and placed in the top 10 overall at the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Ottawa, Ontario. He also won the Junior USAT Standard Duathlon Nationals that year, at age 19. He had college to think about, as well as a potential future in triathlon. So he waited.

The opportunity came again in 2014 after he won the competitive Challenge Penticton Half by 11 minutes. Again, he passed.

USA Triathlon offered Eeckman a pro card a third time in 2015 after he took the age-group win at the Wildflower Long-Course Triathlon by a whopping 14 minutes. This time, he said yes.

“That race was an eye opener,” he says. “I did the whole race by myself with no one around to push me. It would have gotten me 15th in the pro field. With more competition, I thought I could get top 10 in a pro race. So I decided to take it and see what happens.”

As a newly minted pro, Eeckman has competed in both triathlon and duathlon, the latter giving him an early chance to compete on an international stage. At Powerman Florida, held in December in Silver Springs, Florida, Eeckman ran out of real estate as he closed in on the leader, France’s Gael Le Bellec, a two-time Powerman world duathlon champion, to take second in the elite field on the 10K-65K-10K course.

At Powerman Panama, in January, Eeckman patiently moved up from sixth to second in the first 10K run. He took the lead on the 60K bike and held it though the end of a hot (between 77 and 90 degrees F), humid race. You can read about both races on Eeckman’s blog.

Powerman Panama
Alistair Eeckman opened up a gap on the bike.

“Several people took it out pretty fast on the first run,” he says. “You have to be careful—it’s easy to go out too fast on first run, and if you go out too quick in hot races, you’re going to pay for it pretty bad.”

Powerman Panama
Especially in hot, humid weather, don’t go out too fast!

Eeckman knew that about duathlon from his first race—the 2012 Golden Gate Du in El Sobrante, California, just a few miles east of his Berkeley home. With only two weeks of running under his belt, Eeckman won the race. From then on, he’s focused only on multisport and hasn’t looked back.

Eeckman’s physiology and personality make him ideally suited for multisport. As a junior professional cyclist, he excelled in time trials and hilly courses. In races with lots of attacks that only a sprinter’s DNA can cover, he struggled. Besides, he likes to race for himself.

The fitness gained from an active childhood and years of cycling allowed him to easily transition to running. It didn’t take long for him to build up to a 33-minute 10K in an Olympic distance tri. He continues to work on his swimming. In the meantime, he mixes it up by competing in both tri and du.

While some of his 2017 races remain in flux, Eeckman says he will toe the line in Bend, Oregon, for the 2017 USAT Standard Duathlon National Championships. And he plans to keep the run-bike-run format in his racing calendar moving forward.

“It’s something I’m good at,” he says. “I feel I have a good chance to win the Elite Duathlon Nationals and unfortunately, I couldn’t race it last year due to an injury. I also want to stick with duathlon because another goal I have is to get on the podium at Powerman Duathlon World Championships some time in future.”

 Follow Alistair on Twitter @ajeeckman, and on his blog and his website. For triathlon or/and duathlon coaching (he does that too!), you can email him at: ajeeckman@comcast.net.

Got a question for Alistair about training for Powerman duathlons, training in brutally hot races, or training as an elite? Ask us in the comments below!

Long Distance Duathlon European Championship returns to Germany

The European Triathlon Union announced the 2017 ETU Powerman Duathlon Long Distance European Championships return to Sankt Wendel, Germany. The event takes place May 21, 2017.

Powerman St. Wendel

Of course we are happy to welcome the European long distance Duathletes in Germany after we already hosted the standard distance Duathlon Championships in 2016,” said Matthias Zoll, CEO for Deutsche Triathlon Union. “St.Wendel, with its tradition as an excellent event organizer as they hosted already Worlds in duathlon and cross country cycling, is a perfect choice of ETU to guarantee a spectacular European Championship in 2017. We are also looking forward to St.Wendel as it will be also the start of the year where German Age Groupers can perform on home soil as the European Sprint Championships on 24th & 25th of June are just around the corner.”

As Zoll mentioned, Sankt Wendel hosted the 2005 and 2011 UCI Cyclocross World Championships. It hosted the ITU World Duathlon Championships in 1998.

European duathletes can start planning now for their national long-course event. Here in the U.S., the USAT Long Course Duathlon National Championship takes place May 14, 2017, in Cary, North Carolina.

Crazy me, my 2017 racing calendar includes a trip to Cary, NC, followed by a trip to Bend, Oregon for the standard course nationals on June 17, followed by the World Championships in Penticton, British Columbia, in August. I’m saving my dollars for this plan already!

Wherever you are, may you have a fun weekend of running-riding-running.