The 2021 world champions regained their titles in testing conditions on day two of the World Triathlon Winter Championships in Skeikampen, Norway.
Driving snow and plunging temperatures did nothing to chill Sandra Mairhofer’s charge for gold on Saturday morning in Skeikampen, Norway. The Italian brushed off challenging conditions to win a brilliant second Winter Triathlon World Championship title of her career.
After flying out at the starting horn she never looked back, opening up a 15-second lead after the first run lap and then extending it through the bike segment as visibility worsened and the field spread out, eventually taking the tape after two hours of racing.
Behind, Ingrid Lorvik was showing her prowess on the cross country ski segment to take control of second spot and give the Norwegian crowds plenty to cheer, Austria’s Carina Wasle holding on for an excellent bronze.
“It was great, I was feeling strong and good, it was hard weather and cold, but really a nice winter triathlon day! Said a delighted Mairhofer. “I knew I was good on the run and strong on the bike so had to push early and put the pressure on from the beginning. I love it when it’s hard on the bike, but the visibility made it pretty difficult.”
There could be no mistaking Mairhofer’s tactics as she pulled away over the first 500m on the opening two-lap run and by the end of that first of six segments – with the full run-bike-ski format repeated a second time – she had close to a full minute on nearest challenger Carina Wasle, Maria Luisa Rasina (ROU) a further 15 seconds back, Norway’s Ine Skjellum struggling to get out onto the bike and stay in touch.
Lorvik was soon into her groove on the bike and pulling up to and eventually passing Wasle, then able to get out onto the first ski with a small but important advantage over the Austrian, Germany’s Lorena Erl a minute further back in fourth out of transition.
Out onto the second run, Mairhofer’s lead was now two minutes to Lorvik, Wasle having lost touch with the Norwegian but ready to try and gain ground on second as the gap to the front became unassailable.
There was nothing she could do about what was happening further ahead, however, and bronze became Wasle’s target.
The Italian had gained another minute over her nearest rival as she hit the bike for the final time, and it was just a case of avoiding mistakes over the closing stages as she coasted home.
Lorvik made up some time as Mairhofer eased off and enjoyed the final kilometres all the way to another excellent world title, the Norwegian’s silver never under threat. Wasle held off the challenge of Ine Skjellum to ensure a hard-earned bronze, Maria Luisa Rasina with fifth.
The men’s 2023 Winter Triathlon World Championships provided plenty of drama in the Skeikampen hills on Saturday afternoon, before the 2021 winner Hans Christian Tungesvik finally took control over the final cross-country ski to ensure a second world title in the snow would be his.
It had been a brave fightback from the Czech Marek Rauchfuss on the final bike segment, scything through the snow to carve out a useful lead just as he had in the first round of racing, but there was no answer to Tungesvik’s talent, the Norwegian shrugging off pedal issues then hitting his groove once more on the favoured skis, last year’s champion Franco Pesavento with the bronze.
“It was an exciting day, some dynamic racing, and I had a few technical issues with the pedal coming loose halfway on the first bike leg so I was kind of panicking for a bit,” admitted Tungesvik, “but i’m happy I managed to stay calm and rational and get that fixed and on with the race – it definitely made it more exciting! I know Marek is world class on the bike but I felt good on the skis in the first round so I was always confident I would reel him in at the end. It’s one thing winning, but doing it here is an incredible feeling.”
A format change from the last time Tungesvik was champion meant a full repetition of the run-bike-ski course and four transitions to negotiate. It was Franco Pesavento and Norway’s Endre Wigaard away fastest on the first run, making an early breakaway that suddenly saw a trailing group of six including Tungesvik, Rauchfuss, Giuseppe Lamastra and Alessandro Saravelle 20 seconds back.
Incredibly, Wigaard lost 30 seconds on Pesavento in transition, leaving the Italian to attack the first bike segment solo.
In true style, Rauchfuss was flying through the bike course though, hammering up to and then past Pesavento, Lamastra among the athletes hitting the deck early on as optimal speeds in the conditions took some getting used to.
The Italian and Czech pair maintained their advantage onto the first ski segment, Tungesvik 30 seconds back at the halfway point, Saravalle 42 seconds off the leaders, Oivind Bjerkseth (NOR) 52 seconds back, but the 2021 champion was gaining with every push of the poles and soon right on their heels.
Tungesvik flew past Pesavento on the downhill knowing that he had to use his strongest discipline to the maximum, Rauchfuss working hard to stay on the Norwegian’s tail, Saravalle still holding firm and patient in fourth.
At the halfway point of the race, Tungesvik delivered a fluid transition to get out onto the second run segment with a 35-second gap now to Pesavento and Rauchfuss, 80 seconds to Saravalle, Viorel Palici (ROU) and Bjerkseth ten seconds further back.
The gap grew to 42 seconds and held over the final stages of the run, Rauchfuss now shifting his attentions back to the bike and, after Tungesvik encountered pedal problems, suddenly only 25 seconds separated the two.
Rauchfuss soon caught Tungesvik on the first bike lap, Pesavento happily sitting in behind the Norwegian. A small error with his pedal then cost the Czech, but the gap was out to 40 seconds by the end of the penultimate segment, the only question remaining if it a big enough lead to keep the 2021 Champion at bay.
The answer came quickly and it wasn’t the one Rauchfuss wanted. By the end of lap one, Tungesvik was back out front and gliding through the course with an ease of technique that the Czech simply couldn’t match. As the crowds lined the finish, Tungesvik was able to soak in the cheers, crossing a minute ahead of his rival after a memorable battle, Pesavento with third ahead of teammate Saravalle, Bjerkseth in fifth.