With the men’s top three from the last edition of the race – Mattia Ceccarelli, Thomas Steger and Frederic Funk – included in the field, Challenge Riccione is preparing for a thrilling race. This Sunday it’s hammer time, not only for the men as the women’s field will also be strong. One of the biggest favorites in the women’s race may be the Netherlands’ Sarissa de Vries, who took second at Challenge Gran Canaria two weeks ago.
While the top three from the 2019 men’s race are returning, most eyes will be on Germany’s Sebastian Kienle. The former world champion returns after a long period of injury and will undoubtedly be eager to claim victory. Pablo Dapena Gonzalez will also be at the start of Challenge Riccione. The Spaniard finished a strong second place at Challenge Gran Canaria and showed that he has regained his strong form. On paper, these two men are probably the biggest favorites for the win in Riccione.
While Ceccarelli, Steger and Funk will, of course, do everything they can to get back on the podium this year, they can also expect competition from strong athletes such as Guilio Molinari, Andi Boecherer, Ruedi Wild and Michael Raelert. Pieter Heemeryck will also be racing. The Belgian star has had a somewhat difficult time in recent months, falling short a number of times at Challenge Daytona and Challenge Gran Canaria, but he is still considered one of the most dangerous men over the middle distance and, therefore, a contender for the victory.
Much is expected from young and Dutch Sarissa de Vries
In the women’s race, much is expected of Sarissa de Vries. The Dutch athlete may be young, but she has shown at many races that she can compete with the world’s best. Two weeks ago she proved that with an impressive runner-up finsih at Challenge Gran Canaria, where she beat Lisa Nordén after a very tough head-to-head battle during the run.
There are, of course, other athletes too keep an eye on, including Belgian Alexandra Tondeur. Unlike De Vries, Tondeur has a lot of experience, which is perhaps her greatest strength. She knows exactly what to expect in this type of race, will not panic easily and knows how to push herself to the limit for a top finish. The same goes for Laura Zimmermann and Carolin Lehrieder: the two German women have the lowest bib numbers because they are considered favorites and have a serious chance of taking the win.