Dozens of the best pro athletes in the world are gearing up for The Championship, which kicks off this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. in Samorin, Slovakia. At the pro press conference, which just took place, one thing became clear: racing will be full-gas and no one can play hide-and-seek. All athletes are gearing up for what they call a ‘spectacular but very tough race’.
In the women’s race, defending champion Sara Perez Sala is at the start. The Spanish athlete is of course one of the biggest favorites, but is not in the best shape she could be in. “Since my race on Ibiza, I’m not feeling very good. Of course I hope to feel better on Sunday, since this race will be a very fast one. For sure I will need to work hard on the bike and run course. My dream is to finish once again as number one, but I do think this will be very complicated this weekend.”
Fenella Langridge finished fourth at The Championship last year, but is now considered a huge contender for the win. “I’m going to give it my everything to not end up on the ‘potatoes spot’ like last year. For me it’s been a great year so far: I’ve been quite busy racing in South-Africa and had some good training blocks already. Of course the season so far comes with ups and downs as always, but I’m happy and ready for Sunday.”
Same goes for Lucy Byram (‘It’s a tough field, so let’s see what happens on Sunday’) and Marjolaine Pierré, who crowned herself World Champion Long Distance just two weeks ago. “But nothing changed; my life is still the same”, she laughs. “Of course we had some champagne and lovely food in a restaurant to celebrate. But now the focus is on Sunday.”
Also Imogen Simmonds is ready to give it her all. “I’m very excited to race. For me it’s the first race of the year: I’m a little bit late on the party, but let’s hope I am at the party this weekend.” Also Amelia Watkinson is ready for a ‘party’. “I’m lucky to have a little of confidence thanks to some victories and I do hope to take this with me for Sunday.”Text continues below picture
Men’s race: who is the hot shot?
In the men’s race, it is difficult to pinpoint a clear favorite. In any case, Aaron Royle and Frederic Funk are among the biggest contenders for sure. Royle is very well-known as a short-course specialist, but makes the turn to longer distance races. “It’s a natural progression. I was racing short course since I was only ten years old or something, but training for a Middle Distance is quite familiar to what I do for short course. In the end counts: the one that dies the least, does the best.”
Frederic Funk has raced in Samorin five times before and will presumably make the race very tough on the bike. “Cycling is all about hard work; you don’t need anything else. And you know what they say, right? Germans are always the hardest workers”, he jokes. “I’m looking forward to a hard and fast race.”Text continues below picture
Tom Bishop, who won Challenge Puerto Varas earlier this year, was very relaxed during the press conference. “I’ve raced Ibiza two weeks ago and had a lot of rest and recovery afterwards. It was good to get back in some intensity last weekend. The course in Samorin is going to be very fast. Frederic said you need to ride at least 50km an hour to win”, he smiles.
Home favorite is Richard Varga, as always at least one of the fastest swimmers. “And then it’s going to be very hard to fight with these guys. This race isn’t a 200 meter sprint, it’s almost four hours. You really need to control your emotions and pacing and don’t push it to the max in front of the crowd. When the crowd is gone, you start to feel the fatigue from your effort for sure.”
Matt Hanson, still fighting a jetlag, can’t name a favorite for the win. “The entire top 15 guys, anyone can take the win. It’s going to take a special day and it will come down to who plays his cards right and executes the best and, you know, who wants to hurt the most on the last lap.”
Clément Mignon thinks the same, after winning the World Title Long Distance two weeks ago. “It was very special to share this with my girlfriend Marjolaine, but for both of us this was just a first step to win bigger races.”