Zofingen Swiss world champions at the start and an increase in participants

Preview 34th Powerman Zofingen
Swiss world champions at the start and an increase in participants

This year’s World Triathlon Powerman Long Distance Duathlon World Championships promise to be very exciting. In the men’s category, the world champions of the last two events are expected to start on 3 September. Last year’s winner Matthieu Bourgeois from France will be challenged by Belgian and two-time Powerman title holder Seppe Odeyn and Swiss Jens-Michael Gossauer, among others. In the women’s race, too, an absolute top field of participants is fighting for the Duathlon World Champion title over the long distance. Germany’s Merle Brunnée wants to get back on the podium after finishing 3rd last year. Belgian Lotte Claes has already sniffed at the World Cup trophy with last year’s 2nd place. Due to an injury that has not yet been fully cured, it is still unclear whether the Swiss defending champion Melanie Maurer will take part in the race. The Swiss world champion from 2018, Petra Eggenschwiler, has just confirmed her start.

The 10 km run, 150 km bike and another 30 km run in and around Zofingen mean the toughest but also most beautiful duathlon in the world. After 1997, 1998, 1999, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022, to hold the World Championships at the same venue for the 15th time, nota bene, the 12th time in a row, is unique for the sport of triathlon and duathlon. Although many familiar faces will be at the 34th Powerman Zofingen, the race will be a completely new experience for everyone. The course concept is new this year. Of course, the first running course and also the second one after cycling will lead over Zofingen’s local mountain Heitern. The courses are slightly longer and have less altitude difference. On the first run course there is a total of 54 metres less altitude difference and on the second run course 145 metres less altitude difference. In addition, there is the new location of the transition area on the Schützenwiese and the finish directly in front of the Kunsthaus. According to OC President Stefan Ruf, this will make the Powerman even more attractive for both participants and spectators. “Compared to last year, we have an increase of almost 30 percent in participants this year,” Ruf proudly announced at the media conference on 28 August 2023 at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Aarburg-Oftringen. “So we expect around 800 participants next weekend. In a year’s time we should break the 1,000 mark again and return to the times before the pandemic.”

Odeyn wants to get back on the podium

It is already certain, however, that several title contenders will be in Zofingen. Seppe Odeyn is aiming for a medal again after his World Championship titles in 2016 and 2021. The Belgian is currently in 2nd place in the duathlon world rankings and wants to get back on the podium after finishing 4th last year, if possible on the top step of the podium. “At the beginning of the year I had a bit of trouble because of an injury. At the Ironman in Lanzarote I finished twelfth and at the Ironman Switzerland I came in 22nd,” the 36-year-old says. “I expect a faster race because of the course change with less altitude metres, but the Powerman Zofingen remains a special and brutal race where only the best can win on that day,” says Odeyn. Until race day, he has cycling races and a lot of training on similar terrain as in Zofingen on his agenda.

Bourgeois is in form

The Belgian will of course have competition in the fight for the World Championship title from the defending champion Matthieu Bourgeois. The 28-year-old Frenchman described his victory last year in Zofingen as a career highlight. No wonder the current leader of the duathlon world rankings is willing to defend his World Championship title.”Because of its reputation and great organisation, the Powerman Zofingen is an important race in my competition calendar,” says Bourgeois.”Defending the title will be difficult this year when I look at the list of participants.”As far as form is concerned, however, the Frenchman seems to be on course.”I have the impression that I am stronger than last year.This season and also the training have been going well so far.I became French champion over the duathlon long distance.”

On the change of course, Bourgeois is pleased. “It should be an advantage for me because I’m not the very fastest when it comes to uphill. If my form is right, I want to run very fast on the first run leg,” says the defending champion with a twinkle in his eye.

Gossauer, the Swiss trump card

Swiss also wants to have a say in the World Championship title.We are talking about two-time duathlon runner-up Jens-Michael Gossauer.After the retirement of last year’s third-placed Michael Ott, Swiss hopes rest on the native of Davos, who finished second in Zofingen in 2019 and 2021.Last year he bit his way through the race and ended up in 6th place.Gossauer also needed a lot of staying power in the current season.”It has been a tough one so far.At the beginning of the year, a bike crash caused back problems until spring, and in the months of May and June this year I had intense allergy problems due to the heavy pollen load.So in the first half of the year I couldn’t train as I would have liked.”Since July, however, things have been looking much better in terms of preparation for the Powerman: “I was in Davos for the whole of July, where I spent a lot of time on the trails on foot and on my mountain bike. I’m confident that my form will be at its peak at the Powerman.”The 30-year-old takes a critical view of the course change: “I think it’s a shame that the course has fewer metres in altitude.So the Powerman runs the risk of losing part of its identity. For me as an athlete, the new course is probably a little less convenient.” Nevertheless, Gossauer is convinced that the course remains challenging and demands everything from the athletes.

The 32-year-old Belgian Diego van Looy was very unlucky. The 2019 world champion was literally run over by a truck during a training ride on his bike in Mallorca in August 2021.At the end of July 2023, he had to abandon the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon.A few weeks ago, he crashed on a downhill at the Embrunman due to a defect in the front brake and has to withdraw from the Powerman Zofingen 2023 due to a foot injury.

Brunnée wants second title

In the women’s race, the winner of 2021 and last year’s third place finisher, Merle Brunnée, is the top favourite.The 28-year-old German will start the race with a lot of self-confidence.”The season has been full of highlights so far.With best times in the half marathon and the 10 km run, a German runner-up title in the middle distance duathlon and my first successful road bike races, I am optimistic that I can also perform well in Zofingen,” Brunnée sums up her successful season so far.When asked about the new course, the doctor at the University Hospital in Heidelberg says: “In the race, the muscles will probably be happy about fewer metres of altitude – even though the steep climbs have suited me well in the past.”The German is looking forward to the intense and well-organised race in Zofingen and is putting the finishing touches to it in a training camp in Engadin.

Maurer’s participation uncertain

Whether defending champion Melanie Maurer will be able to compete this year and challenge Merle Brunnée is still unclear.The native of Wikon has been suffering from an injury for some time.”Due to my foot injury, which is still not completely healed, my participation in the Powerman Zofingen remains uncertain. I will only decide shortly before the race weekend whether I will start over the short or long distance,” explains the 35-year-old reigning long-distance duathlon world champion.The reigning runner-up in the world championships, Lotte Claes, wants to start in Zofingen.The Belgian raced the women’s Vuelta in Spain this summer and came in fourth. She also finished third in the duathlon on the French Alpe d’Huez. The 30-year-old’s form curve with regard to Zofingen seems to be right.No matter how you turn it around:The absolute top of the duathlon world will be represented in Zofingen this year as well.

Petra Eggenschwiler starts

One day after the official media conference of the Powerman Zofingen there was a hammer news.Petra Eggenschwiler was asked to be an expert for the TV team at the Powerman Zofingen.”That’s not possible, because I’m competing in the long distance in Zofingen myself!”It was a spontaneous decision. “When I started my training this spring and did a lot of running kilometres, I thought it would be cool to start in Zofingen again.”At the beginning of summer, the 35-year-old from Laupersdorf, who now lives in Solothurn, injured her foot.”But I recovered quickly from this injury.”With 5th place at Ironman Lanzarote, 2nd place at the Triathlon de l’Alpe d’Huez and the fourth triumph at the Inferno Triathlon, she says she has already achieved her goals for the season. “When my Australian coach Michael Harvey said on 19 August after my Inferno victory that I should now prepare for Zofingen, I just shook my head at first,” Eggenschwiler said. Two days later, however, she liked her coach’s idea. “Since my Powerman Zofingen abandonment in 2019, I haven’t competed in a single duathlon.

When I enjoyed running in 2nd place at the local Weissensteinlauf last weekend, I spontaneously signed up for the Powerman Zofingen next Sunday.” But one thing is still there for Eggenschwiler: “The antipathy for running downhill! At the Weissenstein run, there were only 100 metres to go down, but they made my muscles ache.”Whether Melanie Maurer, who won the aforementioned Weissenstein run, competes over the long distance on Sunday is irrelevant to her, says Eggenschwiler, who took first place ahead of Maurer at the 2018 Powerman.”Of course I want to be as good as possible at the Powerman Zofingen 2023, but I don’t feel any pressure at all to make a podium.”

Register now!

The best way to register for the 34th Powerman Zofingen is via the homepage www.powerman.swiss.Apart from the world championship categories, you can register for every race online until 1 September and then on site until one hour before the start.This applies to all events of the “Powerman Experience Day” on Saturday, 2 September as well as to the Short Distance and the Long Distance Open categories on Sunday, 3 September 2023.

Text: Christof Gerber und Raphael Galliker