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Triathlon is back! Just kidding. It’s not—at all. It’s snowing everywhere except Florida. But that’s great news if you’re one of the dozens of people in the world into winter triathlon, which had its very own world championship this weekend in Andorra.
What in the world is winter tri and where in the world is Andorra? Very good questions and we should probably start there. According to Triathlete’s research department, winter triathlon is a very real sport that’s been around longer than you might think. Surprisingly, the combination of run/mountain bike/cross-country ski originated in Spain in the late 80s. For a long time, the only events were in the mountain regions of Spain, France, Switzerland, and Italy, so it’s fitting that Andorra—a tiny principality high in the Pyrenees that’s shared by France and Spain—has been home to the sport’s world championship for the past two years.
World Triathlon also hosted the first-ever Winter Duathlon World Champs, which eliminates the bike portion, and why they didn’t choose to call that sport Ski-Run is beyond me and I’ve already emailed multiple people about it. There’s no greater way to limit a sport’s potential than to call it “winter duathlon.”
As for winter tri’s potential? There are many within World Triathlon who believe it can become a winter Olympic sport sooner rather than later. One of the creators of the sport is now on World Triathlon’s board, and that’s in part what has helped elevate winter tri to where it is today: a sport contested by dozens of countries that is at least on the IOC’s radar. It would be the only winter Olympic sport to have either a running or cycling component, and if it’s put on that kind of world stage, there could be real mainstream interest. If doubles luge is an Olympic event, then winter tri shouldn’t be a much of a stretch.
Now do I have your interest? If so, here’s what went down up at 7,000 feet in Andorra this weekend.
Tri on snow
Just like the IOC, World Triathlon has put the word “Russia” on timeout for the time being, so that means it was a big weekend for the Russian Triathlon Federation, which won the women’s elite title and the mixed relay. (Yes, literally every sport has a mixed relay now and triathlon should get all the credit for making it cool.)
Twenty-five-year-old Daria Rogozina is like the Lucy Charles-Barclay of winter tri, if Charles-Barclay were even more dominant. After finishing third at the 2021 world champs as the two-time defending champ, Rogozina turned last year’s disappointment into this year’s dominance. She was nearly four minutes faster than runner-up Sandra Mairhofer of Italy over the 4K run/6.4K bike/6.2K ski course, which athletes completed twice (with five transitions!).
Mairhofer won last year’s world title thanks to being three minutes better than Rogozina on the run, but this time around the two were neck-and-neck on the run and Rogozina’s brilliant freestyle skiing made the difference. (She also competes as a professional skier, and is ranked just outside of the top 100 in the world.) Norway’s Elisabeth Sveum rounded out the podium, which is good news because the IOC won’t take a winter sport seriously if there aren’t Norwegians consistently finishing on the podium.
The men’s elite race was much tighter, with Franco Pesavento of Italy winning by just 14 seconds over Marek Rauchfuss of the Czech Republic. (Author’s note: I’ve legally changed my last name to Rauchfuss.) My fellow Rauchfuss lost eight seconds in each of the bike-to-ski transitions (also known as T2 and T5), and even his two incredibly strong bike legs were not enough to make up that difference. Evengenii Uliashev of that-country-we’re-not-supposed-to-mention-lol finished third, more than two minutes back. Winter tri really does have the best names.
Mark your calendar
If you’re anxiously awaiting real triathlon, circle the first weekend of March on your calendar, which will have the first marquee pro races of the year at Ironman New Zealand and 70.3 Dubai. For the first time in three years, the North American season will once again kick off with 70.3 Oceanside on the first weekend of April, with the Ironman African Championship also taking place that weekend in South Africa.
As for World Triathlon, the first World Cup of the season in Miyazaki, Japan, has been canceled, so the first big race won’t take place until the end of April at the Haeundae World Cup in South Korea. The WTCS season kicks off two weeks later (fingers crossed) in Yokohama, Japan. The 2022 WTCS season will then run later into the year than ever before, with the Grand Final taking place Nov. 2-5 in Abu Dhabi, where the athletes already raced when the 2022 season began so early it started in 2021.