Probably the world’s toughest race? As part of the ITU World Triathlon Series (ITU WTS), the Tiroler Nussöl World Triathlon Kitzbühel, is now 45 days out from making its debut. The International Triathlon Union (ITU) engineered the revolutionary course to test the world’s best triathletes with a gruelling ascent up Kitzbühel Horn mountain. Those age group athletes that think they are tough enough can now register for a special rate of €65 until 6 June.
According to the event organisers, ‘never has a triathlon seen an ascent like this.’ Not even many cycling tours see climbs like this. Once athletes hit the bike, they’ll push, sweat, and grind up 867m in just 6.5 kilometres. The average gradient ranges between 11-13%, with some areas reaching as high as 22%.
‘Think Tour de France, Giro, Vuelta. Now add a swim to the beginning and a run at the end. And it’s not just any regular recovery run. After all, in Kitzbühel what goes up, must keep going up.’
“I had a chance to climb the hill three years ago, it is very hard, very steep, it will be a completely different race,” said Javier Gomez, two-time Olympian and two-time World Champion. “Everyone will empty the tank on the bike, it is really hard, there is no easy part to recover, you have to go hard from the beginning to the end.”
It’s not every day that athletes get a shot at beating the best. But that’s exactly what age groupers will be granted if they take the Kitzbühel challenge. This year, age groupers and the elites alike will gut it out over the exact same course. Clocking the fastest split of the day just got a lot more complicated – as age groupers vie to climb as quickly as the pros.
Changes in format
The day will start with a 750m swim, which is about as close as this race comes to an average triathlon. Athletes will get 5K on the bike to settle in before facing the demanding ascent for a total of 11.5K in the saddle. Those that survive the ride have just 2.5K left to run before claiming they’ve conquered one of the toughest triathlons in the world.
“Kitzbühel is something completely different; no one has ever done a race like this before,” added Jonathan Brownlee, 2012 Olympic bronze medallist and 2012 ITU World Champion.
“I have never ridden up Kitzbuhler horn so I can’t say a lot about the climb but I would most probably have nightmares about it if I had to do it in a World Triathlon Series race. It’s going to be the race of pain for sure,” said Lisa Norden, 2012 Olympic silver medallist and 2012 ITU World Champion.
Versus the best climber
ITU points to a different kind of rivalry at the forthcoming event and expects heightened media attention.
As a release from ITU notes, ‘We know they can crush an Olympic distance triathlon. We’ve seen Alistair Brownlee and Javier Gomez step up to scorch longer distances and we all learned Alistair can run with the world’s best. But now it’s time to climb. And with 867 metres to burn the legs over 11.5K, there’s a whole new twist to the old Brownlee brothers versus Gomez rivalry. Only time and lactic acid tolerance will tell whose turn it is on top of the podium.’
“I think I have said every time I have been there, ‘we are in the Alps, we should ride up one’ and it is fantastic to be riding up one, I hope I do alright,” said 2012 Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee.