Challenge St. Pölten and the TradeInn International Triathlon 140.6INN continue the European pro racing season with some top athletes in competition this weekend.
A great field is set to turn out for Challenge St. Pölten this Sunday with German stars Anne Haug (EUR #2) and Sebastian Kienle (EUR #10) topping the bill.
Challenge St. Pölten 2021 Race Preview
This weekend’s event in St. Pölten continues a tradition of middle-distance racing in the Austrian city that dates back to 2007. Previously an M-dot race, the inaugural Challenge St. Pölten is drawing some quality athletes seeking to test growing fitness as the European season gets into full swing.
The women’s field is headlined by 2019 Ironman world champ, Anne Haug (EUR #2), who will be challenged by the likes of Imogen Simmonds (EUR #7) and Lisa Norden – both keen to make the stacked Team Europe squad for the Collins Cup.
The men’s race has a packed field with over 80 pros on the start list, but it’s the familiar names among them who’re sure to light things up. These include Sebastian Kienle (EUR #10), Thomas Steger, Pablo Dapena, Pieter Heemeryck and Nick Kastelein (INT #10).
With a unique 1.9km swim split over two lakes, a rolling single-lap 90km bike course with one particularly meaty climb and a flat half-marathon run, it should be a course for all-rounders to flourish.
WHAT’S THE LOWDOWN?
Date: 30 May 2021
Location: St. Pölten, Austria
Time: 08:30 UTC
Prize Money: €19,000 – pays 6 deep €3,500 to €500
Course: Twin lake swim, rolling bike, flat run
Key Collins Cup Athletes
If the field is as packed as the start list suggests, the day could begin with a chaotic swim before settling in on the bike. Once on two wheels, rolling hills could break things up for the front pack while stronger riders play catch-up. There’s no doubt we’ll see fast runs from some of the sport’s best to decide who’ll climb on the podium.
Sebastian Kienle (EUR #6) will be looking to build on his third place at Challenge Riccione earlier this month and secure a dominating win to boost him back into automatic qualification for the Collins Cup following a three-place drop down the table.
However, after Thomas Steger’s outstanding 1:08:19 run to win in Riccione – and the fact he’ll be racing on home soil – the Austrian could well deny Kienle the top step and back things up with another victory here.
Pablo Dapena was sandwiched between Steger and Kienle at the finish in Riccione and also took second in Gran Canaria last month. The Spaniard is showing ever more consistent performances so the leap to the top of the podium is certainly within reach.
Third behind Dapena at Challenge Gran Canaria in April, Australia’s Nick Kastelein is the only Team Internationals hopeful racing. This is exactly the kind of course that could reward his strong swimming, power-to-weight on the climbs and stellar running.
Pieter Heemeryck is yet to recapture the form that saw him take five Challenge titles in 2019, but the moment it clicks for him, this Belgian star will be a big threat. If that’s the case in St. Pölten, the rest of the field could be in trouble.
Finally, don’t count out the reigning St. Pölten champ, Franz Loeschke of Germany, who beat a quality field here – including Thomas Steger – in 2019.
The women’s race is full of class, which should provide an entertaining dynamic throughout as strong swim bikers seek to create distance to hold off high-velocity runners on the way to the finish line.
St. Pölten will be the first race this year for Anne Haug (EUR #2) and there’s no doubting her status as the race favourite. The German Kona winner will be down out the water but this pocket powerhouse should go well on the climbs and as the sport’s fastest runner, she’ll likely be on track to take the lead by the finish.
There will be plenty of women hoping to stop Haug from crossing the line first and the German’s biggest rival could come from neighbouring Switzerland in the form of Imogen Simmonds (EUR #7). Second only to Daniel Ryf (EUR #1) at 70.3 Dubai, Simmonds also took silver at Ironman Frankfurt and third at the 70.3 worlds in 2019.
Third in Gran Canaria, Sweden’s Lisa Norden is once again on the rise and as one of the sport’s strongest cyclists, she might well get away to a lead by T2. It’ll need to be significant to hold off Haug, but Norden’s always one to watch for the podium.
India Lee seems to be another athlete who’s found form through lockdown. The former ETU European Champion put in a rounded swim, bike, run performance in Riccione to take second behind De Vries. With a more competitive field, the Brit will certainly face a bigger test here St. Pölten.
What The Pros Say
Sebastian Kienle on his approach to moving up the Collins Cup rankings: “It was pretty clear that I would lose quite a few positions in the ranking if I start racing again without being able to win with a big margin. For me right now, it’s just important to be able to race again – I will go as hard as I can in any race. Ultimately this will also bring in the points necessary.”
Anne Haug on being a key player for Team Europe at the Collins Cup: “I’m very proud to be part of the super strong Team Europe and race side by side with the world’s best athletes. Daniela is a multiple world champion and maybe one of the greatest athletes of all time. I focus on myself and try to show the best performance I’m capable of at every race. That’s all I can do.”
Thomas Steger on his incredible 1:08 run split and racing in St. Pölten: “I had a really great run in Riccione. Of course, I am very happy with that, but on the other hand it feels like I saved too much energy for the run, because the swim and the bike weren’t too great! St. Pölten is not my favourite race. I think the course doesn’t suit me – and the field will be strong.”
Pablo Dapena on racing in 2021: “Every race this year is like a little world championship and you never know how the race will be. I just to try to push hard from the start until I cross the finish line, there are no secrets!”
Imogen Simmonds on what it’ll take to make the Collins Cup team: “I need to make a statement, and show that I’m here, ready and eager to race, and that my form is building over all three disciplines. Although Ironman Coeur d’Alene at the end of June is my main focus, St Pölten is the perfect opportunity to test myself under some fierce competition. Above all, I’m looking forward to racing and laying it out there this weekend.”