The fourth edition of the SWISSMAN Xtreme Triathlon demanded a lot from the athletes. As well as the need for both physical and mental endurance, athletes demonstrated an ability to be flexible when the early morning swim was cancelled due to inclement weather. In a field of 209 finishers, Norwegian competitors Allan Hovda and Lise Lavoll Borgen arrived as first male and female at Kleine Scheidegg.
Heavy thunderstorms on Saturday morning resulted in a need to change the usual 3.8km swim to a 4km run in order to ensure the safety of the athletes. At 5.45am the cow bells signalled the start of SWISSMAN 2016, and 238 athletes started the 4km route in torrential rain. The start of the second stage witnessed all athletes mounting their bikes as wet as they would have been had they exited the swim as planned.
The first climb of the180km bike stage took the athletes over the historical cobble stones of the Tremola to the summit of the Gotthardpass and onto the Furka and Grimselpass. Following rain and thunderstorms throughout the bike leg, some athletes were lucky enough to arrive in the sunshine of Brienz to begin the 42.2km run which would see them finish at Kleine Scheidegg at 2100m.
The final incline of the day led athletes to the long awaited finisher’s line to the sound of Swiss cow bells. Athletes absorbed the atmosphere created by cheering spectators as they climbed the finisher’s funnel lined with flags. Emotions were high as the SWISSMAN competitors crossed the line with the family, friends and supporters who had accompanied them through their journey across Switzerland with a total elevation of 5500m.
Thirty year old Allan Hovda from Norway took the men’s crown on his second attempt at the SWISSMAN course in a finishing time of 10 hours and 55 minutes. Having completed the event in 2013 with a lung infection, Allan returned this year as the reigning two time Norseman champion, with the intention of confirming to himself that the course could be completed in less discomfort. Upon reaching the finishing line however, he admitted that the event challenged his lungs as much as it had on his debut. Embracing his family and speaking no doubt on behalf of all SWISSMAN athletes he said, “I am so pleased to have reached the finish.“ The second and third placed athletes, Andreas Wolpert from Germany and Sebastian Bräuer from Switzerland, climbed into Kleine Scheidegg with only 2 minutes separating them, 33 and 35 minutes respectively behind the winner.
In a finishing time of 12 hours and 52 minutes, Lise Lavoll Borgen, also from Norway, crossed the line as the first lady of the day. She took the lead from the eventual second placed athlete Julia Nikolopoulos shortly after the bike climb to Gotthardpass and further extended her position by 19 minutes on the run. Nikolopoulos from Germany and Nicole Hofer from Switzerland placed second and third respectively.