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SA trio at triathon champs

The ITU World Championship Triathlon Series culminates this weekend in Budapest with the two-day Grand Final and we have three South Africans in the mix.

Starting in Sydney in April, the series featured six races spread around the globe and now the world’s elite congregate in Hungary to see who will be crowned world champion.

Currently leading the series table is Olympic champion Jan Frodeno of Germany with Spaniard Javier Gomez holding second and the Russian Alexander Brukhankov in third. These three will battle it out for the overall title of world champion, which is based on the accumulation of points over the series. This means there are two races happening here on the day, the first to determine the overall world champion, the second for the win on the day.

South Africa have three athletes in the mix, Hendrik de Villiers who placed fourth in the 2008 World Championship, Claude Eksteen and Erhard Wolfaardt.

All three have had their problems this year, but seem to be finding form at the right time. Both Eksteen and De Villiers are looking for an overall top 10 finish. Eksteen lost valuable training early in the year due to injury, but now feels confident of hitting form at the right time. De Villiers has also had his problems since 2008.

For De Villiers the turning point came two weeks before the race in Hamburg (July 17-18). ÔÇ£I did the same session as I did four weeks before the Games (Olympic Games, 2008), just before I got ill. The session was 20×400 on 2min and I averaged 1min 08sec, maybe just below – a bit faster than before the Games.ÔÇØ Bearing in mind that on the back of that training De Villiers had finished fourth at the World Championships in Vancouver, it is indeed promising.

He came back to South Africa on 11 August from Europe, to fine-tune his preparations for Budapest. Upon returning he started easy to adjust to the altitude, but picked up a bit of a cold and took a bit longer than planned to get into hard sessions. After discussions with coach Lucie Zelenkova, De Villiers upped his training and worked specifically on his speed. ÔÇ£I realised in London (he finished sixth on 9 August) that I need more speed.ÔÇØ De Villiers did some heavy speed-work back home, and now is looking for a top 10 final position. ÔÇ£That’s the plan, we stick to the plan.ÔÇØ

A particularly impressive track session showed he had improved his speed. In July he was doing 400m intervals in an average 1:08. In August that had come down to 67sec. His 800m times averaged 2:25 for a set of five.

On his tactics, De Villiers is hoping for a consistent race and possibly a break in the bike. ÔÇ£If it rains the break could be on, but let’s hope for sunny weather, then it will come down to the run. My main objective is to get into T2 (transition from bike to run) in front of the pack then run for all I am worth.ÔÇØ

The men’s Elite race starts on Saturday at 1.05pm with the 1500m swim in the River Danube. The swim is two laps of 750m before the 38.4km cycle leg. After the first transition area athletes will be cycling straight to the downtown area of Budapest along the embankment of the Danube.

After crossing the river through the Chain Bridge, triathletes have to complete six laps, the first lap being 9.33km with the next five amounting to 4.85km. The course is flat throughout, the difference of altitude is only about five metres.

The 10km run is made up of four laps of 2.5km in the city centre of Budapest.