Saturday 3rd August saw the first running of the XTri World Championships, held at the race series’ flagship event, the Norseman. In a change to the usual running of the event, a field of 42 pro athletes were invited to jump from the iconic ferry 5 minutes before the usual Norseman field, to take part in an exhilarating competition amongst the very best extreme endurance athletes in the world to be crowned XTri World Champion.
Qualification was via a first or second-placed finish at selected world series races, or a top five placed finish at Norseman 2018. Lining up to represent Great Britain were former full-time pro and cancer doctor Lucy Gossage in the women’s race and fellow former pro Mark Threlfall in the men’s race. There was some strong competition too – joining them were three-time winner and 2018 champ Norwegian Allan Hovda, multiple Xterra and ÖtillÖ champion Martin Flinta and pro women Morgan Chaffin and third-placed 2018 competitor Flora Colledge.
Into The Fjord
The World Champs race started after the ferry jump at 04:55am, with athletes swimming the 3.8km in the Hardangerfjord back to transition in the beautiful town of Eidfjord. After a very warm couple of weeks in the area, water temperatures were unusually warm at 17 degrees C and first out of the water was Britain’s Mark Threlfall, setting a blistering pace of 00:47:51. America’s Morgan Chaffin was first in the women’s pro category in 00:53:31.
Meanwhile, the main Norseman race started five minutes after the main race, but saw an outstanding performance from sports scientist, TV Comic Relief athlete coach and former Olympian Professor Greg Whyte, who was out of the water in just 00:48:54, overtaking much of the pro field in the process!
On to the bike course, which saw athletes take on 180km from Eidfjord to Austbygde, with over 3000 metres of climbing and a trip across the Hardanger plateau and the iconic Imingfjell, with multiple long difficult climbs and descents. The weather was adding to the challenge as well, with chilly stretches in low cloud on the plateau around Dyranut, yet strong sunshine and high temperatures as the athletes made the descent into T2.
In the men’s race, a clear battle emerged between Norwegians 2018 winner Allan Hovda and Hans Christian Tungesvik, with the latter leading and achieving a lead of 34 minutes across the course. In the women’s race, GB’s Lucy Gossage emerged as a clear leader, her prowess on hot, hilly Ironman courses such as Ironman Kona and Lanzarote showing as she rode strongly though the course, with Flora Colledge and Morgan Chaffin unable to catch her as she entered the run leg.
The Norseman run sees competitors take on the 42.2km marathon distance by starting on an undulating road leg, before embarking on the steep switchbacks of ‘zombie hill’ and then the final climb to Gaustatoppen, a 5km stretch up a mountain composed of rocky, treacherous trails.
In the men’s World Championship race Allan Hovda showed his prowess on this course by overtaking Hans Christian Tungesvik after around 15km, before the pair embarked on the steep climb to the finish. In dramatic scenes though, Tungesvik, supported by Norseman athlete Richard Rozok, overtook Hovda with only a couple of hundred metres to go, to take the first World Championship title in 09:59:40.