The atmosphere was light-hearted and the mood relaxed at the Israman Negev press conference held this afternoon at the Eilat Royal Garden Hotel. Race organizers and professional athletes alike were confident in their preparation and training for the full- and- half ironman-distance triathlon to be held on January 30th in this resort community on the northern tip of the Red Sea. Arguably the most difficult long-distance triathlon on the planet, the athletes seemed well-trained for the “brutal” 10,000 feet of climbing and steep descent on the marathon course.
Race Director, Boaz Ribak, called the 2015 race the largest Israman to date with 1,400 registered participants. In addition to the half and full distances (226 and 113 kilometers, respectively), the event added an option for relay teams. Another breakthrough includes the number of registered female participants- 450 this year, greatly exceeding expectations.
Irean Mazin (ISR) returns for her fifth consecutive Israman. She placed second in 2014 to winner Nina Pekerman (ISR) who will compete in the half-distance (113KM) on Friday. Mazin looked tense, but that could have been her incredibly lean condition. Other women to watch include Zsuzsanna Harsanyl (HUN), last year’s third place finisher, Dora Heller (ISR) who placed first in 2013 and 2011, and Ayelet Ben-David (ISR) who placed third in last year’s race.
Competition in the 113 KM distance course will be stiff. Defending champion Edo van der Meer (NED) is back to retain his crown. When asked which event was his strongest he replied that he has been racing triathlon since the age of eleven and views his ability in all three events to be equally strong. Massimo Cigana (ITA), a retired professional cyclist and first-time Israman, will provide a challenge to van der Meer. “I started to cross train in 2003 by swimming and running to help recover from injuries sustained from a big bike crash,” said a humble but confident Cigana. He should have no trouble on the bike course. Andre Stampe (DEN), second place finisher in 2014 is scheduled to return for another shot at the half-distance crown.
The favorite in the 113 KM women’s race is Nina Peckerman (ISR). Nina has never lost an Israman race that she has entered. That includes two full and four half distances. Her biggest threat is Martina Dogana (ITA) who arrived at the conference with fellow Italian, Cigana. Dogana should have confidence coming out of 2014 with first place finishes at the Italian long distance championships and the Italy 70.3 races.
The pros will be under way on Friday, January 30th at 6:15 am. EverymanTri.com will be there live from start to finish.
Author Barbara Mica is a contributing editor to EverymanTri.com. Barb is a four time Ironman finisher and ITU Long-distance Championship triathlete. She has run more marathons than she’d like to remember. She and her family travel to many international race destinations and enjoy learning the lifestyle and culture of the host countries.