The first edition of Challenge Venice has been launched at the stunning Palazzo Ca’ Farsetti in the city’s San Marco district in the presence of Mayor Luigi Brugnaro. Venice is now primed to welcome the 800 international athletes that this Sunday will compete in a spectacular full-distance triathlon through the city and surrounding area. The event starts at 6:30 am from Venezia Cannaregio, just in front of the San Giobbe campus of the Ca’ Foscari University, and will see athletes first embark on a bracing 3.8-kilometre swim across the lagoon to Parco San Giuliano. Next they will tackle a 180-kilometre cycle through the provinces of Venice and Treviso before the triathlon concludes with a final marathon stage inside Parco San Giuliano. A fantastic festival of sport that celebrates a healthy, environmentally-friendly lifestyle. The Challenge Venice triathlon is designed to involve the public to an unprecedented extent also. A truly top class international event, it will link the Municipality of Venice to the Metropolitan City of Venice and the surrounding inland areas, and has been made possible by close collaboration with the local communities, associations and institutions.
The first edition of Challenge Venice has been officially unveiled at the Palazzo Ca’ Farsetti in the city’s San Marco district. A total of 800 athletes from 49 nations spanning all the world’s continents will be competing in the full-distance triathlon which comprises a 3.8-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre cycle and a 42-kilometre marathon.
At the launch to give the event their blessing were the Mayor of Venice Luigi Brugnaro, race director Matteo Gerevini and leading Italian triathlon athletes Massimo Cigana and Martina Dogana, who will be donning bibs numbers 1 and 2 for the competition. Since it was first announced, Challenge Venice has been a huge hit with athletes across the world who had been waiting for an opportunity to combine a visit to Italy with the chance of some high level competition. The result is that it instantly joined the ranks of the elite group of triathlons that all triathletes the world over dream of one day competing in. In fact, over half of the starting field is made up of foreign competitors – a further testament to the spell cast by Venice both at home and abroad.
Much more than just a triathlon
Challenge Venice combines an exceptionally high standard of organisation with signature Italian excellence in everything from its gorgeous backdrop to artistic heritage, superb food and wine, and the kind of artisanal mastery that only this nation can achieve. It also marries both of the latter with the values at the very core of the sport of triathlon, which is burgeoning in popularity due to the positive physical and psychological impact it has on athletes and the fact that it is very much an eco-friendly outdoor pursuit. Another factor is the spectacular nature of the competition. In fact, a focus on providing spectators and the public in general with a positive experience was a central focus for the project as a whole.
“When we thought of Challenge Venice,” commented race director Matteo Gerevini, “we imagined it not as a simple triathlon but as an event athletes would dream about. But we also wanted it to be an unforgettable experience for the people accompanying them as well as to give a boost to the area and its communities. We wanted it to become an event for everyone and open to everyone – you don’t have to be a super athlete to enjoy it. Seeing everyone involved in the project together here today at its fruition is hugely satisfying”.
A 226-kilometre course that’s a real team effort between the local districts
With so many participants covering the 226-kilometres of the overall course both on land and in the water, it was absolutely essential for Challenge Venice’s organisers to work closely with the local institutions, not least the Municipality of Venice, the Metropolitan City of Venice and the various other municipalities the course traverses, and to guarantee support from the various police and other forces of order and associations.
The event begins at 6:30 am on Sunday from Venezia Cannaregio, just in front of the San Giobbe campus of the Ca’ Foscari Unversity which has very kindly made the space available to the organisers for the logistical areas and the start itself. From there, the athletes will swim to Parco San Giuliano.
Once they are out of the water, they will be facing into a 180-km cycle through the Municipalities of Quarto d’altino, Marcon, Meolo, Monastier, Musile, San Donà and Roncade. All of the roads and streets along the route the will be entirely closed to vehicular traffic for the duration. The State and municipal police from all the various municipalities and the Carabinieri will be guaranteeing the safety of all involved in the event aided by 250 Civil Defence volunteers.
At the end of the second leg, the athletes will leave their bikes behind and launch into the final stage – a 42.195 km marathon on a circuit that winds its way through Parco San Giuliano, of which they will complete five laps (the first 4 will be 8.5 km and the last 8), before concluding the final lap at the finish-line where a Murano glass medal and Lotto technical finisher T-shirt will await.
A festival of sport
Challenge Venice is much more than just a festival for athletes. It’s a major event spanning three whole days, starting at 14:00 on Friday, June 3. It is designed to have something for all sports lovers with a whole string of side events, entertainments, a bar, a restaurant with Italian fine foods and wine as the centrepiece, and an Expo featuring 50 exhibitors inside the 74 square hectares of Parco San Giuliano, the green heart (and lungs!) of the province of Venice.
Marcon, Quarto d’Altino and Meolo are all also preparing major celebrations to welcome the triathletes. Every single square will be buzzing with shows, music and much more besides. There will be plenty of food and drink stations set up by local clubs too. In the bordering Province of Treviso, the Municipalities of Roncade and Monastier will be organising similar welcomes and June 5 is also the day on which Monastier and Meolo have chosen to celebrate their selection as European Communities of Sport.
The final marathon will wind its way through the Parco San Giuliano which is great news for spectators who will be able to watch the participants for virtually the entire course. The athletes will run through the Triathlon Stadium, around the Expo area and the Finish areas, four times with the final lap concluding at the finish-line. Every single corner of the course will provide perfect views for spectators to cheer the athletes on through the whole of the final gruelling run.
A race for professionals too
A total of 13 male and 6 female professional athletes will be competing for the top spots in the overall rankings. All eyes are on local hero Massimo Cigana from Mestre who’ll be sporting bib number 1 and will be up against some stiff competition from Dirk Wijnalda (no. 4) of Holland and the up-and-coming star of this distance, 25 year old Malte Bruns (no. 12) of Germany. He’ll also have to keep a close watch for Petr Vabrousek of the Czech Republic, who has 167 full-distance events under his belt and a finish time not too far off the front-runners.
“I live 2 km from the transition area and I know every ripple in the asphalt we’ll be running on, so that will be a definite advantage,” Massimo Cigana said of the course. “I’ve never come across an event with such a fast swimming stage though. As regards the bikes, we’ll have to see how the wind goes even though in the end the pros and cons will even out. The marathon is absolutely unique as there’s never been anything like it before. It couldn’t get any better for the spectators. There will be a lot of cheering on and I’m delighted because my friends and family will all be there and going wild. The starting field is excellence – a lot of the athletes have times you can win a full distance with”.
Amongst the women athletes, the spotlight will inevitably be on Martina Dogana. The Vicenza girl has just won the Italian Triathlon Medio (half the distance of Venice) and is most definitely one of the top, if not the top, Italian athletes in the speciality.
“It’s like a fairy tale,” declared Dogana. “That’s really the only way to describe this competition in Venice. I’m incredibly proud to be competing on home ground after 20 years all around the world. It will be a wonderful day, a spectacular event on both a sporting and human level. Giving one hundred per cent, taking on nature, yourself and your rivals is the very essence of this sport. Even in the women’s section, the standard of competition is quite high and I’ll have to keep an eye out for Erika Csomor of Hungary and Yvette Grice of Great Britain”.