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Raf's Corner: The International Duathlon of Gernika
Posted on: Monday 29th March 2010
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Spain is renowned for holding some great multisport events and the International Duathlon of Gernika definitely falls in the category of great events! This month in Raf Baugh's corner Raf takes a look at one of the longest standing international duathlons and explains why it's a race not to be missed.
The month of April features what I believe is the world’s premier non championship event- the International Duathlon of Gernika, on April 24th. Gernika is the famous site of the 1937 bombing by German and Italian forces during the Spanish Civil war and a subsequent commissioned painting by Pablo Picasso famously depicts the town http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guernica_(painting). Gernika is the historical home of the Basque parliament and a town with a rich and proud cultural heritage.
In duathlon terms, the city hosted the 1997 World Duathlon Championships on a brutally challenging bike course and has had an International Duathlon dating as far back as 1989. The list of past winners is a who’s who of Duathlon/Triathlon and outside of the World or European Championships attracts arguably the most top heavy field of any race in the world. Included on the winners list is Jonathon Hall, Spencer Smith, Javier Gomez Noya, Irma Heeren, Javier Garcia (5* Spanish Champion), Segio Silva and Vendula Frintova (2009 ITU World Duathlon Champion).
Race organizer, Cesar Ramos and his team have a big budget and the event is featured extensively in National print media, Basque Television (ETB 1) and through local media platforms. The race is now held in recognition of the late Paul Seco, a famous Basque athlete who died in tragic circumstances. An event is also held in Bilbao annually in his honour.
The course itself is a sprint distance of 5.2k run (2 laps) 27k bike (draft legal for pro and age group) and 2.6k run (1 lap). The run features a crowd of between 5,000 and 10,000 spectators (depending on the weather) and there is the famous “African Drummers” at the juncture of “the hill”, which athletes ascend and descend on each run lap. The atmosphere is electric as spectators negotiate around the course to gain the best vantage points. The bike course is a challenging out and back course to the beach and features continuous climbing and descending over rolling rather than mountainous terrain. Typically, the race splinters on the bike which is always indicative of a fair test for athletes overall strength.
Having spent a lot of time in Gernika over the past two years the best thing about this race is the hospitality and culture of the local people. The town really gets behind this race and rallies together to invite and welcome the best duathletes from around the world every year.
The funds to host the event are raised through both private and government funds and the profile and prize money grows every year. It is a race which has a great contribution from the people, teams and sponsors of the region, but particular mention must go to Cesar Ramos. This is a man who can recall all the great races and athletes who have visited Gernika, tell stories about how they raced and always has a laugh. He also appreciates a beer (or 10) so make sure you don’t try to keep up with him if you go to the after party! If there is one duathlon in the world a real duathlete should not miss, it is the International Duathlon of Gernika. I cannot recommend this event or organization highly enough. For the UK athletes a plane to Bilbao will have you within one hour of Gernika and easy access to a race to remember.