DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN

QUE­BEC S3 WORLD CUP

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY KEVIN MACK­IN­NON

FE­BRU­ARY’S ITU S3 World Cup in Que­bec was more than one of the most unique triathlon events I’ve at­tended in my long his­tory in the sport. In many ways it felt like a step back to triathlon’s early days of de­vel­op­ment when the sport changed from a nov­elty to a full-fledged com­pet­i­tive en­deav­our.

The S3 for­mat is some­thing new to the world of win­ter triathlon. Rather than run, bike and cross country ski, the S3 race con­sists of snow­shoe­ing, speed skat­ing and cross country ski­ing. The idea is to com­bine three win­ter sports in hopes of get­ting triathlon into the win­ter Olympic Games pro­gram. Que­bec was one of the first to host a world cup event us­ing this for­mat as part of the Pen­tathlon des Neiges, the largest win­ter mul­tisport fes­ti­val in the world.

In the first event, three years ago, a pair of Olympic biath­letes – Slo­vakia’s Du­san Si­mocko (Torino 2006 and Van­cou­ver 2010) and Canada’s Marc-an­dre Bedard (Van­cou­ver) – du­elled over the Plains of Abra­ham be­fore Si­mocko man­aged to pull away dur­ing the fi­nal ski leg to take the ti­tle. The Slo­vakian was sick last year and couldn’t de­fend his ti­tle, but was back in 2016, keen to do what­ever he could to pro­mote this new type of win­ter triathlon.

“I like this for­mat more than the old for­mat,” he said. “Th­ese dis­ci­plines are more win­ter sports. I think it’s a bet­ter way to get into the win­ter Olympic pro­gram.”

Head­ing into the race, I couldn’t help but feel some nos­tal­gia for the early days of the sport, when Olympians and sin­gle-sport spe­cial­ists like my­self were drawn to a new chal­lenge. The field in Que­bec in­cluded a bunch of Olympic skiers, a world snow­shoe cham­pion and even a Sparta and Ob­sta­cle Course world cham­pion (Jonathan Al­bon from the U.K.). It felt like the good ol’ days when I was com­pet­ing against Olympic skier and cy­clist Pierre Harvey, as he snuck away from his cross country ski coaches to get in some fun train­ing and rac­ing dur­ing the sum­mer. Back then no one came from a triathlon back­ground – we were all com­ing from an­other sport.

Triathlon re­ally took off, on the com­pet­i­tive front, when the top ath­letes be­came very pro­fi­cient in all three sports. Ath­letes like Dave Scott, Mark Allen and Greg Welch were out­stand­ing swim­mers, bik­ers and run­ners. Triathlon re­ally came into its own when ath­letes no longer iden­ti­fied as, say, a run­ner who was get­ting into this new sport, and saw them­selves as triath­letes who had to be very good swim­mers, bik­ers and run­ners.

That day ar­rived for S3 rac­ing in Que­bec when Gatineau, Que­bec’s Maxime Leboeuf took the ti­tle. Leboeuf orig­i­nally com­peted on the Cana­dian na­tional biathlon team, then took up run­ning when he went to univer­sity. He would go on to ex­cel in snow­shoe­ing, too. Three years ago Leboeuf got man­han­dled dur­ing the ski leg by Si­mocko and Bedard. This year he had be­come so pro­fi­cient in all three sports that they never stood a chance. Le­bouef did his best Jan Fro­deno im­i­ta­tion by lead­ing the way through the snow­shoe leg, stay­ing in front by the end of the skate (he was passed for a short time, but worked his way back to the front) and never look­ing back dur­ing the ski leg. Af­ter the race he talked about how much he had prac­ticed his tran­si­tions.

“One of my strong parts of the race was the tran­si­tion,” he said. “It’s free time.”

Le­bouef’s win showed that the S3 triathlon is ready to be taken se­ri­ously. He proved that to win you have to be a triath­lete, one who leaves noth­ing to chance in prepa­ra­tion. Hope­fully per­for­mances like his help the sport make it to the Olympic pro­gram. It would be a good ad­di­tion.

ABOVE

Maxime Leboeuf leads Bruno Freuden­re­ich dur­ing the snow­shoe por­tion of the race

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