With the men’s top three of the previous edition – Mattia Ceccarelli, Thomas Steger and Frederic Funk – racing again, CHALLENGERICCIONE is preparing for a thrilling race. This Sunday it’s hammer time and not only the men, but also the women can count on a tough battle. One of the biggest favorites may be the Dutch Sarissa de Vries, who became second at ANFI CHALLENGEMOGAN-GRANCANARIA just two weeks ago.

Despite the fact that the entire top three of last year’s men’s race is returning, most eyes will probably be on the German Sebastian Kienle. The former World Champion returns after a long period of injury and will undoubtedly be eager to claim victory. Pablo Dapena Gonzalez will also be at the start of CHALLENGERICCIONE: the Spaniard finished a strong second place at CHALLENGEMOGAN-GRANCANARIA and showed that he has regained his strong form. On paper, these two men are probably the biggest favorites for the win in Riccione.

While Ceccarelli, Steger and Funk will of course do everything they can to get back on the podium this year, they can also expect competition from strong athletes such as Guilio Molinari, Andi Boecherer, Ruedi Wild and Michael Raelert. Pieter Heemeryck will also be racing. The Belgian top athlete has had a somewhat difficult time in recent months, falling short a number of times at CHALLENGEDAYTONA and ANFI CHALLENGEMOGAN-GRANCANARIA for example, but he is still considered one of the most dangerous men on the Middle Distance and therefore one of the biggest contenders for victory.

In the women’s race, much is expected of Sarissa de Vries. The Dutch athlete may still be young, but she has already shown during various races that she can keep up with the high level and two weeks ago she surpassed herself with a beautiful second place during ANFI CHALLENGEMOGAN-GRANCANARIA. During that race she beat Lisa Nordén after a very tough head-to-head battle during the run.

There are of course other athletes willing to give it their all, for example the Belgian Alexandra Tondeur. Unlike De Vries, Tondeur has a lot of experience and that is perhaps her greatest strength: she knows exactly what to expect from such a race, will not panic easily and knows how to push herself to the limit to finish as good as possible. The same goes for Laura Zimmermann and Carolin Lehrieder: the two German ladies have the lowest bib numbers, as they are considered big favorites and have a serious chance of claiming the gold medal.