The Andorran Pyrenees will once more provide the venue for a spectacular World Triathlon Winter Championships this weekend, only this year with a twist. On Thursday 3 February, for the first time in the event’s 24-year history, Winter Duathlon will be making its debut on the schedule.

The run-ski format of the duathlon may remove the biking element, but there will still be multiple transitions to negotiate out on course, with a 4km run and 6km ski repeated three times in total, giving the crowds plenty of opportunities to get right behind the athletes.

Several of the athletes on the start lines will be racing for both the duathlon and triathlon world titles over the weekend’s festival of sport, including Italy’s U23 Winter Triathlon World Champion from 2020, Franco Pesavento. A bronze medalist at the 2020 Winter Cup Asiago, Pesavento will know plenty about the calibre of his rivals, given that they include last year’s world champion here in the snow, Hans Christian Tungesvik (NOR).

The Norwegian emerged from nowhere to take that title and could adapt well to the new format given the bike was arguably his weaker segment here 12 months ago.

He may have finished 5th in that race, but the Czech Marek Rauchfuss has been something of a regular on the podium over the years and will surely again be among those challenging for the lead by the time he makes it out of that final transition. French duo Benjamin Cayroche and Krilan le Bihan make their world championship debuts, as do Frode Viberg Jermstad (NOR) and Mikhail Antipin (Russian Triathlon Federation).

The women’s elite and U23 races will begin five minutes after the men on Thursday morning, with Romania’s Maria Luisa Rasin a strong favourite for a first winter duathlon medal in her fourth winter world championships.

“I really like the format because running and cross-country skiing are my favourites,” she said ahead of the race. “In the past I was a biathlete which means that I mastered cross-country skiing quite well, and I wanted to try a new discipline because I like running and skiing but cycling gives me some problems. I am very curious and excited and I hope to do well!”

The two-time winter triathlon championship silver medalist Anna Medvedeva (RTF) will hope the format can bring a first individual gold, while Norwegian debutants Ine Skjellum and Stina Meinicke will be looking to feed off the experienced Elisabeth Sveum, winter mixed relay champion a year ago and an individual silver medalist back in 2013.

For the full start lists, click here.