Once before she finished second at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam – then, in 2018, behind compatriot Yvonne van Vlerken – and for the past three years she was unable to participate. A few times it did not fit into her schedule, but last year she fell ill the night before the race and had to decide not to start an hour beforehand. It was a bitter pill for Els Visser, who was also considered a favorite at the time. Now the top Dutch athlete is ready for the race, in which she will start on Sept. 9 as perhaps the biggest favorite.
She won’t say it of herself, but at the same time Visser does acknowledge that she is at least one of the favorites. “But otherwise I haven’t really looked at the starting field yet. I never actually – and I deliberately don’t – look at the competition. Until the last lap of running, I run completely my own race and don’t need to know anything else about my opponents. Along the way, I never ask for split times. Only in the last kilometers do I want to know how things stand and there may still be racing for positions.”
‘It’s about finishing as high as possible’
Visser is not so much looking at times, such as the course record of Sarissa de Vries. She became World Champion in Almere in 2021 and recorded an almost otherworldly 8:32:05 at the time. “That time is really sharp. I believe my fastest time now stands at 8:50 and I know I can still knock some off it in all disciplines. But in the end it’s not about a time, it’s about finishing as high as possible. And above all, I want to run a race that I myself am proud of.”
In any case, Visser will fly into the race full steam ahead, although she knows she will almost certainly come out of the water lagging behind. After all, swimming is not her strongest part. “Then I hope to be strong on the bike so I can get into the race as quickly as possible. The course does suit me. From me it may be a tough bike part, because that can work to my advantage. I do hope it will be dry and not very cold. But anyway, I think everyone has that. And I hope I can show what I’ve been training for.”
‘I hope to feel that energy in Almere’
Visser feels that urge perhaps even more because, in her home country of all places, she is seen as one of the biggest favorites, probably even the favorite, for victory and thus the European Long Distance title. “That’s really very special. I already had it in Nieuwkoop (where Visser did a half a few months ago and won, ed.); I noticed that people really liked and appreciated that I competed there. I hope that I will feel that energy in Almere and that people think it’s cool that we as Dutch professional athletes are at the start there,” she refers not only to herself, but also to the other Dutch delegates. “Racing in your own country, especially in Almere, is really something special. That is the reason we have now really put Almere on my racing calendar. I didn’t want to miss this race again.”