The always stunning SWISSMAN in pictures

The SWISSMAN Xtreme Triathlon is a very tough 226km race with 5,500 meters (18,044 feet) of elevation gain, but it is best known for the stunning part of nature in which it takes place.

The 2017 edition was won by Swiss athletes Alain Friedrich and Tabea Rügge. Friedrich's time of 11:57 gave him a dominating 52 minute win over Gabriel Hopf (SUI) and Trond Atle Smedsrud (NOR). Rügge did not have as comfortable of a margin but she is now one of very few athletes who can claim such a coveted title. Norwegian Julie Flakne Andresen grabbed the runner-up spot and Swiss Cornelia Käser rounded out the podium.

The NORSEMAN Xtreme Triathlon is the race that started the True, Basic and Unique movement in triathlon and CELTMAN Xtreme Triathlon in Scotland was the first connected event. SWISSMAN was next to join the group and now these 3 events have launched the XTRI World Tour. Details have not yet been released but it appears that at least three other events will be added to the group.

But for now please enjoy these great pictures by Kai-Otto Melau and surely you will want to find space on your bucket list for this unique race.

A beautiful day greeted the SWISSMAN athletes, volunteers and crew, and with only 241 athletes at the start there is very little congestion on the course, and non of those pesky drafting pelotons.

After a boat trip across Lake Maggiore the athletes arrive early in the morning in Brissago to start their 226km adventure at 5am.

During that 3.8km swim in Lake Maggiore surrounded by majestic alpine peaks.

Finally reaching land again in Ancona and ready for a long and challenging bike ride across three mountain passes.

Kristian Horne exited the water in just about an hour and this Norwegian with plenty of NORSEMAN experience counted as one of the favorites

Relaxed in the aerobars before it goes up, up and up, but many athletes in this race opt to compete on a road bike.

Swiss Alain Friedrich took charge on his Cervelo P5 early on and pulled away from the competition, to be not seen again.

A blue sky and moderate temps made going up these switchbacks much more enjoyable.

This early in the morning the mountain towns are still quiet.

Definitely more cow bell. Welcome support along the course.

As we said earlier, many athletes chose to ride road bikes to tackle the three mountain passes.

The view from above shows the challenging switchbacks.

Race leader Alain Friedrich had a massive advantage but did not know how close the competition was.

Kristian Horne on the way to 8th place in the race. This however meant he did not beat his bib number #6.

Thank god for friends being allowed to join athletes during the run, otherwise it could be a very lonely affair.

Swiss Gabriel Hopf had a tight battle with Norwegian Trond Atle Smedsrud all day but he prevailed in the end to grab second place.

Belgian Dieter Debruyne on the way to 6th place.

Race champion Alain Friedrich after the finish. His Garmin Fenix watch shows a running time of 4:20:46 for the hilly 42.64 km segment.

The female champion Tabea Rügge looked completely relaxed - or possibly happy that it is over.

All images courtesy and © Kai-Otto Melau / SWISSMAN