By Gary Anderson

February 12 - Athletes are gearing up for the Triathlon Winter World Championships in Cogne this weekend ©Getty Images Italian town Cogne is set to host the world's top winter triathletes once again as the 2014 International Triathlon Union (ITU) Winter World Championships get underway this weekend.

Competition will take place across a range of categories in the northern Italian town including elite men's and women's, under-23s and Para-triathlon.

This is the second year in-a-row that Cogne will host the Winter World Championships which have been running since 2002, and Russia's Pavel Andreev will be returning with the aim of securing his fourth consecutive title in the men's elite event.

Andreev comes into the Championships in good form after notching up another win at the European Triathlon Union (ETU) Winter Triathlon World Cup in Sigulda, Latvia last month.

Andreev's compatriots Dmitriy Bregeda and Evgeny Kirillov will be big medal threats also after finishing in the top five in Sigulda, while Kirillov will be looking to improve on his third place finish at last year's World Championships.

Home favourite Daniel Antonioli also impressed in Sigulda and will be out to make it third time lucky after finishing as runner-up in the past two World Championships.

On the women's elite side, it looks very much like Russia will be the team to beat, particularly with the absence of last year's gold and silver medal winners Helena Erbenova of the Czech Republic and Norway's Elisabeth Sveum.

Bronze medallist from last year, Czech Sarka Grabmullerova will compete in Cogne again, but with no winter races under her belt this season another podium finish looks a tough ask.

In Sigulda last month, Russia claimed the top five places and more of the same is expected this weekend as Yulia Surikova, Tatiana Charochkina, Olga Parfinenko, Margarita Ovsyannikva and Yana Lavnikovich look set to battle it out for the top prizes.

Czech Helena Erbenova will not be in Cogne to defend her Triathlon Winter World Championship title ©Getty Images Czech Helena Erbenova will not be in Cogne to defend her Triathlon Winter World Championship title ©Getty Images

The men's and women's under-23 races get underway at the same time as the elite competitions on Saturday (February 15) which will see athletes tackle the six kilometre run, 12km mountain bike and 9km ski course.

Norway's Carl-Frederik Hagen won the men's under-23 crown last year but is not competing in Cogne, while the women's under-23 champion, Margarita Ovsyannikva, will compete in the elite competition.

Sunday (February 16) will see junior, age-group and Para-triathlon events taking place over a shortened distance of 4km on the run, 8km on the bike and 6km skiing.

Russia's Dmitriy Shevchenko will be out to defend his Para-triathlon world title in the men's TRI-4 category, where he will be up against compatriots Sawa Zhuravlev and Stepan Morozov, while last year's runner-up, Rob Noordzij, will also be a threat.

A mixed team relay will also take place on Sunday (February 16) covering distances of a two-lap 4km run, two-lap 6km mountain bike and a two-lap 5km skiing.

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