The 2010 ITU World Cup series kicks off this weekend on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. More than 80 elite athletes from around the globe will descend on Mooloolaba, officially signaling the start of the 2010 season. Defending champions Canadian Kirsten Sweetland and Australia’s Courtney Atkinson are anything but certainties.
With a shadow over defending champion Courtney Atkinson as he struggles to overcome a stomach bug and Sweetland coming in with a solid base foundation and little speed preparation the race is thrown wide open.
For Atkinson it would be a double blow of his title defense, with Mooloolaba doubling as the 2010 Australian Championship title.
â€œI am very frustrated as the defense of my title last year was a high priority for me in 2010 and my pre-season training has shown some very promising signs.
â€œI will be doing everything to try and get myself on the start line as I see it very important to get a longer race done in preparation for the coming World Championship series,â€ said Atkinson
Sweetland arrived in Australia yesterday and headed straight for her base in Noosa, joining a small army of internationals including Javier Gomez who have been there for the past 8 weeks.
The defending champion calls Australia her second home and is not feeling the pressure the title carries.
â€œMooloolaba is my favourite race in the world and to win last year on this course was such a surprise and such an honour. It’s nice going into this race as the defending champion, knowing I can perform on this course but I don’t feel any pressure at this time in the season,â€ said Sweetland.
Sweetland has opted for a different preparation to her 2010 season.
â€œI had a big break and moved back home to Victoria in Canada. I have built a lot of base this year which is something new to me. I am very strong but not yet into the speed portion on my training.
â€œBeing the first race of the year I really don’t have any plan or expectations. It will be good to just give it my best and see where I’m at,â€ she added.
Australian Brad Kahlefeldt and Spain’s Javier Gomez are expected to resume their epic Mooloolaba battle. Kahlefeldt got the better of the Spaniard in a sprint finish in 2007 but Gomez, currently ranked number two in the world turned the tables the following year.
â€œObviously Gomez is a great athlete and we’ve had some good battles, I expect this will be another one
â€œWith the first world champ meeting in Sydney a fortnight later, I’m looking for a good result here at Mooloolaba,â€ Kahlefeldt said.
Australia has fielded a 12 man team for Saturday’s race, all chasing a World Cup podium or Australian Elite or U23 championship title.
Dan Wilson and James Seear will be strong prospects for just such honours having shown good early season form.
As expected a huge New Zealand squad have crossed the Tasman to take part but missing their senior athletes, Kris Gemmell and Bevan Docherty opting to head straight to Sydney for the first race of the Dextro Energy Triathlon â€“ ITU World Championship Series (April 11).
Swiss duo Matthias Annaheim and Marc Widmer have also been based on the Sunshine Coast training, well acclimatised and amassing valuable experience over the course.
The elite women’s field contains a number of contenders to vie for the title. Beijing Olympian Laura Bennett (US) has spent her pre season preparing here. Sweetland’s team mate Kathy Tremblay; current World Duathlon Champion Vendula Frintova (Cze); veteran Liz Blatchford heads up a strong British team; Germany’s Ricarda Lisk and New Zealand’s Debbie Tanner are all capable of taking out the season opener.
Australia’s elite women’s casualty list is complete with all our senior women sidelined through injury or illness and hoping to be on the start line in Sydney in a fortnight. Emma Snowsill, still recovering from the set back of a virus that kept her bedridden for three months; Emma Moffatt recovering from a broken shoulder; Felicity Abram not race fit after being struck down with a virus and Annabel Luxford overcoming a minor shin complaint.
This has paved the way for our young junior and Under 23 women to bank some valuable experience on Sunday.
19-year-old Gold Coaster Ashleigh Gentle will be lining up in her first event racing in elite company.
â€œI raced in open company in Wellington (at the Oceania Championships) a few weeks ago and in Singapore last year, but this is really my first big race in true elite company, so it’s exciting to be taking that next step up here in Mooloolaba,â€ she said.
â€œI’ll still race as a junior at the World Championships in Budapest later this year, but the remainder of this season is all about challenging myself and mixing it in elite company.
â€œI certainly don’t have any huge expectations going into this weekend â€“ for me it’s all about gaining experience in an elite environment. It’s a World Cup race so I have to be comfortable mixing with a lot of the elite girls and getting used to the atmosphere of what is a pretty big event for me. I’m sure it will be nerve-racking, but I’m hoping to enjoy it and do my best.â€
Elite Men Saturday, 27 March at 3pm.
Elite Women Sunday, 28 March 12noon.
Swim 1 lap ocean swim (1.5km)
Cycle 7 laps. Mooloolaba Esplanade (40km)
Run 4 laps. Mooloolaba Esplanade (10km)