Australia’s hopes of a World Championship Series medal appear to rest on the shoulders of Courtney Atkinson, with the Queenslander set to resume his battle with reigning world triathlon champion, Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee, this weekend.
The pair fought out a memorable battle in Madrid, Spain, last year where the Brit triumphed after pulling away late in the run leg. Brownlee makes his return to the Dextro Energy Triathlon â€“ ITU World Championship Series on the same course after missing the first two rounds of the 2010 campaign with a leg injury.
Atkinson, too, has not been without his troubles, being a late withdrawal from the opening event in Sydney after being unable to fully shake a virus, but returning in spectacular style to claim silver in Seoul, Korea, where he was shaded in a dramatic sprint finish by Olympic champion, Germany’s Jan Frodeno.
â€œI pulled up great after Soeul,â€ said Atkinson. â€œIt always helps your confidence and feeling when you go well! I’ve settled into my training in Europe well and have had a hit-out over here already and ran well, so, I’m feeling good and ready to give Madrid my best.â€
Australia’s other leading triathletes â€“ Emma Snowsill, Emma Moffatt and Brad Kahlefeldt â€“ have chosen to rest this weekend in readiness for the world’s richest triathlon the following weekend, the ITU Elite Cup in Iowa, USA, which carries with it a US$200,000 first prize purse for each of the male and female winners. That leaves Atkinson heading a relatively inexperienced squad in Madrid, on what is a tough course in expected hot conditions.
â€œIt looks like it will be very hot â€“ somewhere in the mid-30s and the course is difficult,â€
Atkinson said. â€œIt is a great course for the best triathlete to win where the swim is important, the ride is tough with a decisive climb and the run is fast but deceptively hard as well.â€
Atkinson said Brownlee was simply one of many names to stand out on a quality start list that includes Frodeno, current series leader Russia’s Alexander Brukhankov and Spain’s former world champion Javier Gomez. While conceding Brownlee was undoubtedly the best last year, Atkinson said he could â€œonly go into each race and concentrate on what I can do bestâ€.
DEXTRO ENERGY TRIATHLON â€“ ITU WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, Race 3, Madrid, Spain: Women â€“ 9.15pm AEST Saturday, June 5. Men â€“ 9.05pm AEST Sunday, June 6.
AUSTRALIAN SQUAD â€“ Females: Felicity Sheedy-Ryan, Holly Aitken. Males: Courtney Atkinson, James Seear, Brendan Sexton, Josh McHugh, Josh Amberger, Jamie Huggett.