By Erin Greene on 28/05/13 at 8:45 am
The World Triathlon Madrid not only marks the halfway point in the ITU World Triathlon Series, but also the first of five European stops. With stacked start lists in both the men’s and women’s races, the hot and hilly course is set to see some savage battles. Jonathan Brownlee and Javier Gomez will face off yet again in the men’s race, while leading ladies Gwen Jorgensen and Anne Haug will battle for the top ranking on the World Triathlon Series chart.
As the highest ranked woman so far this season, Gwen Jorgensen (USA) will wear the top number in Madrid. But current runner-up Anne Haug (GER) will be hard pressed to let Jorgensen keep the first seed after skipping the World Triathlon Yokohama race. The two top ranked women employ practically opposite race strategies, which will no doubt set the scene for an interesting event. The tough course suits Haug’s stellar bike strengths, but she’ll need a hefty lead ahead of Jorgensen if she wants to fend off the American’s dynamite run speed at the finish line.
Like Haug, hilly courses are optimal for Great Britain’s Jodie Stimpson. The Brit demonstrated her endurance on the bike at the 2012 Barfoot & Thompson World Triathlon Grand Final Auckland, and despite a disappointing race in Auckland this year, she has gone on to record three top 5 finishes, including bronze in Yokohama. If Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) has anything to do with it, she will push the pace in the hunt for another medal in Madrid after earning bronze last year.
Felicity Abram (AUS) returns to action after electing to pass by Yokohama and will be hungry for the podium, as she was in Auckland where she came out swinging with a bronze-medal performance. The always strong Andrea Hewitt (NZL) will also have fresh legs on the course, having paused from race action after San Diego. Pamela Oliveira (BRA) recently conquered the challenging Huatulco World Cup course, suggesting she could be ready to take her place amongst the leaders in Madrid.
Wild cards include Spain’s Ainhoa Murua, who will make her 2013 debut on the WTS circuit on home soil. Murua is solid across all three disciplines and will have the support of the home crowd cheering her on. Non Stanfordâ€˜s (GBR) performance last weekend at the French Grand Prix may also foreshadow more top finishes for the Brit, as could that of Paula Findlay (CAN), who will make her much-anticipated return to the World Triathlon Series.
Reigning World Champion Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), who won the race in Madrid last year, returns as a clear pre-race heavyweight. Though the Olympic bronze medallist is tied with older brother Alistair at 11th in the world rankings after missing San Diego and Auckland, Jonny made it clear he is back to his usual top form with a win in Yokohama.
But Madrid will be no walk in the park with the likes of home country favourites Javier Gomez and Mario Mola rearing to race. All men appear to be on point across all disciplines, but especially on the run. Mola recently outran Jonny’s 5km split at the French Grand Prix by nearly 45 seconds. If Mola keeps pace on the swim and bike, he’s speed with twice the run distance in Madrid just might be too much to hold off.
Throw in South Africa’s Richard Murray to the mix and we are looking at one epic run battle if nobody manages a break on the leg-burning eight lap bike. With series leader Joao Silva (POR) and Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee (GBR) both out of the race, Madrid will serve as the perfect race to secure important WTS points.
Of course, the ever threatening Russian team had great success last year, with Ivan Vasiliev taking fourth and Dmitry Polyanskiy making the podium in third. Both men are back this year and will be hungry to improve their performances. A rested Laurent Vidal (FRA) will also look to avenge his missed podium in Auckland this year with a medal in scenic Casa de Campo park.