The Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series kicks off on Sunday in Sydney, with the world’s fastest triathletes ready to begin their quest to become the 2010 world champion. While a strong Australian team will look to defend their home turf, injury and illness have left the door wide open for the international contenders.
Australia’s reigning world champion Emma Moffatt, who broke her shoulder on a training ride last month is still racing the clock to be at peak fitness. Her shoulder has since healed, but the injury kept the Beijing bronze medallist out of the water for six weeks.
If Moffatt’s sore shoulder keeps her out of the lead pack after the swim leg, look for Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf and Sweden’s Lisa Norden to take advantage on the bike. They’re two of the strongest cyclists in the field and they’ve worked together in the past to put a gap on the stronger runners. Both women are coming off the best seasons of their careers. Norden finished second to Moffatt in last year’s world rankings, posting an impressive five podium finishes throughout the year, including a win at the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Yokohama.
Ryf finished fourth in the standings last year, highlighted by third-place showings in Washington D.C. and Hamburg.
Other women to keep an eye on at the opener include Kiwi Andrea Hewitt, who won the Oceania Championship in Wellington last month, American Sarah Haskins, who finished fourth at last season’s Gold Coast Grand Final, and former world champion Helen Jenkins (GBR), who looked very strong in the final rounds of the 2009 World Championship Series.
The other big news in the women’s race is who’s not on the start list. Beijing Olympic gold medallist Emma Snowsill has been forced to put a hold on the start of the 2010 season due to a virus. The Australian is recovering well, but she’ll be forced to watch this season’s opening race from the sidelines. Also absent from the series opener will be Japan’s Juri Ide, diagnosed with plantar fasciitis.
Olympic champions highlight the men’s field in Sydney, Canada’s Simon Whitfield, who claimed an Olympic gold medal in Sydney and Germany’s Jan Frodeno, who took gold at the Beijing Games in 2008. Whitfield will no doubt be looking forward to returning to Sydney, where he won the sport’s first gold medal a decade ago. Frodeno had a solid ending to the 2009 season, winning the World Championship event in Yokohama and finishing 3rd at the Gold Coast Grand Final.
Headlining the Australian men’s team is Brad Kahlefeldt, who kicked off the 2010 season with a win at the Mooloolaba World Cup less than two weeks ago. After a rough ending to the 2009 season, in which he finished a disappointing 34th at the Gold Coast Grand Final, Kahlefeldt appears to be in top shape entering this season.
Absent from the men’s race will be reigning world champion Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain, who has been forced to postpone the start of his season due to a femoral stress fracture. Spain’s Javier Gomez, will also miss the opening round after sustaining a hip injury prior to the Mooloolaba ITU World Cup two weeks ago.
Other’s to keep an eye on in the men’s race include France’s Laurent Vidal who has been based in New Zealand training and dual Olympic medallist, New Zealand’s Bevan Docherty and compatriot Kris Gemmell. Vidal kicked off the 2010 season with a win at the Oceania Championships in Wellington, with Gemmell taking the runner-up position.
The elite course features many of the elements that made the inaugural Olympic Games triathlon such a memorable spectacle, with the transition area at the foot of the Sydney Opera House, the 1500-metre swim in Farm Cove and 40-kilometre bike leg and 10-kilometre run taking in Macquarie Street and the Cahill Expressway, overlooking Circular Quay.
The elite men’s event starts at 7am and women from 9.45am