The battle for the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series officially starts in Sydney this weekend.
It’s set to be a show-stopper as almost all of the top 20 triathletes in the world will line up on the starting grid. All but one of the men
and women who made up the top-10 in last year’s final world rankings are on the start lists in Australia’s Harbour City, as well as last year’s
winners Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile and Bevan Docherty
of New Zealand. But who will come away with the spoils over the
beautiful course that takes in some of Sydney’s best tourist spots, a
swim start in farm cove before bike and run laps encircling the
world-famous opera house? Here is a look at the contenders.
Elite Women Preview
All eyes are set to be on Emma Snowsill
as the Beijing Olympic champion makes her 2011 debut. Snowsill pulled
out of the first ITU Triathlon World Cup of the season in Mooloolaba two
weeks ago as a precautionary measure. Sydney will be the first race
since she decimated the field at the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World
Championship Grand Final in Budapest last year. Snowsill’s 2010 season
was littered with injury, putting her out of contention for the overall
title, but this year she trained off-season in South Africa and will be
after her place in history. Snowsill already has three ITU world titles,
no other woman has more than two, but could make it four.
Two-time reigning world champion Emma Moffatt
certainly has enough motivation to power to the top of the podium
though, despite winning the 2009 and 2010 Dextro Energy Triathlon
Series, she’s just missed out on opening rounds. In 2009 she finished
second to Snowsill and last year in Sydney, was beaten to the line in a
sprint by Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz and New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt.
The Chilean star is back again with an aim to defend her title and
she will be in the mix on the course she had her breakthrough victory,
along with other top-10 athletes including Hewitt, Mariko Adachi, Lisa Norden, Laura Bennett, Vicky Holland, Kate Roberts and Helen Jenkins.
The other in that top-10, and the one who could to do the most damage to the title hopes of others, is Paula Findlay.
The young Canadian only made the jump to Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU
World Championship Series late last year, but finished with two round
wins in KitzbÃ¼hel and London “the only female to win more than one
round last year. That catapulted her to a fifth-place finish overall,
despite only racing in three rounds, London, KitzbÃ¼hel and the Budapest
Grand Final. This year she is involved from the start and is a real
contender for that world title if she can show the same form as last
Mooloolaba World Cup winner Nicky Samuels
is also in the field, and the confidence she gained from that win could
be enough to propel her up the finishing-order. The only woman from
last year’s top-10 not racing in Sydney will be Swiss superstar Nicola Spirig, last year’s Dextro Energy Triathlon Series runner-up. Spirig has pulled out with a shin injury.
Elite Men Preview
It’s a ten out of ten in the men’s field, with each of the top-10 men
from last year’s World Series on the Sydney start list. It’s also the
first time since last year’s Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World
Championship Grand Final Budapest that Javier Gomez, Alistair Brownlee and Jan Frodeno
will meet. In that race, Frodeno was in contention for the podium but
finished a disappointing 41st, missing the podium for the second
straight season. It’s always an intriguing battle between the 2010 world
champion, 2009 world champion and 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medallist,
and it’s also rare to have it so early in the season.
Reigning World Champion Gomez has already started his 2011 triathlon
season in Australia, at the Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup, but
didn’t quite sweep the field like most were predicting and finished
fifth. Instead Brad Kahlefeldt led rising Australian Brendan Sexton and Frenchman David Hauss to the line. Sven Riederer and Courtney Atkinson
also raced in Mooloolaba, and it will be interesting to see whether
those that did will be better for the hit-out or are outpaced by fresh
legs. For Hauss, it could have only increased his confidence in
Australia, he made it onto the podium in the Sydney race last year.
While Frodeno might be the German that still grabs all the headlines, Steffen Justus
is not to be forgotten. In 2010 he quietly went about collecting enough
podium places to be the runner-up to Gomez in the Dextro Energy
Triathlon Series. While the series is all about consistency, Justus is
yet to win a race title and will be keen to break through in Sydney.
Russia’s Alexsandr Brukhankov is in a similar situation, last year he
finished eighth in the overall rankings but is yet to win a race.
Brukhankov’s best place finish in a Dextro Energy Triathlon Series race
is second, but that did come in last year’s Sydney race.
As well as those established names, there are also two young guns that can’t be discounted in the opening round, Jonathan Brownlee and Joao Silva.
Both had breakthrough seasons last year, Silva finished fourth in
Budapest to rocket to fifth in the overall rankings. The younger
Brownlee meanwhile, finished second in London, won the first men’s ITU
Sprint Distance World Championships in history and the 2010 ITU
Triathlon Under23 World Championships.
The men’s field runs so deep though that there is a host of contenders even outside that top ten. Bevan Docherty,
the two-time Olympic medallist who has become something of an
opening-round specialist in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World
Championship Series so far. Docherty won the first race in history, in
2009 in Tongyeong in South Korea, and then beat Brukhankov to the line
in Sydney last year. Great Britain’s Stuart Hayes is already a race winner, having triumphed in KitzbÃ¼hel last year while New Zealand’s Kris Gemmell is a multiple ITU Triathlon World Cup winner.