We asked Pro triathlete, Harry Wiltshire to put his eye on the World Triathlon Series race at Cape Town, here is what he had to say...
Cape Town saw the first Sprint distance World Series of the season and the first time the water has been cold enough for wetsuits.
With only Cape Town and Yokohama left before final Olympic selection decisions, it’s a strange time. Some athletes are competing for the minor slots on their national teams, some have been selected for the games and are in heavy training blocks but are still trying to pick up series points and keep themselves in the frame for a good overall world series ranking (and the cheque that accompanies it). Others know that they aren’t going to the games and are focusing on the World series.
The Men’s race was without local star Richard Murray who made a nasty mess of his collarbone in the last race on the Gold coast, in his absence Henri Schoeman took on the role of home favourite. Also missing was Alistair Brownlee who had travelled to South Africa but requiring antibiotics for a foot infection was back in Leeds and putting me away in the swimming pool before the race started. Still no sign of Javier Gomez.
On the girls front Helen Jenkins did not start, choosing to return to the U.K with Olympic selection now confirmed. The other two British athletes on the Olympic team Non Stanford and Vicky Holland made their season début and gave us the first chance to see if they were going to be in the mix this year. Gwen Jorgensen wasn’t starting while Jodie Stimpson was racing for the first time since learning that she will not be going to the games unless one of the other girls breaks between now and then.
In the women’s race Flora Duffy attacked from the gun and got a gap that she held until the final kilometre of the bike. A 20km solo attack against a pack of more than 20 either tells you that Flora is absolutely nails or that the chase was weak and or lazy, I suspect it was a combination of all three. Off the bike and the gaps appeared quickly, Holland, Stanford, Stimpson, Duffy and Ann Haug (the fast German fast runner who hasn’t been making the bike pack over the last season) were actually running, the rest of the field weren’t. From that group Non seemed to shake off the field without ever really having to serge. Stimpson took second which was phenomenally impressive considering the biggest goal of her career was shot down in flames two weeks beforehand. Flora hung on for third as if to make the point that the other girls who had done nothing swim or bike weren’t running very well.
For the boys Aurellian Raphael took out the swim with his trademark 200m max effort, which even makes Richard Varga hurt but by the 750m mark Varga had worked his way through to lead first out of the water. Also in the front group was Schoeman, however an issue in transition had him heading out onto the bike 10 seconds down on a front group of 11. Connix of France was looking to showcase his domestique abilities helped Jonny Brownlee push the group. After a huge effort Schoeman bridged up to the front 11. The chase didn’t look organised without Murray or the Australians and they ended the bike with 30 seconds to make up. Mario Mola chased hard to finish in 4th, but only gained a couple of seconds on the fastest runners from the front group.
Jonny took the run out, but was quickly joined by Alazar of Spain who was putting in some big surges. At 4km one of the surges worked and Alazar moved away to take the win. Jonny held on for second and seemed happy enough considering as he had been stretchered away from the finish line two weeks ago and had a dodgy tummy. Schoeman took 6th and was left to wonder what might have happened if he hadn’t needed to make a huge effort chasing at the beginning of the bike. Varga kicked out of the final turn on the athletics track and unleashed a 100m max effort to be the third HUUBster in the top 10.
Next up is Yokohama, which will probably be a bit similar to Cape Town with a number of athletes choosing not to travel whilst a few scrap out for the final Rio slots. It will be HUUB athlete Tom Bishop’s last chance to stake a claim on the third British slot. All being well I will be racing an Ironman whilst the ITU boys are in action, so apologies in advance for the delays write up!