After a two-year Covid-induced hiatus from Leeds, the World Triathlon Championship Series returns to Roundhay Park, albeit on an altered course staying away from the city centre, the races are set to be as challenging as ever. With time running out on the Olympic qualifying period there will be a big emphasis for some athletes this weekend as they try and move as high up the rankings as possible. For others, this is a chance to kick off 2021 and prepare for the summer games. The star-studded line-up will certainly provide some entertainment as many of the World’s best athletes descend on the UK stop of the WTCS.
This race is going to be an interesting affair. There are athletes present who already have their Olympic spot confirmed, to them this race is purely another one in the calendar, of minimal importance and pressure as WTCS races go. However, for some, this weekend will determine their Olympic future. The most eagerly anticipated selection battle is between two top-performing females in recent years; Katie Zaferes (USA) and Taylor Spivey (USA). With two members already selected to the US women’s team, there is only one spot remaining for two athletes who have helped define a generation of racing.
HUUB are well represented this Sunday with multiple World Series medallist Jessica Learmonth (GBR), running sensation and European Champion Beth Potter (GBR), Laura Lindemann (GER), Amelie Kretz (CAN) and WTCS debutant Sian Rainsley (GBR). Also to add delight for Triathlon fans around the world, we will see Flora Duffy back racing, which is always an indication that we will see some fireworks on the bike. To the surprise of many, long-distance star Lucy Charles-Barclay also features on the start list. This will captivate long and short-distance fans, besides Cameron Wurf competing in a World Cup a few years ago this is the first time we have seen a serious contender, that is new to that format of racing, step down to race on the ITU circuit.
There are similar battles in the men’s race this weekend, with many countries set to announce selections from the results of this race. The battles between nations for Olympic spots are just as pivotal as the battles between the athletes for those spots. Team GB is in the balance in terms of earning a third ticket to Tokyo, with HUUB’s Tom Bishop (GBR) hovering just outside the top 30 - however, with a number of strong performances at his home race and the first British athlete back at the last two editions, Bishop can take great confidence from that leading into Sunday.
Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and HUUB’s Jelle Geens (BEL) go in as possible favourites after their podium performances at Yokohama, but, you can expect the ever-present Vincent Luis (FRA) to be in the hunt to claim back his number one spot. The City of Leeds will be buzzing to welcome the Brownlee Brothers back to their favourite race. The pair have shown flawless performances here in the past and Jonny Brownlee’s (GBR) outing in Sardina last weekend gave hope to many that the form that took them to gold and silver at Rio 2016 isn’t a thing of the past. Also out to impress with an Olympic selection in the balance is Alex Yee (GBR), you would be hard-pressed to bet against the HUUB athlete getting a slot at Tokyo, especially if he was to achieve a podium finish this weekend backed up with a fourth-place at Yokohama WTCS last month, and when you consider he is the fastest runner in the sport.
The start lists feature athletes that have shaped the sport over the last two decades, from the likes of Javier Gomez, who is looking to write the wrongs of 2016, and the Brownlee Brothers, to the new wave of triathletes that are knocking on the heels of their hero’s. This weekend is set to be one thrilling encounter!