Leeds World Triathlon Series marks the halfway point in the season and this year features some of the biggest names in ITU from the last decade.
The men's race sees a return to the circuit of Alistair Brownlee, along with Jonny the pair put on a show of pure dominance in 2017 and sailed to a 1-2 victory. In the women's race, it is hard to look past Katie Zaferes, who has won the last three WTS races. However the Brits have always raced well at the UK round of the series, HUUB's trio of Jessica Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Sophie Coldwell will have eyes firmly on the podium.
MenThe series is well and truly wide open with athletes ranked outside of the top ten still with a shout of claiming the World title come September. Favourites for the weekend have to be HUUB's Alistair and Jonny Brownlee (GBR) who sailed to 1-2 victories in 2016 and 2017. Last year Alistair was absent, and Jonny succumbed to illness, so with both of them fit and healthy they will almost certainly feature. Fellow HUUB and GB athlete Tom Bishop has had a run of good form in Leeds with a 5th and 6th place finish in the last two years but will be looking for the podium this time around.
Vincent Luis (FRA) heads into the weekend leading the world rankings and looks like the in-form athlete, however, he will be pushed by 5-time World Champion Javier Gomez who's had a seamless return to short course racing.
Recent HUUB signing Alex Yee (GBR) will also be back in action after bursting onto the scene in Abu Dhabi with a 2nd place finish in his debut WTS. He is comfortably the quickest athlete on two feet, and he will be relishing a chance to take over the race from the front. Add in current World Champion Mario Mola (ESP), Commonwealth Champion Henri Schoeman (RSA) as well as Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), and last years winner Richard Murray (RSA) along with a whole host of others, this year's race is likely to be one to remember!
WomenThere is a very good chance we will see another battle between the British and American athletes. In the Yokohama round of the WTS, we saw an American 1-2-3 with Katie Zaferes leading the way. However, with the British athletes looking to impress on home soil, the chances of a repeat will be slim. In 2018 Vicky Holland (GBR) stormed to victory with HUUB's Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) in second place, followed by Zaferes. With all three back in action it's expected we'll see another hard-fought battle for the win.
The race has the potential to unfold in two very different ways, and this will largely be determined by the survival of the breakaway. Athletes such and Zaferes and HUUB's Jessica Learmonth (GBR) and Sophie Coldwell (GBR) always capitalise on such moves, and many of their victories are the result of a successful break. Athletes such as Non-Stanford (GBR), Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) and Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) will be hoping they can bring back the break or at minimum hold the gap. Holland and Taylor-Brown are in the precarious position of arguably being in the middle if they lose the feet of the front group in the water, then the first 10km into town will be an interesting affair as we see the packs establish themselves before the race hits the technical loop around the city centre. All is certainly to play for!