This weekend feels like the 2022 triathlon season is well underway, with major races all over the world. Last weekend saw the start of the ETU season in Quarteria, where HUUB's Beth Potter (GBR) claimed victory in the women's race and Daniel Dixon (GBR) claimed Bronze in the men's event. This weekend features Challenge Salou and Oceanside 70.3, where we have Alistair Brownlee (GBR) back on a triathlon start line after surgery and a long layout from the sport.
With triathlon stardom on the rise and rivalries blossoming, whether fictionalised or not, the sport seems to have taken a step towards a public desire for action and intrigue. There will be those who thrive off such frivolities and those who get their head down and let the racing do the 'smack talk'. Nevertheless, this season is possibly one of the most anticipated in recent years. The strength and depth from ITU through to long distance is staggering, and there will be no surprise to see start list after start list, featuring not just one or two favourites but a roster of athletes with the capabilities to win.
Arguably the most competitive race this side of the St George Ironman World Championships, it presents itself as a great tune-up for May. Flavour of the month Sam Long is scheduled to race, and his victories early on in 2022 potentially put him as the one to beat, but he is yet to face the likes of Jan Frodeno (GER), Gustav Iden (NOR) and a returning Alistair Brownlee. Alistair has been relatively quiet on his form, but social media suggests he has been putting in the work, and a fit Alistair, as we have come accustomed to, is tough to beat. With some major aims on the horizon, including St. George and Sub7, we can expect to see Alistair approaching his best.
Lionel Sanders (CAN), a fan's favourite known for his gutsy performance, will be an athlete to watch, especially as he progresses through the bike leg. Sanders could play a key role in the dynamic of racing; he often forms a pathway to the front of the race as he drags athletes in his wake. However, with an increasing emphasis on the gains to be made on the bike, Sanders may find it increasingly difficult to make the same inroads he once used to. Add into that a fast swim guaranteed by the presence of Brownlee and Andy Potts (USA). Other notable names to watch out for include Rudy Von Berg (USA), Ben Kanute (USA), Matt Hanson (USA), Sam Appleton (AUS) and HUUB'S David McNamee (GBR).
The women's race sees an eagerly awaited rematch between Taylor Knibb (USA) and Daniela Ryf (SUI), who last raced at The Collins's Cup. The young American surprised the triathlon world when she took on and beat Ryf, who had established herself as one of, if not the best long-distance female of all time. Ryf held the world's number one position between 2015 and 2020 and claimed several World titles during that time. Recently she has faced competition from Lucy Charles (GBR) and Anne Haug (GER), but now others are stepping up to the challenge. Other contenders this weekend include Paula Findlay (CAN), Holly Lawrence (GBR), Chelsea Sodaro (USA), and former ITU athlete Ashleigh Gentle (AUS). HUUB's Ruth Astle (GBR) will also be looking to build on some great performances at the end of 2022.
Anne Haug headlines Challenge Salou as she comes off a 2nd place finish at Lanzarote 70.3. Haug has long been considered one to watch as she transitioned from ITU racing to long distance, and in 2019 she claimed her maiden victory at the Kona Ironman World Championships. Last year she also destroyed the record books and the entire field at Challenge Roth! This year we are likely to see more blistering performances. Others to watch out for include Lisa Norden (SWE), Fenella Langridge (GBR), India Lee (GBR), and HUUB'S Zsanett Bragmayer (HUN), who makes her long course racing debut.
Vincent Luis (FRA) shares the headline for the men's field, and the French superstar only has a couple of long course races under his belt. However, a nasty-looking crash and an unfortunate drafting penalty meant we may not have seen his full potential. His style of racing and ability puts him with the likes of Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), Gustav Iden (NOR), Marten Van Riel (BEL), and Jonny Brownlee (GBR) as long course stars of the now and very near future. This weekend Luis will face regulars on the long course circuit, including Kristian Hogenhaug (DEN), the top-ranked athlete heading into the race, as well as compatriots Sam Laidlow (FRA) and Denis Chevrot (FRA). HUUB's Elliot Smales (GBR) will also be up there trying to get his season underway.
Both races are hotly contested, even with Ironman South Africa also taking place this weekend. We are used to seeing a gradual return to racing for many, with start lists building throughout the season, but perhaps augmented by the lack of racing due to Covid, 2022 seems to be starting with a bang!