The World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) is finally back on our screens this weekend after a long absence. With restrictions still in place for several nations, some athletes have not been able to race since the end of 2019.
The event has great significance with Olympic qualifying starting this weekend. As the Olympics are taking place in Tokyo this year, it is a great opportunity for athletes to familiarise themselves with the same conditions and setup of what they expect to see later in the year.
Ever increasingly Vincent Luis (FRA) is becoming the athlete to beat. He is undefeated in his last five races and is defending World champion from 2019 and 2020. However, the impressive line-up of athletes this weekend will provide his biggest challenge since he earned his maiden World Championship. The current strength and depth in men’s WTS racing is exemplified by the number of athletes who have won medals in recent years, and depending on how the race unfolds, a third of the field have a realistic chance of achieving a top 5.
HUUB are well represented with of the likes of double Olympic medallist and previous World Champion Jonny Brownlee (GBR), Rio 2016 Bronze medallist and Commonwealth Champion Henri Schoeman (RSA). Also likely to feature are Alex Yee (GBR), Tom Bishop (GBR) and new 2021 signing Jelle Geens (BEL).
Mario Mola (ESP) has been the most successful athlete of the modern era on this course; however, with his selection for Tokyo 2021 confirmed, his decision to sit out this edition looks to be a tactical one. In the past, this race has been won on the run leg, but the ‘breakaway’ has become increasingly effective, and a number of the fastest runners have been forced to run up from a deficit off the bike. This race could go any way on the fast and technical course as all athletes will be giving their all in preparation for the Olympic Games.
The women’s race is equally as wide open as the men’s, with perhaps the one athlete edging it as a favourite, Katie Zaferes (USA), who has made it onto the podium in the last three editions with a win last time out at Yokohama. However, it is her compatriot Summer Rappaport who has already gained Olympic selection, and a strong line-up of American athletes will all be vying for a return to Japan in a few months time.
In recent seasons it has often been a battle between the British and American women for the podium spots. However, with all three Team GB spots in the women’s team decided, Jess Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Vicky Holland have decided to sit out this round of the WTS to put themselves in the best position come the Olympic Games. That is not to say anyone racing this weekend is at a disadvantage, but each athlete will have a preferable build up. Flying the British flag is Sophie Coldwell, Non-Stanford and HUUB athlete Beth Potter.
A lot of attention has built up around Beth Potter over the last 12 months. Recently she won the London leg of the SLT games and ran a World best time of 14.41 for 5km, putting her amongst the best runners in the World. She has grown from strength to strength in recent years and is the current European Champion. Her form has come a little too late for an Olympic spot, but she has not ruled out trying to qualify in running whilst still competing on the World stage for Triathlon. Potter is certainly an outside shot for the win, even more so if she hits the 10km run in the front pack!
Other athletes to look out for include Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), Joanna Brown (CAN) and HUUB athlete Laura Lindeman (GER), the young German athlete in recent years has proved she has what it takes to take on the best in the World.