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Road to Paris 2024: More Olympic triathlon clues, including can anybody beat Yee and the big Blummenfelt question

Mark Allen provides the expert analysis on a terrific men's race at WTCS Cagliari, and looks ahead to how it impacts the big dance in France.

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With just over two months to show time for the Olympic Games triathlon in Paris, this past weekend’s race at WTCS Cagliari narrowed the options of how the men’s event can be won. It’s not really a question of who, as the favourites have mostly presented themselves. But more “how”.

So without further ado, time to reflect on what we learned from a thrilling showdown in Sardinia as we plot a path to the big dance in France in just a couple of months.

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It ALL starts with a swim

Pre-race favourites Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde have both added swim focus to their regimen. Both got a passing grade here. Wilde commented in his Instagram post that he was super happy with the results of all his hard work in the water. Yee’s deficit at the end of the swim was a scant 13 seconds off the lead, which is slightly less than half his average of around 30 seconds.

Wearing #1, Morgan Pearson also showed force in the rough seas off Sardinia, leading at points and coming out just 4 seconds off the swim leaders.

My Predictions: Unless someone completely misreads the water flow in the Seine and drifts to the wrong side of the current, it’s going to be game on right from T1.

Hayden Wilde World Triathlon Championship Finals Abu Dhabi 2022
Hayden Wilde was super-happy with his swim in Cagliari (Photo – World Triathlon).
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U-turns neutralise bike breaks

Several times during the cycling leg, the lead pack started to splinter. Wilde instigated a lot of that, but it never held. Each time the pack came around to the U-turn, the gaps closed and the pack reformed.

My Predictions: There will be attempts to make the lead pack less of a family affair in Paris. No one wants to come into T2 with Yee or Wilde in tow. But for the tactic to work, the gap will need to be big enough that the slowdown at the top of the ChampsÉlysées U-turn won’t allow the group to reform. That means, put the heat on right after that top turn and use the entire lap to build a significant break away gap.

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The Yee factor, and can you beat him?

Everyone can be beaten, but some make that task pretty tough. Alex Yee is top of that list. Hayden Wilde tried as he surged on the bike, over and over. Yee covered and then stayed under cover in the lead pack, only pulling the train a handful of times. Wilde tried on the run. Yee covered and sat behind from time to time. Yes, he led, but he was also happy to bide his time in the slipstream of Wilde.

Then off an insanely fast pace that not even Wilde could go with, Yee accelerated with calculated precision to take the win.

Alex Yee, Hayden Wilde WTCS Cagliari 2024 finish
Alex Yee was peerless again in Cagliari (Photo Credit: Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon).

My Prediction: Yee wins gold…unless someone outsmarts him. That means if it’s your intention to gap Yee, regardless of where it is in the race, you have to make the gap stick. You gapping and Yee covering only does one thing. It makes you more tired with less reserves available when the British star finally plays his cards, and it then becomes your turn to cover. You don’t just sort of soften Alex Yee up with a number of surges. You get one, maybe two big chances, and if those don’t work? Well, then you had better have upped your ability to sprint off world-class running paces!

The two who might be able to do that?  One is Wilde. He showed he can gap Yee on the bike. He did it in Cagliari, but unfortunately was stuck with another Brit who was of no help to keep the gap open. The other is Pearson, who gapped Yee in the early part of the run in the Paris Test Event last summer until he had some structural struggles and had to back off his pace. But at the moment, Yee is holding all the aces.

Big Blummenfelt question remains

He finished in 10th two weeks ago in Yokohama. Blu was not happy. He had a wheel change this past weekend in Cagliari. He finished 31st. I doubt that did anything to alleviate the sting of Yokohama.

During his early-season prep, his coach Olav Aleksander Bu posted that Kristian’s training numbers were off-the-charts good. We haven’t seen that manifest in an off-the-charts race performance yet.

Some are asking if maybe the couple of years he spent focused on long-distance racing after his gold-winning race in Tokyo has taken something out of him that he’ll never get back for the Olympic distance. It’s a valid question. He was 9th in Paris last summer, visibly struggling on the run, which as we all know is likely the key to victory this year. His run split in Cagliari was 1:21 slower than Yee’s, although not an apples-to-apples comparison.

But the man who clearly can suffer more than just about anyone in the field has yet to put a stamp on any performance in the Olympic racing since his return to the distance.

My Prediction: If Bu can give Kristian the right mix of hard training and world-class recovery, I think we are going to see an emotionally driven different race from Kristian in Paris. You don’t just post the best training numbers of your life without there being the possibility of posting the best racing of your life. It’s going to be a matter of if this winning coach/athlete duo can find the missing link that will uncork another medal-worthy performance by the time we hit Paris.

Kristian Blummenfelt Paris Test Event [Photo credit: World Triathlon / Wagner Araujo]
Can Blummenfelt produce one more incredible short-course performance? (Photo credit: World Triathlon / Wagner Araujo)
Mark Allen
Written by
Mark Allen
Mark Allen has to be in any conversation about the greatest triathlete of all time. A six-time IRONMAN World Champion, he won every other title that mattered in the sport and dominated like few others
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