Mike Cavendish says the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) race in Leeds will prove vital for Team GB’s Olympic preparations.
Cavendish, who is British Triathlon’s Performance Director, outlined how his team can make the most of home advantage at the AJ Bell-sponsored event on June 11-12.
The race in Leeds’ Roundhay Park is the first WTCS event of the qualifying window for Paris 2024 and will provide a particular focus for Team GB’s mixed relay preparations.
Cavendish said: “Being at home is critical for a number of reasons, compared to being overseas.
“We’re able to have more staff, we can test things without having to worry about the impact of travel and it’s nice to have full crowds cheering.
“We’ll have more staff on a course that we know in Roundhay Park, which is a massive advantage compared to travelling to a course that we don’t know or don’t know as well.
“We’ve never had a relay in Leeds, but we can take away some of the unknown as we know the venue really well.”
Team GB won relay gold at the Tokyo Olympics last year and defending that title remains a major focus.
The Montreal WTCS race on June 25-26 will enable teams to qualify relay spots for Paris 2024, so coming just two weeks beforehand, the Leeds event will be something of a dress rehearsal.
Cavendish said: “The relay element is the big one for us from a strategic perspective this year.
“Montreal is the standout relay race of the year because we can qualify a team spot in Paris but having the opportunity to test and dry-run in the build-up to Montreal and over the next few years into Paris is hugely important.”
Cavendish added: “Having a home race is critical at this part of the Olympic cycle.
“It’s the very start of the qualification period for the Games and it’s the first relay for us of the cycle, which is even more important than previously because of the switched order to go male-female-male-female.
“We’re reigning Olympic gold medalists in relay, so we know we’re the hunted, plus, having the change in order, everything is new. To have relay on a home circuit and be able to test everything in an environment we know with the support around us gives a massive foot up in preparing over the three years to Paris.”
Cavendish also believes having a relay event in Leeds will continue to raise triathlon’s profile as a spectator sport.
He said: “I remember coming back from Tokyo and, whilst we did really well in the individual races, all anyone wanted to talk about was the relay.
“One thing I’ve learned in sport is that you’ve got to capitalise on that interest and that conversation, so to have a relay at what I think is the best organised and supported race on the World Triathlon Championship Series calendar is massive for us.
“I don’t think you can overstate the importance of the weekend and how it’s got the potential to push on the exposure triathlon got in Tokyo to the next level.”
The Leeds event will also see age-group and mass races, enabling all levels of triathlete to sample a world-class course.
Cavendish said: “The events team have worked really hard to bring the pathway to Leeds as well.
“We’ve got nearly every stage of the pathway represented in the weekend, so a young kid doing their first triathlon can do it at the same location and cross the same finish line as the Olympians who they can stay around and watch.
“It’s one of the few places where you can genuinely do that in any sport and it’s all in the same place.
“I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of home racing both from a performance perspective and from a pathway and exposure perspective.”
The elite races will be broadcast on the BBC as part of its deal to show the WTCS in 2022.