It’s the Weekend Preview
The UK racing calendar is relatively small in volume this coming weekend for early June… but that’s primarily because we have two huge races dominating the attention this week; the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds and IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire.
Can Katie Zaferes continue her domination of the 2019 season? Can the Brownlee brothers return the Leeds podium they topped in both 2016 and 2017? Will there be a ‘Battle of the Brits’ in Staffordshire? Let’s take a look at what’s on and who to look out for this coming racing weekend…
AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds (Saturday / Sunday)
‘International’ racing starts at home on Sunday with the first of two back-to-back weeks of World Triathlon Series action in the UK. Next week it’s the Accenture World Triathlon Mixed Relay Nottingham, but first up we he head to Yorkshire…
The fourth edition of the World Triathlon Leeds returns to Roundhay Park / Millennium Square on Sunday, once again featuring both the top tier Elite ITU races on Sunday afternoon plus the British Triathlon Standard Distance Championships for Age-Group athletes on Sunday morning. Alongside those events will be a host of Tristar, Youth and Junior events, plus Go Tri, Open races and much more across a very busy weekend. Your Editor will once again be there all weekend as part of the on-site announcing and commentary team.
For the Elite, Katie Zaferes will be looking to maintain her stranglehold on the 2019 season with a fourth consecutive WTS victory – which would be a great birthday present! She finished third last year during a race in which she appeared to have been dropped multiple times, but continued to fight back for the Bronze medal. She is one seriously tough athlete and after finishing 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd over the last four WTS seasons, is looking better than ever in her goal of finally becoming ITU World Champion.
British women topped the podium last year ahead of Zaferes courtesy of Vicky Holland and Georgia Taylor-Brown. They return and will be joined by Jeesica Learmonth, Non Stanford, Jodie Stimpson and Sophie Coldwell in what looks to be a full-strength British women’s team. Given that another Brit, Beth Potter, won the ETU European Championships last weekend, that just shows the current depth in the squad.
I fully expect Learmonth, on local ground, to ensure the swim pace is full gas from the start. Zaferes will certainly go with her – probably joined by Taylor Spivey and a few others in a very select group – which will put a lot of pressure on those behind, as they seek to create an early break that is never seen again. Sophie Coldwell and Vicky Holland certainly have the potential to be part of that, so look for the first few miles of the bike to be crucial to the outcome of the race overall.
The Elite men will see both Brownlee brothers taking on a very strong entry, which includes the like of Mario Mola, Javier Gomez, Vincent Luis, Dorian Coninx, Kristian Blummenfelt, Fernando Alara, Henri Schoeman plus 2018 winner, Richard Murray.
After focussing on his longer distance ambitions (and an IRONMAN coming up in two weeks time), Alistair has safely and impressively negotiated his two ‘warm up’ races in Cagliari and Weert – but this weekend represents a significant step up in class.
That said, writing off the chances of Alistair in his home city is not something to do lightly, especially since he won in both 2016 and 2017 (and couldn’t start last year). He’ll need a strong swim – and there’s no reason to think he can’t deliver that – at which point you should be looking out for fireworks on the bike immediately!
From T1 the course goes directly up hill, where I would fully expect both Brownlee brothers to be attacking hard, VERY hard. Two years ago they produced what I still consider perhaps the best bike performance I have ever witnessed in ITU racing. Should they be able to break the field and do the same again this year, it would be a remarkable achievement.
Joining Alstair and Jonathan in British squad will be Alex Yee and Tom Bishop. Yee has had a blistering start to the season with Silver on his WTS debut in Abu Dhabi, followed up by a fifth place in Yokohama, which was only his second senior Standard distance start. Tom has finished fifth (2017) and sixth (2018) in Leeds, so has excellent previous form on this course. With all four of the British men based in Leeds, they should know the course inside out and will be putting that knowledge to good use on Saturday.
- Elite Women start at 13:06
- Elite Men start at 15:51
Garmin Challenge Herning, Denmark (Saturday)
After stunning racing last weekend in Samorin at The Championship, Challenge Family’s European season moves on to Denmark. The event is scheduled to be live-streamed on Saturday – look out for the coverage which, I think, should be appearing HERE. British interest per the start-list includes Kimberley Morrison, Sam Proctor and Sam Wade.
Pro women start = 11:20 local time (10:20 UK time)
Pro men start = 12:25 local time (11:25 UK time)
Click HERE for start list.
IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship, Cairns, Australia (Sunday)
The latest of the M-Dot full-distance Regional Championship events takes place down under, with a prize purse of $150,000 on the line – plus valuable Kona qualifying spots of course.
Braden Currie (NZL) won this race last year ahead of Javier Gomez, and then went on to fifth in Kona. He races again and will start as favourite. The Pro women’s race has some real quality in the shape of Sarah True (USA), Kaisa Sali (FIN), Sarah Crowley (AUS) and Teresa Adam (NZL).
No British Pro athletes racing, but we do know that Age-Grouper Paul Lunn has travelled to Cairns in search of a Kona slot, having recently joined the Specialized Zwift Academy Triathlon Team for 2019.
IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire (Sunday)
The M-Dot reaches the UK for the first time this year at 70.3 Staffordshire, which sees defending champions Elliot Smales and Emma Pallant return.
Also on the start list (HERE) are several athletes who have had significant success in recent weeks; Lucy Charles, Will Clarke,
Nikki Bartlett and Fenella Langridge among them. It will also be the Pro debut of Katrina Rye, who produced such a stunning Age-Group result at Challenge Gran Canaria recently. All-in-all, perhaps one of the strongest fields I remember for the event?
While Leeds and Staffordshire dominate the UK schedule this weekend, a few of the other events we’ll pick out include the very popular Cotswold 113 Middle Distance and the 30th edition of the White Oak Triathlon at Swanley Leisure Centre.
If you are racing this weekend, then good luck. Do keep your fingers crossed for the weather, as right now it looks like it might well be a touch wet in Leeds… on Saturday at least!
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