By Merryn Sherwood on 30/04/12 at 11:51 pm
The ITU World Cup season hits Huatulco this weekend for the fifth consecutive year. In that time, it’s become one of the athletes favourites with its tough bike course and run. Mix in some oppressive heat and Huatulco is one of the toughest stops on the ITU calendar. This year it’s the final ITU World Cup event to offer Olympic qualification points, and therefore there is plenty on the line.
Elite Women’s Preview
An intriguing women’s field will start in Huatulco, while there isn’t any ITU World Championship or World Triathlon Series winners in the field, there are two previous ITU World Cup winners, Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR) and Vendula Frintova (CZE), and a host more medallists who are after their first win. But perhaps most importantly, those Olympic qualification points are on the line.
While Gillian Sanders has secured a place for South Africa thanks to her African title, she’s one to watch for the podium after her fourth place in Ishigaki and will wear the No.1 in a World Cup race for the first time. For athletes like Yelistratova, Frintova, Line Jensen (DEN), Flora Duffy (BER), Claudia Rivas (MEX), Pamela Oliveira (BRA), Elizabeth Bravo (ECU), Agnieszka Jerzyk (POL), Fabienne Saint Louis (MRI), Mateja Simic (SLO), Margit Vanek (HUN), Lydia Waldmuller (AUT), Alexandra Razeranova (RUS), Radka Vodickova (CZE) and Katrien Verstuyft (BEL), this result could be crucial in their Olympic campaigns. All of them currently sit either just on or off the edge of Olympic qualification simulation right now, and a good result in Huatulco could help seal that berth for their National Olympic Committee (NOC). On the course that favours strong cyclists, keep an eye on Duffy, Oliveria and Simic.
This race could also have an impact on the NOCs who can send a maximum of three athletes. The seesawing battle between Switzerland and Germany for who gets that eighth and final spot will not change again, as neither Kathrin Muller or Daniela Ryf – their NOCs third-placed athletes are racing here. But the NOCs just above them could move further ahead. Currently Spain sits in sixth place, courtesy of Marina Damlaimcourt and New Zealand in seventh, with Debbie Tanner as its third athlete. While the current the difference between Dalaimcourt and Tanner is miniscule, just six points, a top 10 result for Damlaimcourt could help secure Spain’s three places as neither Tanner or Nicky Samuels will race in Huatulco. Damlaimcourt also can’t be discounted in Huatulco, it’s where she claimed her maiden World Cup medal with bronze last year.
Elite Men’s Preview
Argentina’s Gonzalo Raul Tellechea will wear the No.1 for the first time in an ITU World Cup and is in form, coming off his first career podium in Ishigaki. He put Argentina in the Olympic picture with that podium, just like Italy’s Davide Uccellari, and both are backing up in Mexico. The Mexican team at home could also be dangerous, in particular Crisanto Grajales and Arturo Garza, while Brazil is sending a strong team that includes Pan Am Games gold medallist Reinaldo Colucci and Diogo Sclebin, and it’s hard to look past Spanish veteran Ivan Rana.
But just like in the women’s, this World Cup has the chance to be a breakthrough race for athletes. Last year South Africa’s Richard Murray claimed his first World Cup podium in Huatulco, so keep an eye on fellow South African Erhard Wolfaardt to see if he can repeat it, and Bermuda’s Tyler Butterfield who is coming off his career best World Cup result in Ishigaki.
Portugal’s Bruno Pais is also one to watch on the podium, after his bronze medal here last year, while his countryman Joao Pereira is still chasing those important points to keep Portugal in with a chance to send three men. In the hotly contested race to see who can send the maximum three men to London, Ivan Vasiliev‘s incredible April has meant that Russia rocketed from ninth to fourth in the space of three weeks and New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Portugal are fighting it out to fill places sixth through eight. Both Pereira and New Zealand’s third man, Ryan Sissons, are on the start list in Huatulco and will be looking to move further ahead of Australia and Canada, who are in eighth and ninth respectively.
The racing gets underway when the women’s elite starts at 8:00am (local time) on Sunday 6 May, followed by the men’s race at 10.45am. Live timing and text updates will be available on www.triathlon.org/live, and the full wrap and video highlights will be at www.triathlon.org after the race.
Find more details about this event - 2012 Huatulco ITU Triathlon World Cup