By Merryn Sherwood on 04/04/11 at 1:19 am
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A preview of the upcoming season opener in Sydney
The battle for the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series officially starts in Sydney this weekend.
It’s set to be a show-stopper as almost all of the top 20 triathletes in the world will line up on the starting grid. All but one of the men and women who made up the top-10 in last year’s final world rankings are on the start lists in Australia’s Harbour City, as well as last year’s winners Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile and Bevan Docherty of New Zealand. But who will come away with the spoils over the beautiful course that takes in some of Sydney’s best tourist spots, a swim start in farm cove before bike and run laps encircling the world-famous opera house? Here is a look at the contenders.
Elite Women Preview
All eyes are set to be on Emma Snowsill as the Beijing Olympic champion makes her 2011 debut. Snowsill pulled out of the first ITU Triathlon World Cup of the season in Mooloolaba two weeks ago as a precautionary measure. Sydney will be the first race since she decimated the field at the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Grand Final in Budapest last year. Snowsill’s 2010 season was littered with injury, putting her out of contention for the overall title, but this year she trained off-season in South Africa and will be after her place in history. Snowsill already has three ITU world titles, no other woman has more than two, but could make it four.
Two-time reigning world champion Emma Moffatt certainly has enough motivation to power to the top of the podium though, despite winning the 2009 and 2010 Dextro Energy Triathlon Series, she’s just missed out on opening rounds. In 2009 she finished second to Snowsill and last year in Sydney, was beaten to the line in a sprint by Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz and New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt.
The Chilean star is back again with an aim to defend her title and she will be in the mix on the course she had her breakthrough victory, along with other top-10 athletes including Hewitt, Mariko Adachi, Lisa Norden, Laura Bennett, Vicky Holland, Kate Roberts, and Helen Jenkins.
The other in that top-10, and the one who could to do the most damage to the title hopes of others, is Paula Findlay. The young Canadian only made the jump to Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series late last year, but finished with two round wins in Kitzbühel and London – the only female to win more than one round last year. That catapulted her to a fifth-place finish overall, despite only racing in three rounds, London, Kitzbühel and the Budapest Grand Final. This year she is involved from the start and is a real contender for that world title if she can show the same form as last summer.
Mooloolaba World Cup winner Nicky Samuels is also in the field, and the confidence she gained from that win could be enough to propel her up the finishing-order. The only woman from last year’s top-10 not racing in Sydney will be Swiss superstar Nicola Spirig, last year’s Dextro Energy Triathlon Series runner-up. Spirig has pulled out with a shin injury.
Elite Men Preview
It’s a ten out of ten in the men’s field, with each of the top-10 men from last year’s World Series on the Sydney start list. It’s also the first time since last year’s Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Grand Final Budapest that Javier Gomez, Alistair Brownlee and Jan Frodeno will meet. In that race, Frodeno was in contention for the podium but finished a disappointing 41st, missing the podium for the second straight season. It’s always an intriguing battle between the 2010 world champion, 2009 world champion and 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medallist, and it’s also rare to have it so early in the season.
Reigning World Champion Gomez has already started his 2011 triathlon season in Australia, at the Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup, but didn’t quite sweep the field like most were predicting and finished fifth. Instead Brad Kahlefeldt led rising Australian Brendan Sexton and Frenchman David Hauss to the line. Sven Riederer and Courtney Atkinson also raced in Mooloolaba, and it will be interesting to see whether those that did will be better for the hit-out or are outpaced by fresh legs. For Hauss, it could have only increased his confidence in Australia, he made it onto the podium in the Sydney race last year.
While Frodeno might be the German that still grabs all the headlines, Steffen Justus is not to be forgotten. In 2010 he quietly went about collecting enough podium places to be the runner-up to Gomez in the Dextro Energy Triathlon Series. While the series is all about consistency, Justus is yet to win a race title and will be keen to break through in Sydney. Russia’s Alexander Brukhankov is in a similar situation, last year he finished eighth in the overall rankings but is yet to win a race. Brukhankov’s best place finish in a Dextro Energy Triathlon Series race is second, but that did come in last year’s Sydney race.
As well as those established names, there are also two young guns that can’t be discounted in the opening round, Jonathan Brownlee and Joao Silva. Both had breakthrough seasons last year, Silva finished fourth in Budapest to rocket to fifth in the overall rankings. The younger Brownlee meanwhile, finished second in London, won the first men’s ITU Sprint Distance World Championships in history and the 2010 ITU Triathlon Under23 World Championships.
The men’s field runs so deep though that there is a host of contenders even outside that top ten. Bevan Docherty, the two-time Olympic medallist who has become something of an opening-round specialist in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series so far. Docherty won the first race in history, in 2009 in Tongyeong in South Korea, and then beat Brukhankov to the line in Sydney last year. Great Britain’s Stuart Hayes is already a race winner, having triumphed in Kitzbühel last year while New Zealand’s Kris Gemmell is a multiple ITU Triathlon World Cup winner.
The 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series officially gets underway when the women’s race starts at 11.30am (local time) on Sunday April 10. The men’s race starts at 2.15pm. Follow every movement live through Triathlon’s live online TV feed, or through live audio and text updates. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/triathlonlive.
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