The battle for the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series is back as the world’s best triathletes prepare to hit the first European stop and second stop overall, Madrid.
Madrid has long been a fixture on the ITU circuit, first as a World Cup and now has been part of the first two seasons of the Dextro Energy Triathlon Series. In the last two years, Alistair Brownlee (GBR) has dominated the men’s races, keeping Javier Gomez (ESP) off the top podium spot in his home country. While Nicola Spirig (SUI) and Andrea Hewitt (NZL) have claimed the women’s titles the past two years.
This year, the world’s best are back to race in picturesque Casa de Campo park in central Madrid. Here is a look at the contenders for the second round of the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series.
This season was expected to be a battle between ITU World Champions Gomez and Brownlee and it almost materialised in Sydney before Brownlee slipped in the run on a rain soaked Sydney course, and it was his younger brother Jonathan Brownlee who went on to claim second behind the Spaniard.
But that simply means both have even more to race for in Madrid. Gomez is a multiple Madrid World Cup winner, but since the introduction of the Dextro Energy Triathlon Series he hasn’t been able to win the Spanish leg because Alistair Brownlee has dominated in Madrid. Gomez’s form in Sydney was stunning, he crashed on the bike, finished the last 10km by himself and then recorded the fastest run split of the day to catch and then overtake the pack. Afterwards the two-time ITU World Champion said it was one of the toughest wins of his career. But Alistair Brownlee will no doubt be keen to get some more points on the board after that unfortunate spill cost him in the season opener and he is currently the Madrid master.
It would be a mistake to ignore the Brownlee who is currently sitting second in the series rankings though. Last season Jonathan showed signs he might match his big brother’s impressive record, taking a podium place in London, the Under 23 World Championships and the inaugural ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championship. Another good result here could set him up for a breakthrough season in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series.
In the rest of the field, Courtney Atkinson (AUS) has claimed silver in both the 2009 and 2010 Madrid races, but don’t be surprised if rising star Brendan Sexton (AUS) turns out to be the Australian to watch. Sexton has been on fire in the beginning of 2011, with a silver in Mooloolaba, fourth in Sydney and then a win in Monterrey - his first World Cup gold.
Others to watch for include American veteran Hunter Kemper, who claimed his first World Cup win since 2005 in Ishigaki and backed that up with a bronze in Monterrey, Sydney Olympic gold medallist Simon Whitfield making his 2011 season debut and 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno, who turned with the leaders in Sydney’s T2 but recorded a run split of 34:22 to finish 45th. Others who will be pushing for the top-10 are Sven Riederer (SUI), who finished third in Sydney, Frederic Belaubre (FRA), a Madrid World Cup winner who claimed his first World Cup medal since 2007 in Monterrey and Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS).
Also look out for the two newest World Cup medallists, Artem Parienko (RUS) and Marek Jaskolka (POL), who both climbed on to ITU podiums for the first time over the last two months. Jaskolka’s bronze was also an important part of ITU history - the first World Cup medal for Poland.
Canadian Paula Findlay confirmed that her 2010 season wasn’t a fluke when she blitzed the field, even with only one contact lens for most of it, in the first round in Sydney. Wearing the number one for the first time, the 22-year old deserves to be considered the favourite again even though it’s her first Madrid race. However, she hadn’t competed in Sydney before running away from Chilean Barbara Riveros Diaz and New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt to win in the season opener.
If Findlay can’t keep up with her current record, which is three wins out of her four last Dextro Energy Triathlon Series races, Riveros Diaz and Hewitt are first in line to knock her off. After Sydney, Riveros Diaz continued her great start to the 2011 season with a World Cup win in Ishigaki, adding to her bronze at the Mooloolaba World Cup and then silver in Sydney. Hewitt is a previous Madrid winner, beating Lisa Norden (SWE) and Jessica Harrison (FRA) in 2009.
What could - and very possibly will - change the podium in Madrid is the Australian women. In their home event in Sydney, reigning Olympic champion Emma Snowsill was behind from the swim and never in contention while reigning ITU World Champion Emma Moffatt faded in the run to finish 13th. It only takes a glance at their resumes to see they are capable of much better and both will surely be keen to earn some points in Madrid. It’s the first time both Snowsill and Moffatt will race the Madrid leg of the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series.
Other likely podium contenders are Great Britain’s Helen Jenkins, who claimed third in Madrid in 2010 but had an unlucky day in Sydney with a bike crash, Laura Bennett (USA), who had a strong race in Sydney, Harrison and Norden. American Sarah Haskins is sure to have a spring in her step after claiming her first career World Cup win a few weeks ago in Monterrey, Mexico
Last year’s champion Nicola Spirig (SUI) will not be back to defend the title she won, as she tries to overcome an injury which also kept her out of the Sydney race.
The 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Madrid round officially gets underway when the men’s race starts at 10am (local time) on Saturday June 4. The women’s race starts at 2:30pm on Sunday June 5. 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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