The World Triathlon Series heads to Europe this weekend for the second annual Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds event. After debuting on the calendar last year, WTS Leeds quickly became one of most buzzworthy events of the circuit as fans crowd the streets from start to finish to watch the world’s top triathletes compete.
This season the elites will once again be treated to a unique and technical standard-distance course experience that will take them through the countryside before finishing in the city centre, where thousands of fans are expected to line the venue to create an alive atmosphere.
Spain’s Fernando Alarza has earned the right to wear the golden number one this weekend and lead off the men’s start list. In the first three WTS events of the season he has finished in the top four in every single one, making the podium in the Gold Coast and Yokohama. His abilities in the swim and bike and increasing speed on the run has catapulted him to be one of the top Spanish men in the field, even beating out veteran Javier Gomez Noya in a sprint in Gold Coast. This weekend could be the event that gives Alarza his first WTS gold of the season.
Henri Schoeman (RSA) is eager to land on the WTS podium. After his standout performances last year, his intentions for this 2017 season has been to keep up the momentum. In WTS Yokohama he just missed out on a medal in the final kilometres of the race and finished fourth. And while he has a couple ITU World Cup podiums under his belt this season, he will not stop until he steps up in the WTS.
Fans lucky enough to watch the race in person will have the great excitement of seeing the return of both Brownlee brothers competing together for the first time this year. After last season and winning Olympic gold, older brother Alistair Brownlee has devoted his time to competing on the longer distance course. But when the WTS returns to the city that started his triathlon career, he has no choice but to sign up. Jonathan Brownlee on the other hand has set his sights on winning the world title at the end of the year. However, after missing Abu Dhabi and Gold Coast and then an unfortunate bike crash left him with a finish of 42nd place in Yokohama, every race counts now for points and he can’t afford another race mishap.
The Brownlees are not the only Brits that the local fans will be cheering on this Sunday. Tom Bishop debuted on his first WTS podium in Abu Dhabi earlier this year and is really impressive in his running abilities.
Frenchman Vincent Luis will toe the line this weekend for the second time this season. He took a long break from the WTS during his Olympic preparation, and finally returned to the circuit in Abu Dhabi where he earned the bronze. We have not seen him since, so it will be exciting to see him race once again in Leeds.
One man who is returning to the WTS for the first time in 2017 is Aussie Aaron Royle. The 2016 WTS Leeds bronze medallist has been sidelined from competing due to a foot injury, but is back and ready to get back into the action.
Other men that could cause some damage this Sunday are Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt and Denmark’s Andreas Schilling. Blummenfelt had an impressive performance in Yokohama when he earned the bronze medal after a come from behind sprint landed him the final spot on the podium. His endurance is evident out on the course. Schilling is waiting to make it onto his first WTS podium, but the way he aggressively performs on the bike, that could be only a matter of time.
The women will get the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Leeds underway at 13:00 on Sunday, June 11, while the men will follow right after at 15:45 local time. Follow all of the action live at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter @triathlonlive.
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