The final sprint race of the 2016 World Triathlon Series takes place this weekend at Edmonton. As the penultimate WTS race before the Grand Final in Cozumel, athletes are in the hunt for as many points as possible to increase their chances of being crowned World Champions.
The men’s field boasts soaring talents from all across the board. Leading the start list is Spaniard Mario Mola. Mola has nearly held onto the Columbia Threadneedle leaders trophy for the entire season, only stepping down to second to his fellow compatriot Fernando Alarza for a brief time.
So far this year, he has earned titles in Abu Dhabi, Gold Coast and Yokohama, then once again in Hamburg. The bronze medallist in Edmonton last year, Mola stands to win his first World Championship title this year with a 390-point lead with just two races left in the season. Adding to his chances of earning the world crown is the fact that compatriot Alarza, who is second in the Columbia Threadneedle rankings, will sit out Edmonton.
Sunday will see only half of the Brownlee brothers compete with only Jonathan Brownlee making the trip to Canada. Racing Edmonton for the first time since the 2014 Grand Final, Jonny is entering the weekend on a career high. Fresh out of Rio, he took home the silver medal just behind his older brother Alistair. He also collected a handful of WTS podiums earlier in the season. He was second in Cape Town, Leeds and Stockholm and then third in the Gold Coast.
Although he’s third in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings, he looms 928 points behind Mola. However, Mola can only marginally improve his points if he places higher than fourth, which would replace his score from Cape Town. In contract, the younger Brownlee has only raced four WTS events this year, meaning he stands to massively improve his scoring. A win would boost him 800 points, putting him just 128 points behind Mola heading into the Grand Final if Mola finishes fourth or below in Edmonton. Mola’s effort, then, will need to be concentrated on beating Brownlee in Edmonton and getting on the podium.
France’s Pierre Le Corre joined Jonny on the WTS podium in Stockholm when he came in third this year. His consistency in the Series has been paying off as he is fourth in the rankings, so if he is able to do well this weekend, he will enter Cozumel as the highest ranked Frenchman. Like Jonny, he has only raced four WTS events this year, and stands to improve his score significantly this Sunday.
Last year’s Edmonton champion, Richard Murray (RSA), will be toeing the line this Sunday. He started the WTS season with a silver medal in Abu Dhabi, and while he just missed out on one in Hamburg after facing a disqualification, he is back and ready to collect another medal. He also will be coming off a very strong competition in Rio. He produced the fastest 10 kilometre run split time, which was fast enough to come from more than two minutes down to earn fourth place proving he is very much in form.
Just like he has for the entire year, Richard Varga (SVK) can be expected to be first out of the water. He continues to be one of the strongest swimmers in the field and was the swim leader in Rio.
The other two men on the start list that have seen WTS success this year is Mexico’s Cristanto Grajales and Aussie Aaron Royle. Grajales stepped onto his first-career podium this year when he was second in Yokohama. He also finished 12th in the Olympics. Similarly, Royle earned bronze in Leeds and had an incredible ninth-place finish in Rio. But look out for the young Jacob Birtwhistle. While he missed out on Rio, the young gun is showing his rising talent, having made it on the podium in Hamburg, which was also a sprint race.
Canada always has a strong showing of support when it comes to the crowds, so no doubt the local scene will be cheering for one of its own. Matt Sharpe is one of the strongest Canadians to race this weekend, having earned his first-ever World Cup silver medal in Montreal in August.
The women will get the ITU World Triathlon Edmonton underway at 12:00 on Sunday September 4, while the men will follow at 14:00 local time. Follow all of the action live at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter @triathlonlive. Trifecta is here this year with new features. Create a new login and pick your favourites now at trifecta.usatriathlon.org.
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