WTS Montreal: 5 things we learnt
With USA’s Katie Zafares returning to the top of the podium, Jelle Geens a surprise winner and a revised schedule to beat an electrical storm, what other insights did we gain from a hectic fifth round of the 2019 World Triathlon Series in Canada.
1. Only Taylor-Brown can stop Zafares: Few would begrudge the genial American a world title, especially after running Vicky Holland so close in 2018. And after her fourth win in five starts it looks – provided she stays fit to the finish of the Grand Final – that Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown is the only triathlete with a chance of toppling her. A Taylor-Brown triumph is the longest of shots, though. Her best route would be to win in both Hamburg and Edmonton to reduce the deficit to 286 points ahead of Lausanne’s finale. Another win in the Swiss resort would then gain an extra 1,250 points, but that would still only be enough if Zafares slipped as low as fifth – something that has only happened once to the 30-year-old in her last 12 races.
2. Men’s WTS racing has never been more unpredictable: Few would have picked Belgian Jelle Geens to take the tape ahead of world champion Mario Mola, but it's symptomatic of how the season has played out. There have been five different winners in five races and 13 different names (but no Brownlees) sharing a possible 15 podium spots. Who will win in another sprint contest next weekend in Hamburg is anyone’s guess. Leading us on to our next point…
3. Men’s world title will be a straight shootout in Lausanne: It’s good news for those who have long-argued the world champion should be the one who performs best on a given day, because with just two events to go before the Grand Final, it looks likely that whoever crosses the line first in Switzerland – barring a Brownlee cameo – will have done enough to claim Mola’s title. And despite three poor races, this means not discounting the Spaniard himself.
4. ITU needs to green-up its schedule: There has no doubt been logistical challenges that we’re not privy to, but an eight-event World Triathlon Series that goes from the Middle East to North America, to the Far East, to Europe, back to North America, then back to Europe, then back to North America again, and then returning to Europe, cannot be good for either the athletes or their carbon footprints. And remember, while there’s some option to pick and choose, triathletes can only afford to miss two races before they are ruled out of contention for the world title.
5. The Olympic test event damages the series: Choosing to prioritise between the Tokyo test event or maximising their chances in the WTS should not be a compromise that triathletes needed to make. Although confirmed after the WTS calendar was published, the test event should be part of the series, as it was in London 2011. Instead it has led to big names opting out of races such as Montreal because they don’t want to undermine their Olympic prep or qualification chances.