Great Britain triathlete Tom Bishop is backing team-mate Alex Yee to make a big impact when the hastily arranged ITU World Championship takes place in Hamburg on Saturday evening.
Bishop, who is currently training in France, won’t be competing after he called time on his own season in July amid uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the Derby triathlete believes 22-year-old Yee, who is one of five British men on the start-list, has the ability to deliver over the sprint distance in northern Germany..
“I really want Alex to do well,” Bishop says. “I’ve spent a lot of time training with him the past couple of years. He crashed last year and had a disappointing race. I’d like to see him come back and nail it.”
The venue has moved 10km north from its traditional city centre location to Lake Stadtpark, but the 750m swim and 20km cycle leg over a flat six-lap course should still make it hard for athletes to break away on the bike – and that could play to Yee’s strengths.
Originally from south London, but now training in Leeds, he showed his form by clocking a speedy 13:26 to finish runner-up in a 5km road race in Barrowford in Lancashire earlier this month – the second fastest British time recorded in a road race.
GB triathletes Ben Dijkstra, Jonny Brownlee and Grant Sheldon all also ran under 14mins, and Brownlee and Sheldon join him on the start-list in Hamburg.
Yee’s best performance on the World Series was also over the sprint distance, in Abu Dhabi at the start of 2019, when he finished runner-up to Mario Mola, the three-time Spanish world champion, who’ll be among the favourites again on Saturday.
Bishop’s backing is magnanimous given the two are in competition, along with both Brownlee brothers, for three Olympic spots in the rearranged Games in Tokyo next summer.
Britain’s men have currently only secured two places, but with 2020 thrown into disarray by Covid-19, the ITU have suspended handing out qualifying points for races. Barring a second wave of the virus, the criteria is expected to resume from the start of 2021.
Bishop also thinks designating the race in Hamburg as a world championship is a mistake – especially at such short notice.
Edmonton in Canada was the original venue for the World Triathlon Series Grand Final, but that was cancelled in April. Last Tuesday, the ITU announced scheduled events in Bermuda and Montreal would also not take place and Hamburg would effectively be a one-race shootout for the world titles.
“It’s great that the ITU have managed to put on a world class standard race but I disagree that it should have been labelled a world champs,” Bishop says. “Lots of nations cannot access the race or have to face quarantine getting there or back.
“There’s also a level of fairness to consider. Some nations have been able to access training a lot easier than others. It’ll be something that gets plenty of interest and I’m glad a race is back on, but I’m not convinced labelling it a world champs is the best thing to do.”
His consternation is echoed from other nations whose athletes have either been unable to prepare properly or send their athletes at all due to travel restrictions. Australian, New Zealand and Canadian triathletes are among the major forces who’ll be absent.
Despite the late decision, the event will still boast strong fields in both the men’s and women’s competitions. Reigning world champions Vincent Luis and Katie Zafares will be action, with the latter having to face a formidable British women’s line-up.
It consists of world-ranked No 2 Jess Learmonth, who won the recent Super League Triathlon Arena Games event in Rotterdam, world No 3 Georgia Taylor-Brown, plus European champion Beth Potter and 2018 world champion, Vicky Holland.
Bishop is particularly interested to see how Rio Olympic bronze medallist Holland performs. “She was in really good shape at the start of the year, with her run [to victory] in Mooloolaba, and has been quiet, which is often quite good for Vicky. She just works hard, and might just remind everyone that she won the world champs two years ago.”
As for his own racing agenda, Bishop, who is currently in Annecy, has no regrets about keeping his powder dry until 2021.
“I made a decision in July to not race this year,” Bishop says. “I felt I wasn’t training for anything and decided to call it a season. I’ve enjoyed the summer a bit more and started to build towards next year.”
He’s also turned his attention to launching a new coaching business, 99Triathlon, with fellow triathletes, twin brother David and long-time friend Josh Daniels.
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