With just a week between the London and Yokohama legs of the Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship Series, the athletes will have to overcome jetlag and the change in conditions as they traverse the globe to Japan this weekend.
With major developments in ITU racing over the past two weeks, a crashed Gomez in London; a charging Swiss and German team; an injury stricken Australia top four of Moffatt, Snowsill, Kahlefeldt and Atkinson; Fernandes out of contention and an on form Norden, Yokohama will be a stellar set up for the Grand Final in three weeks time. Vital points are on the line in a tight race to be named triathlon’s world champion.
Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig will go into the women’s race as the hot favourite following her win in London as she continues her late season charge. The Swiss star is enjoying a brilliant year with a European championship title, a second place finish in Kitzbühel and a win last weekend in London to her name. Her compatriot and fellow biking powerhouse Daniela Ryf is also one to watch out for as the under 23 world champion continues a good run of form, including bronze medals in both Washington DC and Hamburg.
Sweden’s Lisa Norden goes in search of her first win of the year following second places in Madrid, Hamburg and London. The ITU Sport Development athlete lies second in the series rankings behind Australia’s Emma Moffatt, so a good result in Yokohama could set her up nicely for the series Grand Final on the Gold Coast in three weeks time.
Other contenders include home favourite Juri Ide, North Americans Sarah Haskins and Kirsten Sweetland as well as the strong Kiwi duo of Andrea Hewitt and Debbie Tanner. Hewitt slipped down the standings last weekend in London, but a strong finish in Yokohama will keep her in the top three ranking positions heading to the Gold Coast.
In the men’s event, with Britain’s Alistair Brownlee maxing out his Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship Ranking points with his fourth win of the year in London, the rest of the men’s competition have some serious catching up to do in Yokohama.
Reigning world champion Javier Gomez is Brownlee’s main threat as the series heads towards the Grand Final, however a crash on the bike in London left the Spaniard with road rash to his back making him a question mark for this weekend.
London bronze medallist Kris Gemmell from New Zealand is one of the athletes racing back to back weekends as the Kiwi returns to form following a mixed year. He will be joined on the start pontoon by Tongyeong winner and compatriot Bevan Docherty who will be well rested having sat out of last weekend’s race.
Jarrod Shoemaker from the USA made an early exit in London with a puncture on the bike, but the Hamburg winner has shown real class this year and will be the man to beat should he start the run at the head of the race.
One man with an exceptional history of competing in Japan is Australia’s Courtney Atkinson who has won the Ishigaki World Cup a record five times. The man from Down Under has enjoyed a good year with second place in Madrid, however a stomach problem acquired after Kitzbühel kept him hospitalised, although a seventh place finish in London will give him hope for Yokohama.
One man that can not be forgotten is Olympic champion Jan Frodeno, who returns to action having missed London. The Beijing star has been consistent throughout 2009, but is yet to win a world series race. Fellow German Maik Petzold also heads to Japan with his sights on retaining his second place standing for Gold Coast. They will be joined by 2007 world champion and new father Daniel Unger, who is always a threat for the podium.
Yokohama is the seventh leg of the Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship Series, and with just the Grand Final on Australia’s Gold Coast to go, we will know the rankings heading into the biggest race of the year.
An online free live broadcast at www.triathlon.org/tv will begin at 10:00am local time (GMT+9) on Saturday for the women and same time on Sunday for the men.
Photo: Delly Carr