Who will win the men’s 2023 World Triathlon world title?

Alex Yee is hoping to become the first British man to win the World Series in over a decade and is in pole position heading into the final race in Pontevedra. Here's how the title run-in could be decided…

Alex Yee celebrates after winning the Paris Olympics triathlon test event

When Alex Yee headed to Abu Dhabi for the 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series finale, he knew he needed a slip-up from New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde to land a first world title. This time the Londoner has it all in his own hands.

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In a dramatic finish last November in the Middle East, Wilde opened the door by finishing sixth, but Yee could only place fourth, meaning the opportunity was instead seized by France’s Leo Bergere, who not only won his first World Triathlon Championship Series race but also the overall crown.

As they line up in Pontevedra 10 months on, the 25-year-old Yee will be determined that this time nothing is left to chance.

What does Alex Yee have to do to win the world title?

Predictably, Wilde is once again his closest challenger, although the Kiwi suffered a setback with a bike crash prior to the Paris test event last month that meant he pulled out on the run. It leaves Yee top-ranked heading into the decider.

Of four counting races leading into the final round, Yee (3,498pts) has wins in Abu Dhabi, Cagliari and the Olympic test event in Paris to his name. Wilde (3,441pts) has victories in Yokohama and Hamburg, leaving him 57pts behind in the standings.

It means that as long as the pair finish on the podium, which Yee has managed in every WTCS race this season, it is winner-takes-all.

Can anyone stop Yee and Wilde winning the world title?

Dorian Coninx of France and Vasco Vilaça of Portugal fight for second place at the Paris Olympics Test Event on 18 August, 2023
Vasco Vilaça, seen here on the right in a sprint for second at the Paris Olympics Test Event, could take a surprise first world title in Pontevedra. (Credit: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

If both Olympic silver medallist Yee and Olympic bronze medallist Wilde stumble, then Vasco Vilaça is best placed to take advantage.

The 23-year-old Portuguese has yet to win a WTCS race, but has been a model of consistency throughout the season, with three runner-ups spots and a third. He also finished second to Vincent Luis in what became a default World Championship decider in Hamburg in 2020.

If Vilaça wins he would need to see Yee off the podium and Wilde finish no better than third to land an unlikely world title.

Bergere’s chances of retaining his crown are even slimmer. The fourth-ranked Frenchman would need to see the three above him falter significantly with Yee and Wilde finishing as low as seventh and eighth, and Vilaça also off the rostrum.

Just as 2022 until the dramatic final twist, the eight-event 2023 series has been dominated by Yee and Wilde. The pair have won five races between them, with only Australia’s Matt Hauser in Montreal and Pierre Le Corre in Sunderland sharing the top step on the podium. Hauser sits in sixth in the standings with Le Corre in eighth.

The only other athletes who could have a say, although it would demand a bizarre twist of fate, are France’s Dorian Coninx and 2021 world champion Kristian Blummenfelt.

Coninx lies fifth and the Norwegian, making his return to short-course racing after a focus on Ironman and PTO events, has had four top 10s with a best of fourth place in Hamburg.

Which other Brits are racing in Pontevedra?

GB's Barclay Izzard finishing a career-best eighth at the 2023 WTCS Sunderland in July
GB’s Barclay Izzard finished a career-best eighth at the 2023 WTCS Sunderland in July. (Credit: George Wood/Getty Images)

While Yee attempts to become the first male GB triathlete since Jonny Brownlee in 2012 to win the series, he’ll line up alongside three other GB triathletes in Pontevedra.

These include Brownlee, who after a disrupted season and disappointing outing in the Paris test event, looked to be finding form in the recent Super League Triathlon rounds in London and Toulouse.

Brownlee has only competed three times in WTCS racing this season, but will be more focused on boosting his Olympic ranking from 37th.

Barclay Izzard will have a similar objective. Izzard has impressed in 2023, with an eighth place in Sunderland WTCS his best result, but a strong showing in Spain could help move him up from his current Olympic ranking of 33rd.

Both men will be looking to finish in the top 30 of the Olympic rankings to guarantee Team GB three slots for the individual race in Paris.

The other Brit on the start-list is Max Stapley, who is now clear to compete for GB after switching allegiance from Australia. Stapley made his WTCS debut in Sunderland and last month finished second in a World Cup in South Korea.

How might it play out in Pontevedra?

Despite formats ranging from standard distance to sprint to super sprint elimination races, if both Yee and Wilde have been on the start-line, the 2023 season has typically come down to a run battle between the pair.

This seems largely because unlike in years past where a strong group of swim-bikers often led out by Richard Varga or Henri Schoeman in the swim, and driven by the Brownlee brothers and Spain’s Javier Gomez on the bike have forced a breakaway, the current field looks much more closely matched.

But while a break on the bike might seem unlikely, it should not be ruled out entirely. If the contenders for the overall title start to mark one another, there could be the opportunity for any of the 66-strong field to get away over the 40km bike leg and give themselves a buffer for the 10km run.

And because several nations are also using the event as a qualification race for next year’s Paris Olympics, some athletes might also be playing tactical hands to either try to secure a top-eight finish or be the leading athlete from their own nation.

Who to watch in the men’s paratriathlon in Pontevedra?

Just as with the able-bodied triathletes, there is a dual incentive for many of the paratriathletes competing in Pontevedra on Saturday – a shot at a world title and a step to ensuring selection for next year’s Paralympics in Paris.

In the PTVI division, Britain’s Dave Ellis, with his established guide Luke Pollard, lead the way. The two suffered a heartbreaking mechanical to end their chances in the Tokyo Games, but as reigning world and Commonwealth champions start as firm favourites over the sprint distance course.

USA’s Owen Cravens and Kyle Coon could be the closest rivals, along with European champion Antoine Perel and home favourite Hector Catala Laparra in a 16-strong field that shows how the strength of the event is growing.

Having twice been on the podium this year, Michael Salisbury flies the Union flag in the PTS5 class, but the favourites will be Germany’s two-time Paratriathlon champion Martin Schulz, Canada’s defending world champion Stefan Daniel and USA’s Chris Hammer, who was in superb form to win last month’s Paris test event.

GB’s Finlay Jakes lines up as the youngest competitor in the PTS4 division, but it will be one of the day’s biggest shocks if anyone can take down France’s Alexis Hanquinquant, who hasn’t been beaten in individual competition for four years.

The home crowd will be hoping for success in the PTS3 class where four-time world champion Daniel Molina and team-mate Kini Carrasco start among the favourites. In the PTS2 race, France’s Jules is looking for a fourth straight world title and to banish memories of a disappointing test event where he slipped to an uncharacteristic fourth place.

FInally, the wheelchair division provides another chance for Dutch superstar Jetze Plat to extend his winning run. Long-time team-mate Geert Schipper got within a minute of Plat in Paris last month, but it would be a seismic shock if anyone could end the 32-year-old’s eight-year undefeated streak. Josh Landmann goes for Britain. HIs best result this year was a third-place in a World Cup in another city in Galicia, A Coruna in July.

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Top image credit: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images