Leeds for the fourth leg of the WTS
Opportunity knocks for women stars of triathlon at WTS Leeds
by Doug Gray
The fourth stop of the 2018 World Triathlon Series sees the top world athletes traveling over to England for the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds, an event that has become a classic for triathletes.
This season the elites will once again be treated to a unique and technical standard-distance course experience that will take them through the countryside before finishing in the city centre, where thousands of fans are expected to line the venue to create an alive atmosphere.
Credit - ITU
The fourth stop of the 2018 World Triathlon Series sees the sport’s top athletes return to England for the AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds, an event that in just two years has become a genuine classic on the circuit, loved by the athletes and spectators alike. With the reigning two-time World Champion and winner in Leeds last year Flora Duffy missing through injury, the battle to become the new Series leader is sure to be fierce.
The Olympic-distance course features a two-lap swim section outside the city limits in Roundhay Park, before a point-to-point bike through the countryside becomes a tight and technical, 7-lap urban test for the riders. Off the bikes and through the second transition, the run features many of the same tight turns and a gentle hill, with the four laps reaching coming to an end in Millennium Square.
Currently enjoying some of the best form of her career, USA’s Katie Zaferes will go into the race wearing the coveted number one. Top-ranked in Leeds in the absence of Flora Duffy, Zaferes has racked up 13 podium finishes in her 33 career starts and will look to seize this opportunity to record her second top-spot on the podium.
Zaferes spearheads a strong USA team that can count on rising star Kirsten Kasper as well as the experienced figures of Taylor Spivey, Summer Cook, Chelsea Burns and Taylor Knibb. The Americans emerged victorious from Thursday’s thrilling Mixed Relay World Series opener in Nottingham, and the mood in the camp will have been sky high during the short trip up the motorway to Leeds.
Equally, the British squad has impressive strength in depth, even without including the 75,000-strong crowd cheering them along the route. Vicky Holland made the podium here two years ago finishing in third place, and a recent silver in Bermuda will have been a huge boost heading in to her home WTS. Local girl Jessica Learmonth, the gutsy Non Stanford and experienced Jodie Stimpson all have the ability to deliver a medal-winning show for the fans.
Germany’s Laura Lindemann made the podium last year in Hamburg and has been top 10 twice already this season, while the Japan pair of Yuko Takahashi and Yuka Sato – having finished 5th and 7th respectively in Yokohama – will be looking for a springboard to a strong second half of 2018. Equally keen to push on from early success is Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer, who earned her first ever WTS win in the Abu Dhabi season opener.
Also taking to the podium will be New Zealand’s Andrew Hewitt and Ai Ueda of Japan, both of whom have 60 WTS starts in their illustrious careers to date, Hewitt securing a medal in one third of those races. Italy’s Alice Betto and Australians Ashleigh Gentle and Natalie Van Coevorden will also be keen for another visit to the famous WTS podium.
WTS Leeds ready to crown a new men's champion
by Doug Gray
Once again the fourth stop on the year’s World Triathlon Series sees the Yorkshire city of Leeds, England open its arms to the elite men triathletes. The 2018 edition may only be the third time that WTS has been staged in this part of the world, but the combination of a uniquely challenging course and the Brownlee-infused triathlon mania that has gripped the city since London 2012, have already made it a firm favourite.
It is a scenic, two-part Olympic-distance course that begins out in Roundhay Park for the swim section on Waterloo Lake, before wide open countryside becomes the backdrop for the first half of the bike ride. The course heads anti-clockwise around Leeds and on through Headingley, before entering the city centre from the west for a tight, technical 7-lap loop. Finally, the 10km run takes the athletes around Milennium Square and east along The Headrow four times, before reaching its finale in front of what will be another packed WTS Leeds grandstand.
Wearing the number one will be Spain’s Mario Mola, winner in Yokohama, second in Abu Dhabi and fourth-placed in Bermuda. The 28-year-old put in one of the best swims of his career to collect his third successive gold in Japan, and will know he is more than capable of making up any gap that the stronger swimmers might be able to carve out in Waterloo Lake.
Finishing second in Yokohama was Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle, who will be eager to build on his four second-placed WTS finishes to date. Teammate Aaron Royle finished third here two years ago, and after a blistering leg in the WTS Nottingham Mixed Relay World Series on Thursday, the Aussie, who considers Leeds his second home, will be primed for another big performance in the north of England.
This is, of course, Brownlee country, however, and having placed behind his brother in the two previous editions, Jonathan Brownlee will be looking to take centre stage with Alistair on the sidelines. The strength of the field and with his brother’s influence gone, the pressure will be on Jonny to deliver a golden display for the crowds.
The strong South Africans Henri Schoeman and Richard Murray can never be ruled out either, and Schoeman will be looking to resuscitate the spirit of his Commonwealth Games victory to kick-start this 2018 WTS campaign. Both have two wins in the Series to date, and would relish the chance to make it a hat-trick here, while Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk has the form to score his first WTS podium.
Two rounds ago in Bermuda, it was the Norwegians who were grabbing all the headlines, collectively devouring the challenge that ten climbs of Corkscrew Hill presented to sweep the podium. Casper Stornes was the man who finished first, but second-placed Kristian Blummenfelt will be desperate to make up for his disappointment in Yokohama, and will have taken much from his win in the tropics.
France also put in a strong relay showing in Nottingham, with Pierre le Corre impressive in his leg and Leo Bergere putting in a stirring finale to earn the team bronze. The experienced Vincent Luis and Dorian Coninx will complete the French presence on the Roundhay Park pontoon.