The second stop of the ITU World Triathlon Series touches down in Auckland this Sunday, which includes a roster of the highest star-studded potential all vying to take home the next circuit title in the season’s first standard distance race of the year. The world’s finest will battle it out on a choppy two-lap harbour swim, hilly eight-lap bike and finish it off with a four-lap run course.
With a blowout finish, the defending World Champion Gwen Jorgensen (USA) secured the first 2015 WTS win in Abu Dhabi.
After being down nearly a minute, the top runner showcased her foot-to-pavement skills and made up the time to secure the gold-medal finish and reaffirm herself as the one to chase.
Jorgensen claimed success with the same strategy in Auckland in 2012 when she came from behind to run herself into silver medal position. But last year’s race told a different story when she got caught up in a bike crash and finished 12th – the only time she didn’t finish on the WTS podium last year.
The Americans are on a hot streak right now, having finished 1-2 in the rankings last year, and having started out the 2015 season in the same way. With Katie Zaferes and Sarah True on the start list, expect some red, white, and blue on the podium.
Joining the lineup is New Zealand’s own Andrea Hewitt, whose cycling skills will serve her well on this leg-burning course. While Hewitt has yet to step on the podium in Auckland at a WTS race, she picked up a win in the race when it was a World Cup in 2011. A strong cyclist well suited for the leg-burning course, Hewitt’s run appears more on point than ever after she posted the third-fastest run split of the day in Abu Dhabi.
But it’s Germany’s Anne Haug who knows true success in Auckland, having collected two gold and a silver medal here. Despite a disappointing 2014 season, as one of the strongest bikers on the Series, Haug knows how to handle the hilly bike course. Haug and Hewitt will have company on the bike with equally impressive riders Olympic silver medallist Lisa Norden and Flora Duffy toeing the line. If these ladies get away on the bike, it will be tough to reel them in.
Women’s start list
The men’s race will come with much anticipation as four of the top-ten ranked athletes are set to compete.
Mario Mola (ESP) will wear the No. 1 uniform on Sunday after an impressive and explosive start to the WTS circuit in Abu Dhabi. Holding steady in a three-man pack going into the final lap of the run, Mola recorded the fastest 5km run split time in the history of the WTS to break away and claim his second Series title.
Although he only saw a sixth-place finish in Abu Dhabi, the defending world-champion Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) will be back in Auckland looking to earn his first Series title of the season. He will also be stepping up to the New Zealand start line as the reigning WTS Auckland champion three years over.
He and Mola will have strong help from their compatriots, with the Spanish team featuring a full squad of six men on the starting line. Four of those six are also ranked in the top 10 making them a danger bunch of competitors.
Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) and Joao Silva (POR) are also set to headline the Auckland stop over. The Brit has finished second to Gomez on two occasions and his fifth-place in Abu Dhabi will have him gunning for gold.
Portugal’s Silva was back to stunning form in Abu Dhabi when he ran ahead of both Gomez and Brownlee at the end of the 5km sprint. He, like Mola, Gomez and Brownlee, is also a previous Auckland medallist having finished third in 2013.
Image Credit: ITU/Janos Schmidt