With just three races left on the 2016 calendar, the points race for World Championship crowns has heated up as the World Triathlon Series heads to Stockholm. This year the course will feature a new swim start and two transitions making for an exciting and demanding event.
Leading the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings is Gwen Jorgensen, who will sit Stockholm out, meaning compatriot Katie Zaferes has the opportunity to score some points that could narrow the gap to a World Championship title.
Zaferes has zinged through a breakout season that has included an incredible five podium finishes this year. She only needs to add a win to her CV to complete her medal haul. A win would also put her just 240 points behind Jorgensen, who has maxed out her points with five wins until the Grand Final.
Sarah True (USA) has also enjoyed a tremendous season to date, during which she has clenched her spot to the Rio 2016 Olympics and scored two top three WTS finishes. Having won in Stockholm last year, True comes to the standard-distance event in third place on the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings.
Only 41 points separate True from fourth-ranked Andrea Hewitt (NZL), who finished second to True in last year’s race. However, despite Jorgensen’s absence, the podium will be no less difficult to reach with reigning Olympic champion Nicola Spirig on the start list.
While Spirig has contested just one World Triathlon Series event this year, she’s anything but the underdog. The reigning Olympic gold medallist raced to bronze in Cape Town before earning her spot in Rio with a win at the Baku European Games. Spirig continued her European domination with a win at the European Championships, making the Swiss star one to chase this Saturday.
A sneakily challenging course lined with cobblestones, expect strong cyclists like Hewitt & Spirig to flourish, along with the likes of Pan American Games champion Barbara Riveros (CHI) and Flora Duffy (BER). Veteran Erin Densham joins a tough contingency of Australian athletes with Emma Jackson, Charlotte McShane, and the young Gillian Backhouse all expected to be in the mix.
Women’s start list
The women’s race will be contested at 12:25pm local time on Saturday, August 22. Click here for international start times.
The always impressive Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) is the man to beat in Stockholm, as are compatriots Mario Mola (ESP) and Fernando Alarza (ESP), the three of whom top the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings.
After an uncharacteristic ever so slight slow start to the year due to a sore quad, Gomez quickly recovered and was back to firing on all cylinders the rest of the season. Now down to three races to go, Gomez could become the first athlete ever to win five ITU World Championship titles – that is if his teammates don’t interrupt the historic feat.
Mola is just 331 points behind Gomez with four podium finishes to his name this season. A win would put Mola at the top of the leaderboard if Gomez doesn’t finish in the top two this weekend. Of course, stopping the reigning World Champion isn’t so easy to do but considering Stockholm is the rare WTS race Gomez has never won, history could go Mola’s way.
Aaron Royle (AUS) lines up looking more and more a threat to the podium after an impressive race in Rio that saw him secure his berth to Rio 2016. He’ll have Aussie company in Ryan Bailie, who sailed to a career-WTS high fourth-place finish in London and earned himself a reputation as a tough athlete after continuing to flourish in Rio despite having flipped over the course barrier on his bike.
While Vincent Luis is off the start list in Stockholm, France is emerging as the latest nation to rival the Brits and Spaniards. There will be no shortage of French talent in Stockholm come Sunday in Anthony Pujades, Aurelien Raphael and Simon Viain. All three men will likely emerge from the wetsuit-required water out front, along with the Russian team and South African Henri Schoeman. Their challenge, of course, will be holding off speedy runners such as Mola, Joao Pereira and Joao Silva.
Men’s start list
The men’s race will be contested at 15:36pm local time on Saturday, August 23.
Follow the races with live timing at triathlon.org and on twitter @triathlonlive.