By Doug Gray on 01/03/19 at 10:57 am
On the afternoon of Friday 8 March, the world’s top triathletes will launch into the waters of Yas Marina to get WTS Abu Dhabi and the 2019 World Triathlon Series season underway. Defending their world titles, Mario Mola (ESP) and Vicky Holland (GBR) will be among the big names on the start lists, behind them a wealth of talent and experience looking to put their off-season training to work and make the necessary adjustments from last year’s campaign to challenge for the most coveted prize in the sport. Eight races, one Grand Final, pure entertainment, and all the action can be watched as it happens on TriathlonLive.tv. Here’s what is coming up…
WTS Abu Dhabi: 8 March
An untimely rainstorm caused the athletes added difficulties on an already challenging Abu Dhabi F1 circuit course 12 months ago, but that did nothing to hamper a remarkable charge from Henri Schoeman who took to the front early on in the swim and never relinquished his grip on the sprint-distance race. The very first women’s WTS Abu Dhabi podium five years ago was a who’s who of world-class talent starring Gwen Jorgensen (USA), Katie Zaferes (USA) and Flora Duffy (BER). Since then, the rapid course has been conquered by Jodie Stimpson (GBR), Andrea Hewitt (NZL) and most recently Rachel Klamer, and the unpredictability of the season opener will make it an another unmissable occasion as WTS 2019 gets underway.
WTS Bermuda: 27 April
A deceptively gruelling standard-distance Bermuda course made its WTS debut last year, in which the 1.5km Hamilton Harbour swim gives way to 10 circuits of a testing bike featuring a climb of the notorious Corkscrew Hill on each lap. It was hometown hero Flora Duffy who delivered the goods in 2018, leading out of the water all the way to the line to the delight of her fans, a supreme performance that she will be hoping to repeat this time around. It was here, too, that the Norwegian trio of Stornes, Blummenfelt and Iden surprised everyone to sweep the podium in grand style, Stornes’ own display on the 40km bike one of the finest anywhere in 2018.
WTS Yokohama: 18 May
The compact, urban Yokohama course has been a thorough examination of the world’s best triathletes since 2009, a straightforward two laps of the city harbour leading up to nine rounds of technical cycling. The snaking circuit has swallowed up athletes through its tight hairpins and s-bends in the past, although the mighty Mario Mola has rarely put a foot wrong here, winning the last three outings in comprehensive style. Among the women, Flora Duffy has been equally in control for the past two years, victory on both occasions consigning Katie Zaferes to the silver.
WTS Leeds: 9 June
Since 2016, the second weekend of June has become WTS Leeds weekend, the Yorkshire city giving itself over fully to the spectacle of triathlon and a love affair with the sport that was kick-started by local heroes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee and shows no sign of abating. It is a fast, 12km point-to-point cycle that follows the 1.5km Roundhay Park swim, through Leeds’ outlying suburbs and onto the compact city centre circuit, with seven fly-pasts of the grandstands outside the Town Hall. It is a course on which the Brits have traditionally thrived, Vicky Holland and Georgia Taylor-Brown delivering a GB one-two in 2018, the Brownlee brothers doing likewise in 2016 and 2017, before Richard Murray’s imperious display won his first standard-distance WTS gold last year.
WTS Montreal: 29 June
The athletes makes their first trip to Canada a little earlier this year for the third WTS Montreal. A new-look sprint-distance course will see the swim start in the park gardens on the east of the island, the athletes exiting onto the Quay for transition and embarking on a 5-lap bike route towards downtown looping around Victoria Square. The 2-lap run starts and ends on the quay after passing through the gardens and taking in a short city stretch, exactly the kind of territory where Mario Mola chased down a minute gap in the rain to deliver a brilliant gold and Vicky Holland boosted her World title credentials last year.
WTS Hamburg: 6 July
The German city of Hamburg made its WTS debut in 2015 and has been a centre point of the season ever since, the Elite racing and Mixed Relay World Championships providing a feast for triathlon lovers and a unique sprint-distance course for the athletes. The swim once again includes a disarming 40m tunnel section, leading into a flat, technically demanding 6-lap bike full of twists and turns around three sides of the Binnenalster waters before the 2-lap run wraps things up in front of the imposing Rathaus. It was there that Cassandre Beaugrand of France finally delivered her first WTS gold last year and Katie Zaferes and Flora Duffy have also thrived, while Mario Mola has a trio of wins to his name and the powerful Jacob Birtwhistle and Vincent Luis have found podium success.
WTS Edmonton: 20 July
The final race before the 2019 Grand Final will take place on the very same course as the 2020 season finale, and with a few tweaks to the layout ahead of that prestigious occasion, WTS Edmonton could once again be the perfect set-up for a nail-biting end to the year. Unlike the 2020 Grand Final, however, this year’s race will be a sprint-distance affair, and it is another city that holds fond memories for Mola but also Flora Duffy and Vicky Holland, and the battle for ranking points will once again be fierce.
World Triathlon Grand Final Lausanne: 31 August
The Swiss city of Lausanne holds a long relationship with triathlon, and it returned to the World Cup circuit in 2018 in anticipation of hosting this year’s Grand Final. The course remains the same, and is set to offer another brilliant examination of the world’s best as they battle it out one last time for the title of World Champion. Diving into Lake Geneva for a 2-lap, 1.5km swim, the athletes face a tough bike route where the climbs offer up opportunities as well as challenges. It was here that home favourite Nicola Spirig shone in the 2018 World Cup, and it is here that the names of the 2019 ITU World Champions will be confirmed.