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© Delly Carr / ITU Media / triathlon.org
WTS London Men: why and what to watch
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Wednesday 28th May 2014


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Are you ready for Saturday? If you are a triathlon fan, at 2.30pm this Saturday, 31st May 2014 you really must make sure you are watching the men's race at the 2014 PruHealth ITU World Triathlon London.

Lots of factors have come together to make this, potentially, one of the most explosive and eagerly anticipated races for many years. The days of the 'wet runner' are gone in men's ITU racing - this should be around 50 minutes of high octane action from the moment the hooter sounds and the athletes dive in to the Serpentine.

Tri247 Editor John Levison looks at the key factors likely to make this race so interesting, with yet another blue carpet sprint finish a strong possibility.


1. Yokohama

Much, quite rightly, was written after the last WTS event two weeks ago in Japan. It's even been suggested I 'cursed' the result personally after writing this article!! Has the 'big three' become the 'big five'?

There were some key outcomes from that race:

  • Jonathan Brownlee not on the podium for the first time since Athlone European Champs 2010. A run of almost 50 races broken.
  • The first WTS event that both Brownlee's have raced and neither made the podium.
  • Mario Mola, came close - but not quite - to being the first athlete to defeat Alistair, Jonathan and Javier Gomez in the same race.
  • Mario and Richard Murray will have gained great confidence from starting the run with, and finishing ahead of, both Jonathan and Alistair for the first time in their WTS careers.

Yokohama 2014 ©Delly Carr / triathlon.org

All that said, I read many comments suggesting it was the 'changing of the guard', that things had 'moved on' and that one raced proved that the Brownlee's were no longer a factor. Well, to that I'd respectfuly suggest that you are welcome to your opinion, even if it is wrong! As for the young guns taking over... Jonathan is the youngest of the top five finishers from Japan. Mola and Murray were brilliant - and Javier Gomez out of this world - but it is a little early to be writing the sporting obituaries of two Yorkshire brothers who between them have won more than 50% of all WTS races that have been held...

©Delly Carr / triathlon.org

2. The 'Ben Ainslie' Effect?

Having written the Federer/Nadal/Djokovic analogy of Gomez/Brownlee/Brownlee, following Yokohama I'm reminded of this piece of footage from the London 2012 Olympics of the (now) Sir Ben Ainslie, who went on to win his fourth consecutive Olympic Sailing Gold medal, and then the America's Cup...

Alistair Brownlee is a pretty relaxed guy - but in sporting sense, he's got an ego, and a bloody huge one at that. And truly, I mean that as a compliment - it has what has made him, without question, the fastest exponent of triathlon racing we have ever seen. Quite simply, take every 'great' from history, line them up on their best day over 1.5/40/10 and Alistair Brownlee's 'best' wins. Every time.

Make no mistake, getting on an aeroplane back from Japan to UK, thoughts of "not a great day, but I'm happy with fourth and it was a solid performance and I'll take the positives from it, I'm content to be back in one piece" will not have been going through his head. He will have been seriously pi**ed off, and dare I say perhaps a little embarrassed. Alistair Brownlee doesn't regard fourth place as his territory. As the ever percetive Chris McCormack told me over three years ago:

"he's got a bit of mongrel in him, he's aggressive in the pack, he backs himself - jeez mate, I'm a HUGE fan. Him and his brother. I love seeing the mongrel in him, I just love what he's doing, his no fear racing - he's taking on this Gomez and...he's taking him on! He's not holding back, he's not being defensive and he seems like a nice kid."

Will he be able to channel that aggression in the right way this weekend? A call to Ben Ainslie on how do do it might not be a bad idea...

©Delly Carr / triathlon.org

3. London

The fact that the next stop on the circuit is London could not have been better scripted. Until the World Series moves to Leeds, London is the 'home' race of the Brownlee brothers. Alistair has won three times in Hyde Park. Jonathan has finished second, third, third, second over the last four seasons. While all of the athletes will be familiar with the venue, everything about the last two weeks will be completely 'at home' for the brothers - hotel, travel, food, timings, location, everything. Add in a home crowd and previous success....

Javier Gomez will be quite content too. The World Duathlon Championships is taking place in his home town of Pontevedra this weekend, yet he has still chosen to be in London rather than add yet another title to his CV. After a crash in 2009, winner in 2010, fourth in 2011, second in 2012 (Olympics) and winner of the 2013 Grand Final means that Hyde Park is also a home-from-home for Javier Gomez too.

©Delly Carr / triathlon.org

4. Sprint Distance

For the first time in London, this Saturday's event will be over the Sprint rather than Standard distance. The achilles heel of Mario Mola and Richard Murray has been their swim, and getting into the lead pack on the bike in order to deliver their superb running speed. That said, in Mooloolaba and New Plymouth World Cup races this season (both won by Mola, while Murray was second in Mooloolaba), that was not an issue. If the Brownlee-Gomez combo want to leave Mola-Murray behind in the water, they only have just over eight minutes to make it happen.

Mario Mola, Richard Murray ©Delly Carr / triathlon.org

5. Richard Varga returns

Slovakia's Richard Varga leads practically ever swim leg he races. A training partner of the Brownlee brothers, it is a relationship that has benefitted both sides, as Varga has been steadily developing his overall triathlon skills and has several WTS top-10 finishes of his own. Along with Henri Schoeman (RSA) and a few others, he'll ensure the pace is 'full-gas' from the very start. Will it be enough to distance the Joel Filliol trained Mola-Murray duo however?

Richard Varga, Tom Davison ©Delly Carr / triathlon.org

6. No Tom Davison

Kiwi Tom Davison has been a saviour to many athletes not in the 'first swim pack' this season. A superb cyclist, his ability to almost singlehandedly drag the chase group back up to the leaders on the bike was a key element to the success of Mola and Murray in Yokohama. The New Zealand men are not racing this weekend in London - something many athletes will be very sorry to hear. As it is 'just' Sprint distance, will his absence be significant though? For those that don't make the lead swim pack, quite probably.

FULL MEN'S START LIST

Whatever happens, when the men's race starts at 2.30pm this Saturday, 31st May 2014 - make sure you are watching.

©Delly Carr / triathlon.org


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