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© Janos M. Schmidt / triathlon.org
A New World Order?
Posted by: TriJuggo
Posted on: Tuesday 24th March 2015


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This coming weekend will see Auckland, New Zealand host round two of the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series. Round one in Abu Dhabi saw both Jonathan Brownlee and Javier Gomez off the podium, with Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee back home injured.

Alex Juggins takes a look at what the results from Abu Dhabi mean for the men's ITU racing, welcoming the additional drama and competition that lies ahead for the rest of the 2015 season. Is it a new world order? It may be a little early to write off the old favourites just yet...


A New World Order In Men's ITU Racing?

A debut race in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago marked the start of the 2015 World Triathlon Series and, some might say, it also signified a changing of the guard at the top of men's short course triathlon. The precocious trio of Mario Mola (ESP), Vincent Luis (FRA) and Richard Murray (RSA) occupied the podium ahead of the usual suspects -with Jonathan Brownlee 5th and Javier Gomez 6th.

Abu Dhabi 2015 - ©Janos M. Schmidt / triathlon.org

All three of these men, Mola in particular, have been knocking on the door for some time now and have previously managed to spoil the Brownlee and Gomez party (such as London 2014), so this recent result came as no huge surprise. But the manner in which these three broke away from the field on the run in Abu Dhabi, putting a significant chunk of time into the chase bunch (which included a host of big names), was hugely impressive and no doubt raised a few eyebrows. Personally, I welcome this shake-up of the men's triathlon scene, even if it does mean that the brothers Brownlee enjoy less podium time.

Abu Dhabi 2015 - ©Janos M. Schmidt / triathlon.org

To me, it seems that men's triathlon is undergoing a transformation and renaissance similar to that seen in the tennis world over the past decade [Ed - revisit this tennis analogy from my 2014 piece HERE). Roger Federer had set the bar so incredibly high that his young, hungry pursuers had to take their game and physicality to previously unseen levels in order to match and then surpass the Swiss master. Similarly, the Brownlees and Javier Gomez have had such a stranglehold on the ITU series for so long, and have won races is such dominant fashion, that the rest of the triathlon world has had no choice but to go back to the drawing board and come up with a fresh approach.

Now, hopeful international triathletes know that they will have to be able to swim comfortably in the front pack; cycle with the best and be prepared to work hard on the bike; and then run close to 29 mins for 10k if they want to be in with a sniff of the podium. It's a harsh environment where only the most talented and hard-working can possibly succeed. It's no longer acceptable to have a weakness. As Johnny Brownlee proved in Abu Dhabi, you can't have an off day and make the podium. Just what the sport needs.

Abu Dhabi 2015 - ©Janos M. Schmidt / triathlon.org

However... don't write them off just yet.

Whilst the Abu Dhabi action certainly provided a refreshing change, it would be dangerously premature to start talking of the curtain falling on the Brownlee and Gomez era. Here's why:

It's only March!

The brothers from Yorkshire are typically slow starters when it comes to the ITU season. They are, however, adept at peaking for specific, targeted events later in the season, so the best is still yet to come. If at least one of them doesn't medal in Rio, I'll eat my neoprene hat.

Alistair wasn't there

The presence of the older Brownlee in Abu Dhabi could have had all sorts of effects on the race. Alistair's aggressive style of racing has caused his rivals a glut of problems in the past – not only have we seen him drag the pack along at such a torrid pace that he's ruined the run legs of all but the strongest athletes, we've also seen him break away on his own and effectively win the race on the bike. Surely, having Alistair in the field would also have galvanised his brother and Gomez into slightly better performances as well.

It was a sprint distance race

It was 'only' a sprint. And it was an easy course, to boot. The likes of Mola and Murray are not the strongest of swimmers, so over the full 1500m distance, they have often found themselves adrift of the lead pack when emerging onto dry land. As a result, the Brownlees have previously been able to keep the pace high at the front end of the race and gain enough of a gap so that they don't get into a foot race with the Spaniard and South African. Similarly, on tougher courses where climbing prowess and bike handling come into the equation, the opportunity for breakaways on the bike plays more into the hands of the boys from Yorkshire. In short, Mola has typically relied on a slow (relatively) swim, followed by a large front group materialising on the bike where he can sit in and preserve his run legs. If this perfect scenario doesn't occur for him, he will find himself in trouble... sometimes.

Poor performances from the legends

Neither Johnny nor Gomez had a particularly good race. The younger Brownlee was unusually far back in the swim and never really got going on the run, either. By his own admission, he messed up everything he possibly could, so this was hardly a stellar performance. Likewise, Gomez was jaded, having withdrawn from Challenge Dubai the previous week through injury, and he just never looked like he was able to get out of third gear.

A positive change?

In short, men's triathlon is going through an exciting period in its development, and the 2015 season looks set to be full of drama and the unexpected. As I see it, this can only be good for the sport, as the new rivalries will hopefully necessitate more aggressive and tactical racing, which fans of the sport have long yearned for.

There are now six men who can realistically expect to be on the overall World Series podium come September... but let's not write off the old favourites just yet.

London 2012 - ©Delly Carr / ITU Media


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