Yokohama WTS arguably presents the biggest challenge to athletes so far in 2019. For many national governing bodies, Yokohama will have a strong bearing on the selection of athletes for Tokyo 2020. Whether it be results this weekend providing guidelines for selection or whether certain results guarantees a place at the Olympics, it is the first race of the year that will have significant meaning for much of the field.
With a similar course and conditions to that found in Tokyo, the race, along with of course the test event present ideal indicators as to who will be able to deliver come next summer. Athletes will also be looking to move up the world ranking and gain valuable points and prize money from the third round of the World Triathlon Series.
It will be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t have Mario Mola (ESP) as race favourite, the Spaniard has won the event here in the last three occasions, however Mola comes off the back of one of the worst WTS results of his career, whether this will dent his confidence is yet to be seen.
The Spanish have a triple threat from 5-time World Champion Javier Gomez and Fernando Alarza, both of whom are capable of winning the event. The French also have a strong line up with current series leader Vincent Luis leading the charge. A relative newcomer to the series, but currently ranked in 3rd is Leo Bergere, who will be an outside bet for taking the victory.
Next up is the British contingent. Unfortunately, double Olympic medalist Jonny Brownlee is a late withdrawal from the weekend, however, flying the flag for Great Britain is HUUB’s Tom Bishop and the brands latest signing Alex Yee. Yee recorded his first ever podium at his first ever WTS start back in Abu Dhabi, only bettered by Mola in the final stages. Bishop also heads into the race after choosing to miss out on Bermuda and concentrate on Yokohama. The pair who train together should certainly be firing on all cylinders.
Finally, there is the Norwegian trio of Kristian Blummenfelt, Gustav Iden and Casper Stornes, and these three have the firepower to change the outcome of the race dramatically. The key point of the race will undoubtedly be the swim-bike. In recent years the packs have merged leaving the result down to the 10k, but it’s not to say that this will repeat as there will be athletes out there that want a lead going into the final stage of the race.
Similarly to the men, there is possibly one out and out favourite in the form of Katie Zaferes (USA) who has won the opening two races of the World Triathlon Series.
The previous editions of Yokohama WTS have been dominated by Gwen Jorgensen (USA) and Flora Duffy (BER), however with Jorgensen retired to pursue a running career and Duffy recovering from injury, the race is open to a new winner.
The American team has strength in numbers as well Taylor Spivey, Chelsea Burns, Summer Rappaport, Renee Tomlin and Tamara Gorman also starting. The biggest threat will be in the form of the British trio of Jessica Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Non Stanford. HUUB’s Jessica Learmonth is the athlete in form at the moment with a 3rd place finish at Abu Dhabi and 2nd at Bermuda. Both results have come from breakaways alongside Zaferes so this will be certainly something both athletes will be aiming to repeat. Georgia Taylor-Brown and Non Stanford are two of the fastest runners in the sport, and they will be hoping the field is together before the start of the 10k run.
The race has the potential to be dictated by a breakaway as it has been in the past, which will suit Learmonth and Zaferes, but also a few other members of the US team as well as Lotte Miller of Norway. More than likely chasing from behind will be other favourites, Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) and Joanna Brown (CAN). Again in similarity to the men, the focus will be on the swim-bike, this will be the decisive point of the race.
Jade Hall-Jones is HUUB’s sole representative at Yokohama World Paratriathlon Series in the PTWC category. The 2018 Commonwealth Champion will probably start as favourite in the most competitive round of the WPTS. Jade comes off the back of victory in the National Duathlon Championships and will use this race as an indicator of her shape at the start of her season having chosen to sit out the first round of the WPTS in Milan.
Also this weekend is the ITU Cagliari World Cup which sees a return to ITU racing from Alistair Brownlee (GBR). The course has changed last minute, with a once very hilly and technical bike course altered to an out and back along the seafront. Arguably this is less suited to Brownlee’s strengths, but the double Olympic Champion has and can win on any course. HUUB’s Gordon Benson, Ben Dijkstra and Barclay Izzard are also on the start-list which as it stands looks to be very competitive.
In the Women’s race, HUUB’s Sophie Coldwell will be looking to build on her 4th place result at Madrid World Cup after coming back from injury. Beth Potter (GBR), is also an athlete to watch out for, having competed at Rio 2016 over 10,000m on the track.
There is also an ETU continental cup in Olsztyn, Poland where HUUB’s Sian Rainsley (GBR) will be looking to get her 2019 season underway.
On the long distance scene is Barcelona 70.3 where HUUB’s David McNamee (GBR) will go head to head with Bart Aernouts (BEL). The pair were 2nd and 3rd respectively at Kona in 2018. Elliot Smales (GBR) is also set to start. The Yorkshire athlete has been managing an injury issue in the last month or two but will be happy to get back on a start-line and hopefully he can build on his impressive 2018 season.