WTCS Leeds set to sizzle with men's Olympic places in the balance

Friday 04 June 2021

The men’s 2021 World Triathlon Championship Leeds will bring even more intrigue and races-within-the-race than usual as the Olympic Qualification period enters its final stages and the last points are earned before it closes on 14 June.

For many of those on the start line in Leeds’ new-look Roundhay Park venue, as important as the gold and taking strides towards the Series title, are the battles to finish ahead of those around them on the Olympic rankings.

Great Britain and USA have only one man named so far on their squads for Tokyo - Jonathan Brownlee and Morgan Pearson respectively - and Spain are due to name a third member after the race, while Russell White (IRL), Stefan Zachaus (LUX) and Richard Varga (SVK) will be hunting for the points that could get them to Tokyo.

Watch how the men’s WTCS Leeds story unfolds, Sunday from 3.45pm BST on TriathlonLive.tv

Wearing the number one is Kristian Blummenfelt, after the Norwegian powered to golds at WTCS Yokohama and the World Triathlon Cup Lisbon. Mixed fortunes in Leeds over the years may mean the new-look course will be a welcome change, and he will be looking to throw down the gauntlet on the bike and test the rest of the field.

It was an almighty battle with Jelle Geens during the season opener in Japan, and the Belgian will have taken a lot out of the final stages of the race to feed into his race tactics should he find himself among the front-runners again this time around.

The bronze in Yokohama went to Pearson, and with it the first men’s spot on the US team for Tokyo. With no Eli Hemming or Kevin McDowell in Leeds, American eyes will also be on Matthew McElroy and Seth Rider, the third men’s spot in the balance with Tom Bishop just 18 points behind McDowell and Great Britain’s last hope for a third man ranked in the top 30 and a place on next month’s Olympic start line.

Also representing the home nation will be local favourites the Brownlee brothers, with Jonny the sole British male confirmed for Tokyo, brother Alistair plotting a course towards a second defence of his Olympic title. Alex Yee would love a crack at his first Games, though, and a podium in Leeds would be a huge statement of intent to the selectors.

Reigning World Champion Vincent Luis, untouchable in the final four races of 2020, finished sixth in Yokohama and will want to get back to the podium to rebuild his confidence ahead of Tokyo. He is joined by fellow Team France members Dorian Coninx and Leo Bergere on the Leeds line up, a winner in WTCS Bermuda 2019 and World Championship bronze medallist in 2020 respectively.

Vasco Vilaça was Portugal’s rising star between the two French medalists in Hamburg last year and will be keen to prove his abilities once again at the top level. Hungarian interests will be focussed on Tamas Toth as he needs to at least maintain his ranking if they are to have a Mixed Relay team on the format’s Olympic debut on 31 July. 

The return of Spanish legend Javier Gomez to the blue carpet will delight triathlon fans the world over, while Antonio Serrat Seoane is finding some great form and could be due a breakthrough performance ahead of the team announcement of who will join Mario Mola and Fernando Alarza in Tokyo. 

New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde makes his first World Triathlon appearance since the pandemic cut short the 2020 season, looking to see how sharp he is after so long away from the front line. Jacob Birtwhistle has recovered from the illness that hampered his Yokohama ambitions and the Australian starts safe in the knowledge he will be in Tokyo, as do Bence Bicsak (HUN), Makoto Odakura (JPN), Shachar Sagiv (ISR) and Jonas Schomburg (GER), all of whom can focus fully on honing their race form.

WTCS Leeds
Sunday 6 June
TriathlonLive.tv

by Doug Gray World Triathlon


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