Big Names Return to WTS Yokohama for the start of the Olympic Qualification Period
09 May 2018
For the third stop of the 2018 World Triathlon Series, our triathletes return to Japan and the familiar surroundings of Yokohama city. Fittingly, this year’s race also marks the start of the road to Tokyo 2020 Olympics and, with that in mind, a packed men’s field is once more set to battle it out in the Harbour for one of the elites’ favourite events on the WTS calendar.
Wearing the number one bib as current Series Leader will once again be the Spaniard Mario Mola. After securing second place in the year’s first WTS in Abu Dhabi, Mola finished in fourth place on the beautiful yet extraordinarily tricky Bermuda course, but the double world champion looks confident in retaining the ranking leadership as he goes for a third straight win in the Japanese city.
Mola will have to keep an eye on teammate Fernando Alarza, who proved in Bermuda that he should never be overlooked in Olympic-distance races. Alarza finished sixth after a frantic sprint to the line, beaten by mere tenths of a second by another one to watch in Yokohama, Frenchman Dorian Coninx. France’s U23 World Championship silver medallist is one of the stronger athletes through the run section, which can always prove decisive in this race.
Most eyes will certainly be set on the rising stars to emerge from Bermuda: the Norwegians. There, they made history by becoming the first team ever to secure a clean sweep of a WTS podium, and Yokohama will see two of those stars racing again come Saturday; Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden.
After finishing in second place in the last four WTS races he has completed, Blummenfelt will be vying to get the first gold medal of his career in Yokohama. Last year he won the bronze here, and the revamped harbour-side bike course should suit him down to the ground. More than likely to be riding with him on the bike will be teammate Iden, also hoping for a return to the podium. The younger of the Norwegians at still only 23 years of age, he has had a phenomenal start to his season, improving on 9th place in WTS Abu Dhabi with third in Bermuda.
Trying to stop both the Norwegian advance and the Spaniard’s winning streak in Yokohama will be another of this year’s rising stars, South African Henri Schoeman. After his victories in WTS Abu Dhabi and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the Rio 2016 bronze medallist will want to improve on a disappointing 8th place in Bermuda. Just as keen to bounce back to form after back pain forced his withdrawal from that race will be fellow South African Richard Murray.
The start list in Yokohama is filled with great names, however, including some incredibly strong runners and cyclists. Aussie Jake Birthwhistle will be hot on Mario Mola’s heels if he can keep up with the leading groups on the bike, as most likely will be Joao Silva (POR), who won in Yokohama in 2011 and 2012 and has enjoyed one of his best starts to a season, leaving him currently ranked 8th overall.
Vincent Luis and Pierre LeCorre (FRA) also have what it takes to be amongst the contenders if they emerge well-placed from the swim, something that Vincent struggled with in Bermuda, retiring with dizziness after getting out of the water. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN), Crisanto Grajales (MEX), Aaron Royle (AUS) or Tom Bishop (GBR) must also be among the ones to watch for the leading groups as the bike and run sections settle into their groove on this superb course.
The men will get the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama underway at 13:06 on Saturday, May 12, local time. Follow all of the action live at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter @triathlonlive. Join the conversation with the hashtag #WTSYokohama
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2018 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama