For the ITU obsessed, the Mooloolaba ITU Triathlon World Cup marks the official start of every ITU season—and Mooloolaba is finally here.
While Mooloolaba, which takes place this weekend in Australia, always features the type of field that could fill out a World Triathlon Series event (the pinnacle of the ITU circuit), this year Mooloolaba is especially deep.
The men’s field will include three-time Mooloolaba champ Brad Kahlefeldt, 2011 breakout star Brendan Sexton and multiple World Triathlon series podium finisher Courtney Atkinson, all of Australia; 2012 Olympic qualifiers David Hauss and Laurent Vidal of France; and British standout William Clarke, among many others.
And the women’s field will include 2011 World Triathlon Series Grand Final winner Andrea Hewitt and World Triathlon Series Yokohama bronze medalist Kate McIlroy, both of New Zealand; reigning Olympic champion Emma Snowsill and 2008 Beijing bronze medalist Emma Moffatt of Australia; 2010 ITU sprint world champion and 2011 Hy-Vee Triathlon winner Lisa Norden of Sweden; and top Americans Laura Bennett and Gwen Jorgensen, among many others.
The course is tough and features a large hill that athletes must contend with seven times on the bike and four times on the run.
“It’s a course you have to respect,” Kahlefeldt said at the ITU’s recent press conference. “I certainly didn’t respect it as a junior—I came through and absolutely got beaten.”
While Mooloolaba will kick start the 2012 season and offer exciting racing, athletes’ individual race plans will more likely be about dusting off the cobwebs than winning, as they are preparing for the biggest event of the year—the 2012 London Olympics in August.
But being as it is an Olympic year, Mooloolaba will also feature a subplot—points chasing.
Per the ITU’s complicated Olympic qualification rules, only eight countries get to send three men to the Olympics, and only eight countries get to send three women to the Olympics—and these countries are essentially decided by points that athletes earn at races.
Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf and Canada’s Kyle Jones, for example, are two athletes who are set to race Mooloolaba and who are currently chasing points.
The final country spots will not be decided until the Madrid leg of the World Triathlon Series in late May.