The season opener of the World Triathlon Series reads like a who’s who list of triathlete stars with eight of the top 10 ranked men and women set to compete in Auckland. In its third year on the WTS schedule, the Barfoot & Thompson World Triathlon event promises to provide a thrilling and challenging start to the year. The 1.5km harbor swim is followed by eight hilly bike laps through New Zealand’s largest city before finishing up with a fast and technical four-lap 10km run.
While Non Stanford will sit out the WTS season opener, the ladies will still be well represented with 2013 world champ runner-up Jodie Stimpson stepping up to the line in Auckland. The race will also see the return of two-time World Champion Helen Jenkins, who sat out the 2013 season due to injury. Solid across all disciplines, Jenkins can do it all, making her a threat compared to other leading ladies who struggle in at least one leg of the race.
Gwen Jorgensen didn’t just set the course for American women last year, she single handedly blazed the trail when she became the first US female to win not one WTS title, but three of them in a single season. While a crash took her out of the running for the World Championship title, Jorgensen was back in the gold business one month ago at the Mooloolaba World Cup. The American has been working on her swim and bike, which can only mean trouble for the competition, especially considering she took second in the race two years ago by saddling up the competition with the fastest run split by 41 seconds.
But this year Jorgensen might have company from her compatriots with rookie Katie Hursey bursting out of the starting blocks already this year. After collecting two World Cup titles in her first year as an elite, Hursey followed up her performances with a strong run to win in New Plymouth after finishing second to Jorgensen Down Under. Don’t count out Olympian Sarah Groff who knows how to get the job done when it comes down to it.
Like the women, the men’s start list is stacked with super stars. From Javier Gomez to Jonathan Brownlee to the ever increasingly speedy Mario Mola, they’ve all come to race in Auckland this weekend.
Whether it’s Alistair vs Gomez or Jonny vs Gomez or the Brownlee brothers vs Gomez, this familiar rivalry just never gets old. Last time Jonathan Brownlee and Javier Gomez met in Auckland, Gomez out sprinted the younger Brownlee down the finish chute to cinch his 2012 season up with a win. A similar scenario played out when the pair last met in London with Gomez again out sprinting Jonathan down the blue carpet, this time winning both the World Title and the Grand Final. Last year, Brownlee proved he didn’t need his brother around to win a race and could even do it when his brother was the competition. A just-missed chance at the World Championship has surely been fueling the younger Brownlee’s desire to get his title back, and that journey begins this weekend. It’s going to be one Sunday fun day watching this pair duke it out.