A start list of 61 men is set to hit the line in Arzachena as the third race of the Olympic Qualification Period gets underway in Sardinia on Saturday. The hot and hilly course made its debut in memorable fashion last year with Vincent Luis, Kristian Blummenfelt and Alistair Brownlee forming a potent podium, and there will no doubt be more fireworks this weekend as the athletes continue to plot their paths to Tokyo 2020.
The beach start and rolling waves caused few problems back in October, unlike the intimidating climb out of T1 that starts gently enough but then seems to just keep getting steeper with every corner turned. There will be three ascents on the 20km bike and each is likely to shave tiring legs out of contention before the decisive 5km run.
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Blummenfelt and Brownlee both return to the idyllic Italian island, and while the Norwegian has brought home two impressive golds from his first two races of the season – WTCS Yokohama and the Word Triathlon Cup Lisbon – Brownlee has yet to hit the blue carpet in 2021.
It will be interesting to see how Blummenfelt responds to the travels and toll of two intense races in two weeks plus the Mixed Relay in Lisbon, but his tactics and fitness have both looked spot on so far and, having come so close last year here, he will want desperately to stick a third gold.
Both Brownlee brothers arrive off the back of a training camp in the heat of New Mexico ready to put the hard work into action once more. Jonny ran out of steam off the bike in Yokohama, so the sprint-distance will be another useful gauge of performance levels two months out from Tokyo.
As he did in Lisbon, Spain’s Mario Mola will be wearing the golden number one on the start line, the triple world champion sticking a tough top-ten finish last weekend, his first taste of action since a disappointing 46th at WTCS Hamburg eight months ago. Genis Grau scooped a brilliant third in Lisbon and teammate Antonio Serrat Seoane was fourth here last year, leaving the Spanish team among the favourites for a podium place.
Like their Norwegian teammate, Gustav Iden and Casper Stornes have both had busy starts to the new campaign, Iden scooping top ten places in both individual races, Stornes yet to find the flow that saw him romp to that memorable gold in Bermuda three years ago.
Matthew McElroy and Kevin McDowell are the top-ranked Americans looking to fire their way into Olympic start contention after Morgan Pearson became the first US male to punch his ticket to Tokyo with bronze in Yokohama two weeks ago.
Mexico’s Rodrigo Gonzalez looks on course for a second Olympic Games appearance but will want to produce a confidence-lifting display on Saturday, while Chile’s swim-specialist Diego Moya knows he needs a decent bike-run to give his Olympic chances a boost.
Emil Holm had a brilliant Mixed Relay leg for Denmark in Lisbon and will hope to channel that power once more, while Frenchman Tom Richard will be up for a new test having looked in great shape off the bike and held on for fifth in Lisbon. Sweden’s promising Gabriel Sandor was tenth here last time out and will want to bag some more precious points towards realising his Olympic dream.
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World Triathlon Cup Arzachena
29 May, 15.30 CEST