A top international field will take to the Mooloolaba course for the first ITU World Cup in 2011 this weekend.
While Australians have historically done well on the Sunshine Coast and have contenders in both the women’s and men’s fields, some of the ITU’s biggest international stars have also made the trip to the beachside oasis to kick-off a crucial Olympic qualifying year. Each and every world cup, world series race and continental championship will offer qualifying points for London 2012. That means every triathlete will be keen to get a jump on the field in Mooloolaba, and it’s evident in the competitors who have turned out to contest the elite races.
Elite Men Preview
It’s fair to say that all eyes will be on Javier Gomez in his first major race this year. The Spanish champ won the Mooloolaba title in 2008, but since then has gone from contender to conqueror – winning two ITU World Championships since then. Gomez starts the season as the man that everyone else has to catch and will be keen to establish that early on in 2011. Brad Kahlefeldt and Courtney Atkinson will lead the Australian charge, and both are previous winners. Kahlefeldt took the 2010 and 2007 titles, and Atkinson won in 2009.
All three of those men are also chasing a little bit of history, as all are currently in the top-ten of the all-time World Cup winners list and will move up if they top the podium. A Gomez win would be extra-special in this regard as he is currently tied in second overall wins with Olympic gold medallist Simon Whitfield. Both are own 12 titles, but a win would see Gomez go clear. Both Whitfield and Gomez will be racing in season 2011 though so it could be interesting all year if Whitfield claims a few World Cup wins too. Australia’s Brad Beven is the all-time leading men’s World Cup winner, with 17 race titles to his name.
Other contenders in the men’s field for Mooloolaba are Frenchmen Laurent Vidal and David Hauss, and Brits Stuart Hayes, who won in Kitzhubel last year, and Will Clarke. Clarke is a Beijing Olympian and the Under23 World Champion from 2006, and both he and Hayes will be targeting strong starts in the season that leads into their home Olympics.
Elite Women Preview
In the women’s field, triathlon fans are set to see a thriller with a host of the world’s top female triathletes to start their season on the Sunshine Coast. To put it simply, the field is stacked.
Australia still have the pick of the bunch in Olympic champion Emma Snowsill and two-time World Champion Emma Moffatt, but there is a host of other contenders that makes the podium trifecta a hard one to pick. Out of the 2011 ITU Gold Group, half of the golden girls are on start list, including Moffatt, Snowsill, Kate Roberts, Lisa Norden and Paula Findlay. Findlay, who had a breakthrough year in 2010 that included two Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series event wins, headlines a Canadian team that includes Kirsten Sweetland and Lauren Campbell. Sweetland races particulary well in Mooloolaba, she claimed the title in 2009. The defending champion, Vendula Frintova of the Czech Republic, is also back while pint-sized Chilean star Barbara Riveros Diaz will also be in contention. Another Australian Emma, Emma Jackson, could also surprise. Jackson won the 2010 under23 world title and is only 19, but has decided to focus full-time at the elite level in 2011.
Mooloolaba will also be the first World Cup of the 2011 season for Team ITU, one of the foundations of the ITU’s Sport Development Programme. It provides funding and support for athletes from developing National Federations, who might not have otherwise had the chance to compete. In addition to financial assistance, a team of coaches, physiotherapists and a bike mechanic is provided to ensure the team has the best race-day support.
The 2011 ITU International season officially gets underway when the men’s race starts at 3pm (local time – UTC/GMT + 10) on Saturday March 26. The women’s race starts at 12.45pm on Sunday.
TOTAL PRIZE MONEY:
$50,000 USD (equal for men & women)
Swim – One-lap, 1.5-kilometre sea swim with a beach start.
Bike – Seven-lap, 40-kilometre leg that coasts along the Mooloolaba waterfront.
Run – Four-lap, 10-kilometre run along the waterfront.
PAST MOOLOOLABA WINNERS:
2010 Vendula Frintova (CZE) Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS)
2009 Kirsten Sweetland (CAN) Courtney Atkinson (AUS)
2008 Emma Snowsill (AUS) Javier Gomez (ESP)
2007 Emma Snowsill (AUS) Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS)
2006 Annabel Luxford (AUS) Bevan Docherty (NZL)
2005 Loretta Harrop (AUS) Simon Thompson (AUS)