The 2011 ITU World Cup series hits its final destination this Sunday in New Zealand. It’s been three years since the last world cup event in this triathlon mad country, in New Plymouth, and the last race in Auckland was in 1998. But triathlon is back in a big way to the nation that has produced champions like Hamish Carter, Samantha Warriner, Bevan Docherty and Andrea Hewitt. This World Cup is not only the finale for 2011, it’s also the preview for next year’s ITU World Championship Series Grand Final.
In the women’s race, it’s hard to bet against Hewitt who is coming off two consecutive Dextro Energy Triathlon Series wins. In the men’s race, her partner and coach Laurent Vidal will also wear the No.1 in the men’s race, and is a strong chance to continue the recent French run of World Cup form. But there will be challengers for both on this tough course, in particular Nicky Samuels (NZL), Ai Ueda (JPN) and Vicky Holland (GBR), and in the men’s New Zealanders Bevan Docherty, Kris Gemmell, Ryan Sissons, James Elvery and Tony Dodds.
About the race:
Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city and the Queens Wharf waterfront one of its most lively areas. It became even more so in the last two months, when it was home to the Rugby World Cup fan zone, which finished just last month with New Zealand’s own All Blacks claiming the title. Now, triathlon gets it chance to shine right in Auckland’s CBD, with this event the perfect dress rehearsal for next year’s Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Grand Final. Also watch the age-group races this weekend, with triathlon legends Hamish Carter, Rick Wells and Scott Molina racing.
Elite Women – Sunday November 20 – 12:00 (UTC/GMT +13) Click here for time in your area
Swim – Two-lap, 1.5km swim in a sheltered area next to Queens Wharf.
Bike – Eight-lap, 40km bike leg in central Auckland. Each lap starts at the waterfront, winds its way up Auckland’s steep main street, Queen Street, with three separate climbs in each lap.
Run – Four-lap, 10km that starts at the waterfront and heads along Quay and Queen streets, before the finish down on Queens Wharf.
STORIES TO WATCH FOR: New Zealand triathletes to watch at home – Andrea Hewitt is the female athlete to beat right now, after her two incredible wins to finish the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series. First, the biggest race of the year in the Beijing Grand Final, and then a week later in Yokohama, Japan. But there are plenty of other contenders for home crowd fans to cheer on, including 2011 Mooloolaba winner Nicky Samuels and new junior world champion Mikayla Neilsen in her World Cup debut. The 11-strong New Zealand men’s team will no doubt be keen to take out the win at home in what’s been a lean year. Only two-time Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty has won a World Cup race, in Edmonton, and not one has made the podium of a Dextro Energy Triathlon Series race. Docherty will lead the charge here, alongside 2008 Olympian Kris Gemmell and up and comers James Elvery, Clark Ellice, Ryan Sissons and Tony Dodds.
The form of the French – French triathletes have dominated the past two World Cup races, so it’s not a surprise that Laurent Vidal is favourite to claim his first World Cup win. Vidal, who is Hewitt’s partner and coach, has had a consistent year. He’s already qualified for the London 2012 Olympics, with a sixth place finish in London, then finished sixth in Lausanne and fifth in the Beijing Grand Final. Then there is that run of form. Vidal has never won a World Cup, but neither had Jessica Harrison, Carole Peon or Etienne Diemunsch two months ago. Now, they are all have, in Harrison in Tongyeong, and Peon and Diemunsch in Guatape respectively.
Olympic qualifying battles heat up – The official Olympic qualifying period runs up until the end of May 2012, but the battle for points is really starting to get interesting. In Auckland, there are a few direct battles that could have a big outcome in which NOCs qualify spots – and how many – for London 2012. In the men’s, a good result for Docherty will keep him ahead of Canada’s Kyle Jones and help to secure three spots for New Zealand’s men, while Min Ho Heo (KOR) and Dmitriy Gaag (KAZ) are battling for the new flag Asia spot, and Morocco’s Mehdi Essadiq is aiming to extend his lead over Zimbabwe’s Christopher Felgate in the new flag Africa spot. In the women’s race, Slovenia’s Mateja Simic is currently up against Hungary’s Margit Vanek to claim the next Olympic qualifying spot from Europe. Simic and Austria’s Lisa Perterer are also the next two in line to qualify a new flag European spot. Read more about the ITU’s Olympic qualification criteria here.
The final 2011 race for Team ITU – It’s the third and final race for Team ITU in 2011, after the ITU development programme also ran in Mooloolaba and Edmonton. This event, the team is Mateja Simic (SLO), Min Ho Heo (KOR), Aleksandr Latin (EST), Hervé Banti (MON), Mehdi Essadiq (MAR) and Ognjen Stojanovic (SRB). It’s also the five-year anniversary of the programme, which so far has produced graduates like Lisa Norden (SWE) and Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI). This year, it’s already had success with Simic running away to her first and Slovenia’s first World Cup medal in Edmonton. Read more about these athletes and their support staff here.
PAST AUCKLAND WINNERS
WOMEN MEN 1998 ITU Triathlon World Cup
Michellie Jones (AUS) Hamish Carter (NZL)
1997 ITU Triathlon World Cup
Emma Carney (AUS) Miles Stewart (AUS)
1996 ITU Triathlon World Cup
Emma Carney (AUS) Miles Stewart (AUS)
1995 ITU Triathlon World Cup
Janet Hatfield (USA) Hamish Carter (NZL)