STATE OF PLAY
It might not be an Olympic summer, but there’s more stellar triathlon action than ever to keep you entertained in 2018.
A preview of the racing year ahead
Ask a stranger what they know about triathlon, and even if they have little concept of the sport, it’s likely they’ll have some recollection of the final yards of that World Series Grand Final in 2016.
The clip of Alistair Brownlee supporting younger brother Jonny to the line in Cozumel has been viewed millions of times across the globe, and – all health concerns aside - is perhaps the best example of drama only endurance sport can produce.
While there are no guarantees of similar for 2018 (in fact, due to a rule change, Alistair’s efforts will now result in a disqualification), there are still reasons aplenty to tune in, and no triathlons will attract larger audiences than the Commonwealth Games (April 5 & 7) where they will attempt to repeat their Glasgow one-two finish.
It will be tougher this time. The shorter sprint distance on a flatter course in warmer climes on Gold Coast, better suits a clutch of young Aussies led by Jake Birtwhistle, while South Africans Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman have both already won this season – the latter’s victory in Abu Dhabi leaving Jonny Brownlee a distant seventh.
The women’s race is no less intriguing. Chasing Bermuda’s current world champion Flora Duffy, will be England’s Vicky Holland, Jess Learmonth and Sophie Coldwell, Wales’s Non Stanford, and Scotland’s Beth Potter. If the race splits early, expect Learmonth and Coldwell to challenge, if it stays together on the bike, Holland, Stanford and Potter come into contention. England also has a mixed relay title to defend, and the wheelchair racers give paratri its Commonwealth bow.
A Thursday evening on the banks of Nottingham’s River Trent will be the setting for the World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series (June 7), that also marks the start of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, then it’s on to Leeds for the weekend for a WTS event only rivalled for crowd support by Hamburg.
The European Championship (August 9-11) at Strathclyde Park is part of a new multisport festival, split between Berlin and Glasgow, the course suited to Learmonth.
Look out too for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships (September 1 & 2) in South Africa that could see the Brownlee Vs Gomez duel that never was in Rio 2016, before the WTS Grand Final, (September 12-16) returns to Gold Coast, offering divine retribution for Jodie Stimpson, England’s 2014 Commonwealth champion, who was overlooked to defend her title.
There is also the Ironman World Championship (October 13), now in its 40th year and streamed live from Hawaii, plus the mixed-up super short format of Super League Triathlon (September 29 & 30) in Jersey, and, finally, Ironman Bahrain 70.3 (November/December (TBC)), where, should a fit Alistair Brownlee have already clinched the 70.3 world title, he’ll attempt to win a $1million prize – by far the biggest in triathlon. What a year!
“The 70.3 Worlds could be the Brownlee Vs Gomez duel we missed in Rio”
Cutting through the spin of tri to address the issues that matter, Tim is a sports journalist who has written extensively on triathlon for the national press.