Pearson wears the one on huge final day of Olympic Triathlon Qualification at WTCS Cagliari

by on 22 May, 2024 12:04 • Español
Pearson wears the one on huge final day of Olympic Triathlon Qualification at WTCS Cagliari

Here we are. After two years, dozens of races and no shortage of drama, the last of the Olympic ranking points will be awarded on Saturday at WTCS Cagliari and the Paris 2024 picture will finally begin to clear for many, if not all, of the athletes in Italy.

Not all, because many of the teams’ selections will remain discretionary regardless of results. So while athletes from Spain, GB, USA and even France can put themselves right in the shop window for the selectors, even a podium is no guarantee of their place on the 30 July start line on the Seine.

This will be the third WTCS Cagliari, and surely the most dramatic. The 1.5km ocean swim has historically proven one of the most challenging beach starts going, and it has to effectively be negotiated twice over the two laps. From there, the 40km bike is hard and rolling if not technical or hilly on each of the ten laps, the 10km run to the line likewise over four laps.

Eyes on the prize, this is going to be unmissable. Tune in on from 3.15pm CEST on Saturday 25 May.

Pearson flying high

Morgan Pearson’s gold-winning run in Yokohama will have sent a stark reminder to all his rivals that the American is a force to be reckoned with. Exiting transition in 34th place, he picked his way to the front and stayed there, clocking a 10km of 29:10, some 17 seconds faster than next best Miguel Hidalgo (BRA).

It was a first Series gold for the 30-year-old, and a first for the US men in 15 years, coming at the perfect time in his Olympic preparations. How he will stack up against the likes of Hayden Wilde (NZL) and Alex Yee (GBR) this time around will be fascinating.

Rivalries fired back up

And it is on Yee and Wilde that many eyes will be focussed this Saturday. Tokyo 2020 silver and bronze medallists, both elected to miss Yokohama and dial in their training, both will be using Cagliari as a yardstick of the progress to Paris. Neither will likely place excessive importance on the final result, both will want to execute perfection in every department.

That is a tall order, but the prize on 30 July couldn’t be any bigger and behind every king there must be confidence. Yee has won twice in the city that nearly saw his career ended before it began with that horrific bike crash in 2017. Wilde was second 12 months ago, four seconds separated their runs, both will want to top Yee’s 28:31 from last year.

Blummenfelt ready to dig in

The man who beat Yee and Wilde to be Olympic Champion at Tokyo 2020, Kristian Blummenfelt was brutally honest in his reflections on 10th place at Yokohama a fortnight ago. He and his rivals know all too well his ability to zone in on a single-race target, however, and his title defence may well start in earnest after Cagliari, back in the training centre, eyeing up the gains he needs to make and methodically ticking them off.

For Leo Bergere, scraping through the aftermath of the last-lap bike crash unscathed to rescue a fourth place will have been a positive, but for the man chasing a home Games appearance, a second WTCS Cagliari medal this weekend would mean a lot. Teammate Dorian Coninx was less fortunate and misses out this weekend, while Pierre Le Corre makes his first start of 2024 knowing that a medal would also make a huge difference to his chances of an Olympic spot.

Beyond Morgan Pearson, the performances to take from the fires of WTCS Yokohama were Luke Willian, the Australian booking his Paris start spot with bronze and a magnificent run, and Miguel Hidalgo. The young Brazilian knows exactly where he needs to be to earn a first Series medal and the second-fastest run in Japan suggested the path ahead is clearing. What a lift a podium in Cagliari would be to his Olympic ambitions.

Add to that list Canada’s Charles Paquet, a resurgent Marten Van Riel (BEL) and Vincent Luis, the Frenchman hungry to show he too is fully worthy of a place on the French Olympic squad and with one last chance to prove it after a solid hit out in Yokohama.

Olympics on the line

With Antonio Serrat Seoane confirmed for Paris, two Spanish men can potentially join him out of those starting in Cagliari. Alberto Gonzalez Garcia, Sergio Baxter Cabrera or David Castro Fajardo must climb into the top 30 and join Serrat and Roberto Sanchez Mantecon to secure three spots for the team, and all have proven their potential at some point over the qualification period.

The race to join Yee on the GB squad could also be decided in Cagliari, as Samuel Dickinson, Barclay Izzard and Hugo Milner line up for the showdown. Jonathan Brownlee lies in wait, too, though doesn’t join them in Italy, Max Stapley taking the fifth spot looking to follow up his first World Cup gold in Chengdu at the start of May.

For the USA, Matthew McElroy, Darr Smith and Seth Rider are in the hunt for selection alongside Pearson, Tayler Reid will hope to secure his Paris spot for New Zealand, the unfortunate Dylan McCullough sidelined with injury, and Michele Sarzilla and Gianluca Pozzatti will want to strengthen their grip on the two Italian places for Paris.

WTCS Cagliari
25 May, 3:15pm CEST

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