Bergere wears Cagliari no.1 as clock ticks on Yee’s title challenge
There may be no Hayden Wilde in Sardinia this weekend as attentions turn to the first ever WTCS Cagliari, but for those chasing the current Maurice Lacroix Ranking number one with just three races to go to decide the 2022 World Triathlon Champion, the target is clear.
Wilde has won twice in 2022, Alex Yee likewise, but the Brit has also raced just twice all season, while the Kiwi has been able to add two silvers to his haul. For Leo Bergere, three bronze and a silver represent an impressive medal tally, but a WTCS gold remains elusive. Can either reign in the leader in his absence?
For those with good memories the WTCS Cagliari course doubles the length of the 2019 World Cup circuit on which Alistair Brownlee took gold, as well as reversing the direction of the bike and run. It all begins with a 1.5km beach swim, transitioning to the fast and flat ten-lap, 40km bike and then its a five-lap/10km run to the tape and precious world championship points heading to the penultimate race of the season in Bermuda. Game very much on.
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Bergere breaking out
Wearing the number one for only the second time in his career will be Leo Bergere, the Frenchman who has taken every opportunity that has come his way this season to gather a handful of Series medals and seemingly always lie in contention.
A regular top-10 finisher, the conversion to podium powerhouse began in earnest last year in Montreal when the 26-year-old kicked off a brilliant sequence of medalling in six out of seven starts. A strong runner Bergère may be, but it will surely require a significant lead off the bike if he is to hold off some of the notable names that will be bearing down on him over the final 10km.
Two Series wins and a Commonwealth Games title has made for an excellent 2022 so far for Alex Yee, but he knows it will need to be a third WTCS gold in Cagliari to keep his title dreams alive. It was back in 2017 that he suffered a horrendous crash on the hilly first incarnation of the Cagliari World Cup course, and it is here that Yee will have to deliver again after winning in Yokohama and Montreal and crashing out in Leeds.
Having missed Hamburg to focus on a successful Commonwealth Games, the 24-year-old will have faith in the decision to miss Super League and focus on the World Championship title. Hitting 3,000 points with two races to go will be just the set up he would want before heading in to a showdown with Wilde in Bermuda and Abu Dhabi.
Big gains for Geens
Belgian Jelle Geens will be confident in his chances of challenging for the title, too, his win late last year in Abu Dhabi round one followed by enough solid top 10s to keep his name in the hunt, and fresh memories of losing a sprint finish with Yee in September’s French GP Final to keep him motivated.
Morocco’s Jawad Abdelmoula surprised himself with World Cup gold at the end of 2021, then threw himself into the middle of the WTCS whirlwind with a top 10 in Montreal showing his versatility and bronze in Hamburg his undoubted prowess. A first Olympic distance at this level will be another major test for the 28-year-old.
Matthew Hauser comes to Cagliari off the back of a rollercoaster few weeks of Super League racing, Commonwealth Games bronze and a first Series silver in Hamburg. The Australian is clicking into the kind of form and confidence that nobody doubted was around the corner, and he would love to launch himself into the Series top 10 with another big result here.
Injury comebacks in Cagliari
Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee is back in action after the accident that ended his WTCS Leeds with a broken elbow, and will be fired up for another showdown, while Brazil’s Miguel Hidalgo also makes a return from injury, ready to relaunch his own ambitions on the top 10.
Spain’s three-time World Champion Mario Mola makes only his second Series start in two years after becoming a dad and recalibrating his career, and after running out of course in Valencia chasing down Manoel Messias, it will be interesting to see how he fares over the 10km here. The USA’s Kevin McDowell also makes a welcome return along with the irrepressible Richard Murray, the 33-year-old continuing his quest for a place on the Paris 2024 start line.
Japan’s Kenji Nener and Takumi Hojo, Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk, Dorian Coninx and Bence Bicsak (HUN) all have the potential to make a big impact on the race, while Norway’s Vetle Bergsvik Thorn will want to give Norwegian triathlon fans something else to cheer on this weekend outside of Hawaii.
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