The glorious unpredictability of the men’s 2019 World Triathlon Series continued last weekend in Montreal where Belgium’s Jelle Geens took the tape ahead of defending World Champion Mario Mola (ESP) and Tyler Mislawchuk landed his first WTS podium with bronze on home soil. This Saturday sees the sixth stop of the season take the athletes to Hamburg for the annual showcase of the very best in sprint-distance racing. From the crowd-lined swim exit to the tight turns of the two-lap bike and run finish in front of the imposing Town Hall, this is a serious circuit for fans and athletes alike.
In what has been an entertaining 2019 World Series so far, that mighty Geens’ display in Montreal was far from the first men’s ‘first’ of the year. Dorian Coninx (FRA) wowed the crowds at WTS Bermuda and Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) did likewise in Leeds, blowing the 2019 World Championship race wide open in a year that has also seen the welcome returns of legends like Javier Gomez Noya and Alistair Brownlee to the start lists.
So the question remains, will this year’s Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon continue that trend? Fernando Alarza’s (ESP) sixth place in Canada took him to the top of the Series rankings and, despite consistent podium appearances in recent years, he hasn’t taken the tape since Cape Town back in April of 2016, his only WTS win to date. Consistent top-10 finishes this year may have got him to that top spot, but it is highly likely that a second career gold will be required if he is to still be there at the end of the year given the talent snapping at his heels.
That talent includes Vincent Luis, and the Frenchman will be fresh after sitting out Montreal and hungry to re-establish his place at the top of the tree. Victory in Yokohama was his first since the Gold Coast Grand Final but rarely has he finished outside the first five or six over the past two campaigns and the possibility of another win in Hamburg to go with that from 2015 is hard to ignore.
Defending World Champion Mario Mola rediscovered his touch in the water in Quebec to emerge less than 20 seconds behind the two imperious pullers Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Richard Varga (SVK) and set up a strong finish just a fraction off the winner Geens. Mola’s win in Abu Dhabi at the start of the year felt like a long time ago after three uncharacteristic top-30 finishes since, and that silver could prove just the tonic his season needed as he pursues a fourth straight title.
Two more young athletes who have impressed this term are Bence Bicsak of Hungary and Great Britain’s Alex Yee, a bronze and silver respectively in 2019 bringing them both a first taste of the WTS podium they will be eager to replicate. Hayden Wilde (NZL) will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of a puncture-induced DNF in Antwerp and Gustav Iden (NOR), like his ever-present teammate Kristian Blummenfelt, can never be written off, particularly if a decent-sized breakaway can be forced on the bikes.
South Africa’s Richard Murray impressed once more in Montreal and looked back to somewhere close to his very best after finally putting a brief injury hiatus behind him. He may feel there is unfinished business in the German city where he has previously podium’d just once, finishing third here last year, while compatriot Schoeman will want to bounce back from the frustrations of last weekend and shoot for his first ever Hamburg medal.
As always when they are on the starting list, former World Champions Gomez and Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) are not ones to be overlooked in the race for medals either. The Spaniard scored yet another top ten at WTS Montreal in what has already been a busy return to ITU racing in 2019, while Brownlee makes his first start since a disappointing WTS Leeds saw him back to training to with some rebuilding to do.
For the full men’s start list, click here