The North of England gets ready to roll out the blue carpet once more this weekend for the 2019 AJ Bell World Triathlon Leeds, where the world’s top women triathletes will be digging deep to deliver the kind of performance that might help get them a little closer to the incredibly high bar that current Series leader Katie Zaferes has set so far this season.
The standard-distance Leeds course always brings the best out of the athletes, a 1.5km swim in Roundhay Park’s Waterloo Lake followed by a fast point-to-point bike ride into the city centre where seven technical laps will demand absolute concentration before the 4-lap, 10km run ultimately seals the outcome of the race. With each pass amongst the Millennium Square grandstand crowds, the volume and adrenaline levels are sure to build.
Zaferes has been a woman on a mission so far in 2019, and heads into WTS Leeds determined to continue in the kind of rich form that has seen her rocket to the top spot of the season rankings after three wins from three. With a little more risk taking now added to her already impressive armoury, the American has finally converted her trademark podium-placing consistency of previous campaigns into pure WTS gold. This weekend could be the perfect opportunity to underline that theory, after Katie’s gutsy first performance on the Leeds course last year delivered her the bronze.
Seemingly always on or around Zaferes’ shoulder this year from start line to finish has been teammate Taylor Spivey. The 28-year-old has WTS silver and bronze to her name so far in 2019 and, having finished second here two years ago, would dearly love to top that famous podium in front of Millennium Square, even if it had to be at the expense of her compatriot’s 100% record.
The American pair formed part of an intriguing USA/GBR front bike pack on the Gold Coast as the 2018 Grand Final slowly revealed the final chapter of last season’s story. Six Brits were involved and Sophie Coldwell, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Non Stanford, Jodie Stimpson, Jessica Learmonth and 2018 World Champion Vicky Holland will no doubt prove to be a collective force to be reckoned with once again as the home crowd’s cheers blow a little extra wind into their sails and potentially up and on to the podium.
Among the names eager to break up a possible trans-Atlantic stranglehold on the podium will be Canada’s 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Joanna Brown, third at this year’s WTS Bermuda, and Australia’s Natalie Van Coevorden, who has been consistently in and around the top 10 spots in this campaign.
Among the other big names taking to the start line and looking to rediscover the best of their 2018 form are Rachel Klamer (NED) and Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), while Italy’s Angelica Olmo has put together a string of solid results so far this term - including victory at the New Plymouth World Cup - and would love to convert it into a first WTS podium.
Klamer’s compatriot Maya Kingma landed her first WTS top 10 in Yokohama last month, a race where Japan’s own Yuko Takahashi was only kept off the podium by Spivey’s late burst, and she lines up along with teammates Ai Ueda, Yuka Sato and Juri Ide as the four contenders battle to represent their country at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
Estonia’s Kaidi Kivioja continues to represent ITU’s development project the ASICS World Triathlon Team at the highest level, while Italy’s Alice Betto will remember fondly her bronze-winning display in 2017 and look to reignite that fire to build on solid finishes in Bermuda and Yokohama.
You can watch the race live in full on TriathlonLIVE.tv and follow on social media using the hashtag #WTSLeeds
For the full women’s start list, click here