All eyes will be on Luke Willian in Leeds this weekend as the competition heats up for Round Four of the World Triathlon Series.
Off the back of an outstanding World Cup win in New Plymouth in March, and recent promising finishes in Chengdu and Yokohama, Willian will be looking to push his case for Tokyo 2020 selection over the Standard distance course this weekend.
Speaking to Triathlon Australia, Willian said that he was thrilled with the unexpected success so early on in his 2019 season and will be keeping preparations low-key in the lead up to Sunday’s race.
“I wouldn’t say I have done anything too different to previous years,” Willian said.
“I just think I have gotten stronger as an athlete, so I am now able to handle more volume on the run consistently.”
“I like to keep it pretty relaxed going into races so I won’t have too many expectations but I would focus on the little things that work well for me that I can control. It seems to work for me.”
Among teammates joining Willian on the starting line in Leeds will be Olympian Ryan Bailie and Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Jake Birtwhistle.
An in-form Bailie heads into competition with a top five finish in May’s Cagliari World Cup under his belt, while consistent results at WTS Yokohama and Bermuda have provided Birtwhistle with a boost of confidence as he continues to build into his 2019 season.
Aaron Royle will also be in the mix for the Aussies with strong starts at both Yokohama and Bermuda World Series races, while Ryan Fisher will make his second Series appearance for the season.
The Australian men will have their work cut out for them in Leeds, with Series Leaders Vincent Luis (FRA), Fernando Alarza (ESP) and Henri Schoeman (SA) named amongst the 56 strong starting list. Britain’s own Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee were also named, with a home crowd and Alistair’s recent European Championship title set to spur them on in Leeds.
Meanwhile in the Elite Women’s racing, Emma Jeffcoat makes her Leeds debut, as she continues to bolster her results in the lead-in to the Tokyo 2020 test event.
Following solid results at the Mooloolaba and New Plymouth World Cups, as well as an inside Top 20 finish at WTS Yokohama, Jeffcoat is on track to record similar results in Leeds.
She’ll be joined on the starting line by consistent performer Natalie van Coevorden, as well as Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay Gold Medallist Gillian Backhouse and Olympian Emma Jackson; both making their return to the World Triathlon Series for 2019.
Kelly Ann-Perkins will also hit the starting line in Leeds off the back of a clean sweep of the Morton Bay Oceania Championship and Cup earlier this year.
The Aussie women will be in for some exciting and heated racing on Sunday, with plenty of formidable American and British talent making the trip up to Leeds.
An undefeated Katie Zaferes (USA) is shaping up to be the one to beat, as she heads into competition with a flawless record after taking out the win in all three Series races thus far. She’ll be supported by fellow countrywoman Taylor Spivey (USA). Not to be underestimated, Spivey has consistently finished within the Top 6 of each Series race and poses a serious threat in Leeds.
British talents Jess Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Non Stanford and Vicky Holland will also be ones to keep an eye out for on Sunday, as they look to continue to build their seasons on home soil.
Race Start: Sunday 9 June
Women: 13.06am (local time) | 10.06pm AEST
Men: 13.51am (local time) | 12.51am AEST (Mon 9 June)