Olympic Test Event Men's Preview
This triathlon season so far has been thrilling, fast and historic. And with the countdown to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games nearing the one-year mark, fans and athletes alike have been looking to this season as preparation of what is to come next summer.
The excitement continues as all the top triathletes travel to Brazil to compete in the 2015 Rio de Janeiro ITU World Olympic Qualification Event August 2, in a test of what is to come at the Olympic Games.
The men's start list is jammed packed with star potential, which will make for some electrifying entertainment on the race course as the top three men will all qualify their countries a spot for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. In addition to the automatic berths to the Olympics, several National Federations will select their athletes to toe the line in Rio come 2016 at the Test Event this weekend.
While he isn't the highest world ranked man this season, Alistair Brownlee (GBR) doesn't race to lose. As the reigning Olympic gold medallist, Brownlee is the only person that has won a Test Event, as well as the Olympic Games. He also holds the record for the fastest run time in an Olympic Games, which was 29:07 during the 2012 London Olympics.
Normally a strong duo, Alistair's younger brother Jonathan will miss Rio due to injury, leaving his older brother to fend off a feisty Spanish team that occupies the top three world rankings this year.
Among the Spanish cavalry are Javier Gomez Noya, Mario Mola and Fernando Alarza. Gomez is No. 1 in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings, and also has the most experience of his compatriots in Olympic competitions. One of the most consistent athletes ever to hit ITU racing, he won the silver medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games and finished fourth in the 2008 Beijing Games.
In the swim
While Gomez and Brownlee are strong in every discipline, Mola often suffers a deficit out of the swim. The waves and warm water temperatures at Copacabana Beach present even more of a challenge for the rising Spaniard to make the lead group out of the water, which could be crucial to success before hitting the hilly and technical bike course.
Along with Gomez and Brownlee, expect expert swimmers such as Richard Varga, (SVK) Henri Schoeman (RSA), brothers Dmitry Polyanskiy and Igor Polyanskiy (RUS), Dorian Coninx (FRA), and Vincent Luis (FRA) will likely head up the 75-man field out of the one-lap ocean swim.
Up they go
The Rio bike course is like no other. It's technical, it's narrow, and it's hilly. A course that carouses along the Copacabana before turning up into narrow neighborhood roads, it will crush legs, burn lungs and could just end the race for some athletes before it's really begun. If that lead group gets out of the water with a sizeable gap, all of the men are strong enough on the bike to keep the chase at bay.
Run for Rio
As the last discipline, nothing is over until the 10km run is done and the game always changes when its just feet pounding on the pavement. While Mola and Richard Murray (RSA) could lag behind, Murray is also an incredible cyclist that's known to bridge up. If he doesn't get the job done on the bike, look for these two training partners to pick off men as soon as they rack their bikes, as they are two of the fastest runners out there. Vinent Luis, David Hauss (FRA), Mola, Gomez and Brownlee are also amongst the quickest runners on the circuit. If there's no gap off the bike and these men hit the second transition together, the crowds are in for a fight that will delight.
History on their side
The only other name to have Olympic podium success on the start list is Sven Riederer (SUI), who earned the bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Games.
For those looking for rich history however, look to none other than USA's Hunter Kemper. He has competed in every single Olympic Games that triathlon has been a part of, dating back to the 2000 Sydney Games. Qualifying for a spot on the US team for Rio would grant Kemper his fifth-straight Olympic appearance. Likewise two-time Olympian Courtney Atkinson (AUS) opted to halt his long distance triathlon career in lieu of another chance at Olympic glory at 35 years old this season.
Road to Rio already a reality
A ticket for Mexico is already punched, thanks to the Pan American Games victory from Crisanto Grajales. Reiderer has also fulfilled his National Federation's requirements to head to Rio, while Gordon Benson earned Great Britain a spot in Rio with his win at the Baku European Games. Japan qualified Yuichi Hosoda at the 2015 New Tapei ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships.
The elite men will race at 12:30pm on Sunday, 2 August 2015.