What To Look For In The Rio Triathlons
By Jarrod Shoemaker, 2008 Beijing Olympian
Triathlon races at the Games are always unpredictable and both of these Rio races are wide open. Nothing ever goes to plan and at every event since triathlon started in 2000 something crazy has happened. Both races will be very exciting and hard fought – so I break them both down as I see them possibly playing out.
Men’s Race Preview
Every Games has a test event that takes place a year before the actual event and it’s often a useful reference point for the competition. Last year, the top three finishers were Javier Gomez (Spain), Vincent Luis (France) and Richard Murray (South Africa). The race played out much in the same way I believe the Olympic race will: a front group of 10 that ended up being six by the end of the bike, stayed away. Gomez and Luis were in that group, while Murray had a spectacular run to run his way up to the podium.
The swim takes place at scenic Copacabana beach and the waves are the tricky part – as they can break the swim up. For the bike portion, the Rio course is one of the toughest that we compete on throughout the season with two hills, one very steep and the other a bit longer and more gradual. The course is very technical through the hills and very flat along the beach, while the run is flat four laps along the water.
One of the differences between the 2016 race and the 2015 test event and other World Triathlon Series races is that there are only 55 athletes. The max each country can have is three athletes. The test event had 75 and the WTS races have 65 with a max of six per country. A lot of athletes who are ranked in the top 60 in the world are not on Olympic teams, as they are the fourth, fifth or sixth athletes in their countries.
Unfortunately on July 14th Gomez broke his elbow in a crash and had to withdraw, so the person who I considered the strong favorite is now out. Richard Murray who was third last year also is recovering from an injury, having broken his collarbone in mid-April. He will compete, but his swim will certainly be affected.
I believe a pack of swimmers will get out of the water and push the bike hard, this will most likely include Henri Schoemann (SA), Alistair Brownlee (multiple world champion from Great Britain), Jonathan Brownlee (GB), Richard Varga (Slovakia), Aaron Royle (Australia), the Polyansky brothers Igor and Dimitry (Russia), Vincent Luis (FR) and Ben Kanute (USA). This group might include a few more people, but most likely will be 7-8 people.
A strong second pack will form behind them, including the best runner in the sport, Mario Mola (Spain) and U.S. athletes Joe Maloy and Greg Billington along with Murray. I expect this chase pack to total about 15-20 athletes.
The race will be decided on the bike and I believe a strong pack will stay away and you are looking at potential podium of the Brownlee’s, assuming they stay healthy between now and the Olympics, and Vincent Luis. With strong runs coming from behind – Mola and Murray could close – but not quite close enough in my view. It should be a fantastic race!
The U.S. Men
Ben Kanute is a strong swim biker, who excels in smaller races where he can work hard, his run has improved and he will be shooting to hold onto a top 15 spot.
Joe Maloy is a great all-around triathlete who has had some amazing swims. His run has improved a lot and if he plays his cards right he could run up into a top 10 placing.
Greg Billington is another great all-around triathlete whose strengths are his run and his bike, if he is running on form he can move up quite a bit on the run and will be looking for a top 15.
Women’s Race Preview
In the 2015 test event the women’s race looked to be a break on the bike, but ended up coming together into a big group on the bike and Gwen Jorgensen (USA) ran away for a convincing victory. A lot has changed since that race, and the Rio race will play out quite differently.
Flora Duffy (Bermuda) has injected new life into the races recently and has driven some amazing breakaways and even a solo ride for 40km to win a WTS race this season. Duffy will need some partners to help her and in one of those race she had a few: Andrea Hewitt (New Zealand) and Helen Jenkins (Great Britain), who are also some of the best women in the sport having won World Championships.
At the Rio event in 2015 Non Stanford (Great Britain) and Vicky Holland (Great Britain) finished second and third followed by U.S. entry Sarah True (who also finished fourth in the London four years ago).
The best women in the world are also the best swimmers, so the top 10 out of the water will likely include the winners of the race. Everybody knows that Duffy will go for it on the bike and the question is whether she can stay away. Everybody knows that they will have to gap Jorgensen on the bike by 2-3 minutes to have a chance to hold off Gwen for the win. She’s just such a strong runner. This race will be quite amazing.
Another wild card on the women’s side is Nicola Spirig (Switzerland) who won a sprint finish in London for the Gold Medal, but is recovering from a broken wrist suffered in the first race of the season in March.
This race will likely have Duffy pushing the bike hard from the beginning with a few women going with her. Who it will be and whether or not they can succeed will be an interesting question. The safe pick for to win gold is American Jorgensen followed by Jenkins and Stanford, but I believe that Duffy will make something happen on the bike, as there will be lots of athletes knowing that they need to isolate Jorgensen to help their medal hopes.
Jorgensen is the favorite, Duffy is the world leader and gutsiest athlete in the race and there are about eight women who could medal on any given day.
The U.S. Women
Gwen Jorgensen is the reigning World Champion and just had a streak of 13 straight ITU race wins ended with a second-place finish earlier this year. She is the best runner in the sport and is also a top 10 swimmer and has improved her cycling a lot since 2012.
Sarah True finished fourth in London and has been a consistent top-10 performer over the past two years. She will be in the top four out of the water, the question is: is she willing to go for it on the bike to get the gap she needs to go for a medal?
Katie Zafares consistently finished in the top four last season, but has not been as consistent this year, her swim is always top six out of the water and she is a strong cyclist and was a college runner. If Katie can put together a race like she had in 2015, she has a shot at a medal.
Win a Roka Wetsuit
Tell us your pick for the winner in both triathlon events? Correct answers will be entered to win a Roka Maverick Comp Wetsuit. If no one guesses both winners correctly, anyone who guesses at least one of the winners will be entered. Winner selected at random from among the correct entries. All entries must be received by 11:59pm on August 16. Only one entry per person!
Email Address Invalid. Please enter an email address in the format: firstname.lastname@example.orgJared
4 years ago.Congratulations to AB and GJ! How will the winner be announced?Bruce
4 years ago.Henri Schoemann and Gwen JorgensonAmber
4 years ago.Alistair Brownlee and Gwen JorgensenJames minor
4 years ago.Ben Kanter and Gwen JorgensenMichaela
4 years ago.Women:
Alistair BrownleeMichael Sakara
4 years ago.Men:Greg Billington
4 years ago.Men: Alistair Brownlee
Women: Gwen JorgensenAnn Schroeder
4 years ago.Alister Brownlee/ Gwen JorgensenCaitlin D.
4 years ago.Men: Vincent Luis
Women: Flora DuffyMichaelonthepraririe
4 years ago.Men's: Alistar Brownlee
Women's : Gewn JorgensonAdam
4 years ago.Mola and JorgensonAndrew
4 years ago.Women: Gwen Jorgenson
Men: Alistair BrownleeKarla Palmer
4 years ago.Greg Billington & Gwen JorgensonDianne
4 years ago.Women: Gwen Jorgensen
Men: Mario Molatara
4 years ago.men- alistair brownlee
women- gwen jorgensonMolly Mattingly
4 years ago.Alistair brownlee and Gwen Jorgensen will win!Esther
4 years ago.Men: Alistair Brownlee
Women: Gwen JorgensonMark
4 years ago.Alistair Brownlee and Gwen JorgensenSabrina Buhagiar
4 years ago.Gwen Jorgensen for women
Alistair Brownlee for menSue
4 years ago.A Brownlee and H JenkinsAddie Slate
4 years ago.Women: Gwen Jorgensen
Men: Mario MolaDavid Groomes
4 years ago.Vincent Luis - Men
Gwen Jorgensen - WomenFlorencia
4 years ago.Gwen Jorgensen for Women
Alister Brownlee For MenJames L
4 years ago.Alistair Brownlee and Gwen JorgensenPaige Springer
4 years ago.Gwen Jorgensen (women) & Vincent Luis (men)Add a Comment
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