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By Courtney Baird
Photos by Delly Carr/triathlon.org
The second leg of the ITU’s premier Dextro Energy World Championships Series (WCS) kicks off this weekend in Madrid.
As with every ITU World Championship Series race, the men’s field is packed with dozen’s of athletes who could take the title, including one of several Olympic and world championship medalists.
Spain’s Javier Gomez, the 2010 ITU short-course world champion, is coming off one of the most spectacular races in his career. Despite crashing on the bike during the Sydney leg of the World Championship Series in April, Gomez time-trialed his way back into the pack, headed into transition in nearly last place and then ran his way into first, crossing the line with a blistering 30:09 10K split, more than 20 seconds faster than his nearest competitor. He will be looking to take the win in Madrid, something he hasn’t done since 2008.
2009 ITU short-course world champion Alistair Brownlee of Britain and his younger brother Jonathan are also set to compete. Alistair has won in Madrid two years in a row, and his younger brother is coming off of a second place finish in Sydney. Jonathan is currently ranked No. 2 in the world behind Gomez and he was the ITU’s sprint and Under-23 world champion in 2010.
Brendan Sexton will be looking to cement his status as the Australian to beat heading into the London 2012 Olympics. Sexton has been on fire since finishing second at the season opening Mooloolaba ITU World Cup, fourth in Sydney and first at the Monterrey World Cup, the first World Cup win of his career.
Athletes such as Switzerland’s Sven Riederer, the bronze medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics and third place finisher at the WCS race in Sydney in April; Courtney Atkinson of Australia, the 2010 runner-up in Madrid; 2008 Beijing Olympic champion Jan Frodeno of Germany; gold and silver Olympic medalist Simon Whitfield of Canada; and silver and bronze Olympic medalist Bevan Docherty of New Zealand will all look to shake things up during the race.
Americans Greg Bennett, Jarrod Shoemaker and Manuel Huerta are also scheduled to toe the line in Madrid. Bennett and Shoemaker are always podium threats, with both men looking to make their second Olympic teams this year.
As with the men, the women’s Dextro Energy World Championship series race in Madrid is packed with potential winners, including several women with Olympic and world championship medals.
Canada’s Paula Findlay will be the one to beat for the women, having won three of her last four Dextro Energy World Championship Series races.
But a strong contingent of women will look to unseat her, including Beijing Olympic champion Emma Snowsill, who got off to a slow start in Sydney with a terrible swim and finished 42nd, and 2010 ITU short-course world champion Emma Moffatt. Both Emmas are from Australia.
Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz, who finished second behind Findlay in Sydney, will look to switch places this weekend. The tiny Chilean is coming off of a World Cup win in Ishigaki, Japan, and is known for her run speed. She burst onto the scene last year when she won the World Championship Series race in Sydney and came in second in Seoul. She was a virtual unknown before then.
American Laura Bennett is a podium threat. Bennett, who finished fourth at the Beijing Olympics, finished sixth in Sydney in April despite being given with a 15-second penalty for a transition violation. She was only 38 seconds behind winner Findlay.
Other Americans who will be competing include Jillian Petersen, 5150 Miami winner and one of the ITU’s top cyclists; Sarah Groff, who took eighth in Mooloolaba after finally recovering from an injury-plagued 2010; and Gwen Jorgensen, USA Triathlon’s 2010 Rookie of the Year.
New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt, the 2009 winner in Madrid; Sweden’s Lisa Norden, the 2010 sprint world champion; and 2008 short-course world champion Helen Jenkins of Great Britain are also among the many podium contenders.
Check the race out live on triathlonlive.tv, or look for re-runs on Universal Sports if you live in the United States.