Cycling stage will help decide top triathlete

African champions Hendrik de Villiers and Kate Roberts view the Triathlon World Cup’s opening kilometre of the cycling stage as a potential deciding factor on Sunday.

With the foreign challenge for the men’s title likely to come from Portuguese star Bruno Pais (ranked 15th on the World Cup listings), Britain’s Oliver Freeman (ranked 10th), Canadian Brent McMahon (ranked 20th) and Australian Brendan Sexton (ranked 21st), De Villiers said that a fast and exciting race can be expected.

“The swim should be all right if it is not too windy in the bay area, but it’s the first 600m of the cycle stage before the first incline that could be a bit of a test for the athletes,” he said. “If one has struggled in the swim, that first kilometre of the cycle leg is crucial to stand a chance of getting back into the front pack.”

De Villiers will be joined under starter’s orders by fellow South Africans Erhard Wolfaardt, Travis Campbell and Kent Horner.

Swiss star Nicola Spirig (fifth on the World Cup standings), Canadian Kirsten Sweetland (ranked ninth on the World Cup standings) and the German pair of Christiane Pilz and Joelle Franzmann, ranked 10th and 22nd respectively, as well as the British stars Liz Blatchford and Andrea Whitcombe, are among a host of top international athletes who are also expected to be in the hunt for top honours.

The 1,5km swimming leg of the Triathlon World Cup will take place in a protected saltwater bay over a two-lap course, after which the participants will take up the challenging 40km cycle course over eight laps.
The 10km running leg will be held over a flat route, making for an exciting speedy finish.

The African leg of the Triathlon World Cup series will be preceded by the All-Africa Sprint Triathlon Championships, to be held on the same course on Saturday over distances of 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run.

“The 85-person field set to compete in Richards Bay is a large one by triathlon standards and it can get quite physical in the swimming leg, with the top athletes trying to position themselves in the front pack in the water,” said Roberts. “This means that a quick transition is required from the swim on to the bicycle and it is in the first kilometre of the cycle stage, prior to a slight incline, where the top athletes are likely to make a move to the front.”

Other South Africans who will join Roberts on the starting line include South African champion Mari Rabie (Western Province), Sydney-based Anel Stuart, Wilma Daniel (KwaZulu-Natal), Corinne Berg (Gauteng) and 17-year-old Bloemhof High matric pupil Vicky van der Merwe (Western Province).

Apart from the host country, athletes from Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia have entered for the African showpiece event.—Sapa

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