Hamburg WTS: 5 things we learnt
With individual and mixed relay racing on consecutive days, the Hamburg weekend of the World Triathlon Series is its best supported and often most action-packed event of the season. With the 2019 stopover continuing that trend, here are five takeaways from the racing...
1. When wet ‘n wild, anything can happen: Sodden roads on a twisting city centre course were always going to lead to an incident-packed bike leg and so it proved. Normally the prudent tactic to stay out of trouble and mitigate risks would be to gain a position towards the head of the race. Unfortunately, when the leader goes down – as was the case with Denmark’s Andreas Schilling – even that approach comes unstuck. Schilling’s spill caused a pile-up behind that ended the challenge of a clutch of the main contenders including Britain’s Jonny Brownlee and Tom Bishop, South Africa’s Henri Schoeman and Richard Murray and the series leader Fernando Alarza. It was worse still for Hungary’s Bence Bicsak, whose season looks to be over after breaking a bone in his leg.
2. Stanford peaking at just the right time: It’s hard not to get carried away at the sight of Non Stanford running clear of Cassandre Beaugrand to clock a 5km split of 16:04 for her first WTS win in over three years and arguably her best result in almost six. The Welshwoman has been gradually improving all season and finally free of the injuries that have plagued her in recent years, she looks on the perfect trajectory to be even better come the Tokyo test event – her most important race of the season. The GB selection criteria means only Vicky Holland, as an existing Olympic medallist, can officially qualify at the mid-August race. But if Stanford were to be best of the Brits and show she can cope with the heat, humidity and other demands of the Far East, then it would go a long way to securing one of the three available slots.
3. Joel Filliol’s squad consistently the best: It is little wonder the world’s best triathletes gravitate towards the self-named JFT Crew. The Canadian coach is an understated personality yet a world-beater when it comes to results and Hamburg was just the latest example. As well Stanford’s victory, Filliol’s charges filled the top four spots on the men’s leaderboard. His approach seems to nurture triathletes to success against a gruelling global schedule. It may be cruel to single out those that have moved away from the group, but since Richard Murray departed, the South African has battled injury and barely featured at the pointy end of races.
4. Need to stay in the relay mix: Both Britain and the USA’s mixed relay quartets below par showing illustrated how a clutch of superstar performers cannot compensate for one weak leg in this format. When Jess Learmonth and Eli Hemming fell off the pace, not only did their team-mates had to chase down a deficit but they had to do it solo against the combined strength of the main pack. Breaks off the front might not always win a race, but slipping up at the back will more than often lose it.
5. French fancied for Tokyo: When it comes to predicting the inaugural winners of the Olympic triathlon mixed relay in 2020, it’s impossible to look past the French at present. With short course racing honed on their own popular French Grand Prix circuit, the possess all-round strength in depth across all disciplines and both genders, from Vincent Luis, Leo Bergere and Dorian Coninx to Cassandre Beaugrand, Leonie Periault and Sandra Dodet. It always seems enough to keep them in the mix on the first three legs before handing over for Luis to strike on the anchor – a role he’s performed successfully three times in five years.