The Road to Rio starts this weekend as the Yokohama World Triathlon Series provides the first opportunity to pick up some of the coveted Olympic Qualification points. On the start line will be 4 Irish triathletes, Aileen Reid, Conor Murphy, Ben Shaw and World Series debutant Russell White.
Along with athletes having one eye on Rio the World Series is heating up as Yokohama marks the 3rd stop of the 8 race world tour. Bryan Keane is the top ranked Irish athlete in the series lying in 16th place with Ben Shaw 32nd and Conor Murphy 34th. Aileen Reid is lying 28th having only competed in one World Series race so far.
With the best 5 results counting in the series Bryan Keane has opted to skip Yokohama and will race next in London on the 31st of May.
“All our athletes look in very good shape at the moment. Conor and Aileen have both been training in South Africa for the past 2 weeks after the last World Series race in Cape Town. Ben has been training hard in Australia and Russell White in coming from a good result in China” commented Triathlon Ireland’s Technical Director Tommy Evans.
Aileen Reid will line up for the 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run wearing number 18 from 54 starters and hoping to build on her season opener in Cape Town where she finished 16th. The Derry native had a disrupted winter’s training but “wasn’t a million miles away in Cape Town” according to Evans.
Saturday should be another good test as Aileen will go up against the best in the business. Training mate Jodie Stimpson has won the 2 opening World Series races of the season and goes in as favourite however the fast running American, Gwen Jorgenson will be hard to beat if she is in contention after the swim and bike.
The men’s race sees the return of Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee who will be hoping to get the better of Javier Gomez, winner of the 2 opening World Series races. Younger brother Jonny Brownlee will be aiming to repeat his performance in Yokomaha last year and get his World Champion title hopes back on track with a victory.
Irish triathletes Ben Shaw and Conor Murphy will line up wearing number 25 and 26 respectively while Russell White, on the far side of the pontoon will wear number 66 from a packed field of 68 starters.
Shaw will be targeting a big performance as he’s just off the back of victory at the Zhenjiang Asian Cup in China. The 22 year old has shown his class mixing it with the biggest names in the sport thanks to his blistering swim and bike speed. If he can get off the bike with a small leading pack he has a chance of a breakthrough World Series result.
Armagh’s Conor Murphy will be looking to bounce back from a poor result in Cape Town where he ended up 42nd. Murphy found himself towards the rear out of the water after a violent 1500m swim and never got back into contention as the bike packs ahead were working well together and couldn’t be closed down.
Murphy will be looking to emulate his World Series opener in Auckland where he swam and biked well and finished it off with a sub 33 minute run on the hardest course on the ITU circuit for a 22nd place finish.
21 year old Russell White is excited for his first taste of World Series racing and “not nervous…..yet.”
“I don’t have any pressure on me, it’s a great opportunity that I just want to make the most of.”
“My main aim is to get a really good swim and try to get as close to the front of the race as I can. After that keep myself in a good position on the bike and finish with a solid run. This is my first time racing at this level and I want to learn as much as possible as this will hopefully be the first of many World Series races.”
The women’s race starts at 2am on this Saturday morning with the men’s race to follow at 5am. A full replay is available at 8:50am and 10:50am on the BBC Red Button or anytime at triathlonlive.tv. Highlights are available on BBC 2 on Sunday 18th at 4:30pm.