By Chelsea White on 04/05/16 at 9:00 am
The fourth-stop of the ten-part world cup calendar has arrived as the elites are challenged on arguably one of the hardest World Cup triathlon courses at the 2016 Huatulco ITU Triathlon World Cup. Known for it’s hot, humid and hilly conditions, athletes are lining up in Mexico to take on this year’s standard two-lap swim, eight-lap bike and four-lap run.
While across the pond, the Cagliari World Cup will also be happening, the two events this weekend are the last World Cup races where elites can earn Olympic qualifying points towards Rio this summer. And since there is only less than two weeks to go until the two-year Olympic qualification period finally comes to a close, the competition is expected to be fierce, as the stakes are at an all-time high.
The women are set to compete first on Saturday evening, with the men following suit on Sunday morning. This year’s women’s roster sees a combination of athletes that are all still fighting to remain on track towards Rio, with some women right on the cusp of securing their rightful ticket for this summer.
Capping off the start list is Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR). She boosted her way back into the World Cup limelight last year when she won in Alanya, which was her first victory since 2010. She also just nearly missed the podium this year in Chengdu, so she is a name that could make some moves in Mexico.
Jolanda Annen (SUI) returns as the only woman who made the Huatulco podium last year, when she finished with the silver. She also is still vying for the second Swiss position, next to the 2012 Olympic gold medallist Nicola Spirig, who has already qualified.
Paula Findlay (CAN) and Julia Hauser (AUT) are both battling to become the third team member for each of their National Federations, so points are everything for each woman. This will be Findlay’s first race of the season, after last year saw her endure some injuries that took her out of the competition for a while. Hauser, on the other hand, has been going strong so far this year, earning a fifth-place finish in Chengdu.
After some impressive finishes so far this season, South Africa’s Mari Rabie is setting herself up in a good position to represent her nation in Rio. She captured the ATU African Championships and just barely missed the podium in New Plymouth by earning fourth place. She could be a real threat out on the course this weekend as both a strong swimmer and biker.
Also there are three women all vying for the stakeholder of being named the “new flag” position for the America’s, which is Elizabeth Bravo (ECU), Romina Palacio Balena (ARG) and Alia Cardinale Villalobos (CRC).
Other names that could cause a threat out on the heated course this weekend is Claire Michel (BEL) and Miriam Casillas García (ESP). Michel earned the silver medal in Chengdu earlier this year so has already been making strides on the World Cup calendar. While Casillas is a rising star for the Spanish nation after already producing a consistent season this year, she has finished in the top-ten in all three World Cups this year.
This weekend on the men’s side, is critical for several athletes as it has the power to determine their Olympic fate.
Stepping up to the line in the top position is Gonzalo Raul Tellechea (ARG). Although he has yet to find the top of a World Cup podium, he has two top-ten finishes on the circuit this year, so Huatulco could potentially be the perfect site to make his gold medal debut.
In a close battle to move up on the Olympic qualification list is Canada’s Kyle Jones and Barbados’ Jason Wilson. Heading into the weekend, the two men are only separated by three points, so the motivation to outrace the other is higher than ever.
However, Wilson will also go head-to-head with Manual Huerta (PUR) as both men are also in contention of securing the “new flag” position for the America’s. Chile’s Felipe Barraza also finds himself in the running, so the goal of finishing in the top position possible will be on everyone’s minds.
Seeking out the final national roster spot is Miguel Arraiolos (POR). He currently is in the top position to possibly qualify his NOC a third athlete. While Austrian Thomas Springer, who earned the bronze medal in Huatulco last year, is also holding onto the “new flag” position for Europe and will not be wanting to lose it.
The women are set to compete first on Saturday with a start time of 5:00PM local time, with the men following the next day on Sunday at 08:30AM. You can follow all of the action with live timing at triathlon.org/live and with tweet updates at @triathlonlive.
Find more details about this event - 2016 Huatulco ITU Triathlon World Cup