The 2017 World Triathlon Series has reached its sixth destination of the season as the elites pack their bags and make their way to North America for the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Edmonton. As the host of the 2014 ITU WTS Grand Final location, Edmonton has become one of the regular stops in the Series and can look forward to once again hosting the elite Grand Final event in 2020.
Similar to last year, the Alberta, Canada capital city is offering up a sprint distance course, where the elites will do a simulated beach start in a man-made lake before jumping on their bikes to a course that takes them around prestigious golf courses and local parks.
This weekend the women’s field is covering major World Title contenders. There are four women in the Series that are all within 107 points of each other, so every finish is crucial if they want to be the final one at the top of the podium.
Three of those women are racing this Saturday, so the short course will see some action to claim the top spot on the WTS rankings leaderboard.
After WTS Hamburg, USA’s Katie Zaferes moved into the leader position in the overall Series. She has had a consistent season so far and made it onto one WTS podium with a silver medal in Yokohama. However, she has yet to claim a gold. Lucky for Zaferes, she strives in a sprint distance format, so this weekend could be her shot to remain on top.
In a national head-to-head, fellow U.S. compatriot Kirsten Kasper has remained a subtle threat for the entire season, tip toeing around the top of the women’s rankings. She earned her first WTS podium in Yokohama and combined with her other top finishes, she held onto the golden number one position going into Hamburg. She has been the one to watch this season, earning career milestones and is a real possibility to earn the World Title.
Flora Duffy has been one word so far this season – unstoppable. She started her year in Yokohama and claimed victory. She did it again in Leeds. Then when a sprint distance was thrown in the mix in Hamburg, she conquered that too for the first time in her career. Her three straight wins has catapulted her right into the leaderboard contention. So, as she enters Edmonton and yet again another sprint challenge, she by far will have the largest target on her back.
While it has been Zaferes and Kasper mostly in the limelight, two other American women are equally as strong. Taylor Spivey was another young elite who made it onto her first WTS podium in Leeds and Summer Cook earned her first WTS victory in Edmonton last year, so she returns as the reigning champion.
A strong hopeful for the local Canadian crowd is Joanna Brown. She got on the Cagliari World Cup podium earlier this year and is just waiting to break through on the WTS scene.
Making an ITU comeback is Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes. Fernandes is a two-time Olympian winning the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, and ITU World Champion in 2007. Starting on the scene in 2001, she then retired from the WTS and ITU circuit in 2011 and was just recently inducted into the ITU Hall of Fame in 2016. However, she is taking out her trisuit out of the closet and reentering the ring to line up in Edmonton, so it will be exciting to see how the experienced veteran does against a completely different field than she was used to!