South African Travis Johnston heads up the 47-strong team that is in Gijon, Spain for the World Duathlon Championships which take place on Saturday and Sunday.
Johnston won the South African title in June over former track star Johan Pretorius using his superior cycling skills. But he will be up against a whole different level of competition when he lines up on Sunday afternoon.
The two-time World Champion Javier Gomez has withdrawn from the World Championships, but that makes Saturday’s race no less interesting as a field of 56 athletes take to the start line.
Spain’s Victor Manual Del Corral Morales would seem to start as race favourite after finishing fourth at the 2010 World Championships. Morales finished second at the 2011 European Duathlon Championships and was winner of the European Cross Triathlon Title.
If that wasn’t enough, Johnston and Johan Pretorius will need to contend with the reigning European Champion Benoit Nicholas of France who is making his World Championships Debut.
Then there is 2008 world duathlon champion Rob Woestenborghs. The Belgian finished runner-up in last years championships and will be sure to want to go one better. Also there is Portugal’s Sergio Silva who has finished in the top 5 at the World Championships four times already.
The course is made up of a 10km run, 43.2km cycle and 5km run to end up on. All legs are undulating with the 10 kilometre run comprising four laps of 2.5km; the cycle eight laps of 5.4km and the final 5km, two laps of 2.5km each.
Like Johnston in the men’s race, Liezl van der Merwe will he hoping her prowess on the bike will keep her within striking distance of the leaders. Van der Merwe made up a 90sec deficit on the 10km run at the SA Championships in June this year and turned it into a 3min lead by the end of the bike leg.
It will be a tough task for Van der Merwe as she goes up against the best in the world. European Champion Sandra Levenez of France will be keen to go one better than in 2010 when she finished second behind Catriona Morrison. Levenez is in fine form having won the European title earlier this year. There is also Venezuela’s Karla Urbina (the Pan American Champion), Japan’s Airi Sawada who won the Asian title and Netherlands Ruth van der Meijden who was European Champion in 2010.
The Elite ladies get underway on Saturday at 11.45am.