Round 2 of the World Triathlon Series gets under way this weekend in Auckland with four of Ireland’s Rio Olympic hopefuls taking to the start pontoon in front on an expected global TV audience of over 26 Million.
The elite women are off first with Derry triathlete, Aileen Reid wearing number 20 going into the race. The opening round of the Series in Abu Dhabi was won by USA’s Gwen Jorgenson who produced an incredible run split to take a convincing win and looks well capable of winning this weekend and ultimately defending her world title.
Reid opened her 2015 account with a creditable 24th place finish but is well capable of more considering she has hit the World Series podium on three previous occasions. 57 women will take to the start line with Aileen hoping to improve upon her season opener and build upon her World Series and Olympic Qualification Points haul.
The elite men’s race is set to be another fascinating battle despite the fact that there are three notable absentees. Olympic Champion Alistair Brownlee has not raced in 2015 with a reported ankle injury and will have to wait a little longer as he’s not named on the start list. Abu Dhabi’s silver medallist Vincent Luis and bronze medallist Richard Murray are also absent, opting to leave their power dry for later Series rounds.
Spain’s Mario Mola will be targeting back to back wins, however will have to contend with racing over double the distance as Auckland will see the 66 elite men complete a 1500 meter swim, 40 kilometre bike and 10 kilometre run.
Armagh native Conor Murphy and Cork man Bryan Keane will relish the longer distance as both favour endurance over the pure speed required in the sprint distance.
Murphy opened with 30th in Abu Dhabi, admitting he was a little fatigued going into the race but lines up wearing number 18 this weekend, with a real opportunity to better his starting number.
Just two places to his left will be team-mate Bryan Keane who wears number 20. With such close starting positions there is a potential advantage to be gained as you can somewhat mitigate the chaos of the mass start and avoid swimming over and hindering your team-mate.
Ben Shaw is Ireland’s final representative as he wears number 45. Shaw has raced well in his early season warm ups, placing 18th in last weekend’s New Plymouth World Cup. Particularly pleasing were his swim and run splits on that occasion.
The women’s race starts at 11:50pm on Saturday night with the men’s race starting at 3:40am on Sunday morning Irish time.
Follow the action live via triathlonlive.tv and the BBC Red Button or catch a full replay on BBC Two from 4pm, Sunday.