Spaniard Mario Mola has been the leader of the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings for the majority of the season and will enter Cozumel still grasping tightly to that position. However, Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee also has the title in his sights after his win in WTS Edmonton. He is only 235 points behind Mola and if he can win in Cozumel and keep Mola off the podium the title is his.
Trying to help Jonny keep Mola off the podium will be brother and Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee, who won the World Aquathlon Champs on Wed 14 September. Richard Murray (RSA) and Fernando Alarza (ESP) are also competing and will be hoping for podium places.
How the race could play out
The odds are Slovakia’s Richard Varga will lead out of the water. In his 33 WTS races in his career, he has exited as the swim leader 28 times. Also a training partner to the Brownlees, having Varga in front in the swim increases his chances of making the lead bike pack with them, which gives the Brits the advantage.
Expect Jonny not be too far behind Varga. His strong ability in the water was seen in Rio when he and older brother Alistair were fourth and fifth out of the water. Other strong swimmers that could make an impact in the ocean is Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman (RSA), Russian brothers Igor and Dmitry Polyanskiy, Aaron Royle (AUS) and the Frenchmen.
The swim will be a critical part of the race for Mola, as he’s not as strong as these men, and a poor swim could cost him both a medal and a world title.
To try and ensure Jonny’s victory it is likely the Brownlees will put forth a similar strategy as the Olympics, where they hammered hard early on the bike in an effort to get an insurmountable gap over the chase.
Training partners Mola and Murray cycle well together, with Murray consistently motivating chase packs to bridge up to the leaders. The key for them will be not overusing their legs on the bike, as well as staying hydrated in the hot, humid Mexican weather.
USA’s Ben Kanute, Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt and Denmark’s Andreas Schilling are all very good cyclists, as is Aussie Royle. Each of the men possess the power to create breakaways that could really shake up the field for both Brownlee’s and Mola’s plan for a world title.
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Mola and Murray are considered two of the fiercest runners in the circuit. Murray had the fastest 10-kilometre split time in Rio, and Mola holds the record for the fastest split time in ITU history at 28:59, a time that he recorded at last year’s Grand Final in Chicago. Add in that Murray won the World Cup race in Cozumel last year in blasting heat, and cards could be stacked in his favour.
But the Brownlees are also very good runners. The mentally tough Alistair is not a competitor you want to push your chances with down the finish chute. That said, all bets are off if Mola, Murray and the Brownlees are near each other onto the run.
And having Alistair in the race may not be a good thing for Jonny for while he may opt to work for his brother during the final WTS race of the year, Alistair could actually be a factor in keeping the world title from his brother if Alistair beats Jonny…