The 2012 ITU season officially gets underway this weekend, with the best of the Americas heading to Argentina for the 2012 LA Paz PATCO Triathlon Pan American Championships. La Paz has hosted a Pan American Cup event each year since 2003 and two South American Championships, but this is the first time the city will host a continental championship event.
Elite Women’s Preview
Brazil’s Pamela Nascimento Oliveria record shows that she always does well in Pan American events and comes to La Paz as the highest finisher from last year’s Pan American Games, where she won bronze, and will wear the No.1. But there are a host of other top-12 finishers from those Games that could feature here including, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, Mexico’s Claudia Rivas and Michelle Flipo, Colombia’s Carolina Grimaldo, Ecuador’s Elizabeth Bravo, Brazil’s Flavia Fernandes, and Argentina’s Romina Palacios Balena, as well as the talented Anahi Leon (MEX) who recorded three top-20 World Cup results in 2011. Bravo is also a previous La Paz winner, taking out the South American titles in 2009.
But they face competition from a strong Canadian contingent, including Pan American Games fifth-placed finisher and 2006 PATCO champion Kathy Tremblay, Chantell Widney, Sarah-Anne Brault, Lauren Campbell and Kirsten Sweetland. It’s the first race in over six months for both Campbell and Sweetland, after their 2011 seasons were shortened due to sustained runs of injuries and bad luck.
Campbell started 2011 strong with a ninth place in Mooloolaba and a 10th in the Sydney ITU World Triathlon Series race, but then spent most of the year out with recurring fatigue. Sweetland’s 2011 started with bike crashes in Mooloolaba and Sydney, which left her with a concussion, and then later in the season suffered stress fractures. Sweetland also has some unfinished business in PATCO championships, after she was disqualified in the 2010 race in Puerto Vallarta.
The USA’s hopes to claim another PATCO title lie with Jillian Petersen, who won this event in 2008 and collected bronze in 2010, Lindsey Jerdonek, and Kaitlin Shiver, who finished fourth in the 2011 Under23 World Championships in Beijing.
Elite Men’s Preview
If the men’s race was a battle by sheer numbers, then it would be hard to look past hosts Argentina and the USA. The Argentinian’s will field nine men, including triple World Cup winner and Sydney Olympian Oscar Galindez. Galindez last competed in an ITU race in 2003, but is making his comeback to ITU racing.
The USA’s men’s medal hopes will be led by Pan Am Games silver medallist Manuel Huerta, who won a Pan American Cup at the same venue in 2008, Mark Fretta, Kevin Collington and Barrett Brandon. But expect plenty of the focus to fall on rising star Lukas Verzbicas, who is on the start list for his elite debut. Verzbicas has claimed plenty of headlines in the past six months, first for winning the 2011 ITU Junior Men’s world title race – which he dedicated to friend and teammate Kevin McDowell. Verzbicas then took up an athletics scholarship in Oregon, before switching back to triathlon. Last week, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong tweeted the teenager ‘Happy Birthday’. He’s equipped with a killer run; he’s broken a four-minute mile on the track, and it will be intriguing to see how he fares in his elite debut.
Those who will be looking to steal the limelight include Canada’s Brent McMahon and Kyle Jones, both of whom had career best form in 2011, Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales, Bermuda’s Tyler Butterfield, Costa Rica’s Leonardo Chacon – who claimed silver in 2010, Chile’s Felipe Van de Wyngard, Colombia’s Carlos Javier Quinchara Forero, Barbados’ Jason Wilson and the strong Brazilian contingent that includes triple Olympian Juraci Moreira, Bruno Matheus and Fabio Carvalho.
The action gets underway when the women’s elite race starts at 2pm (local time) on Sunday 15 January followed by the men’s race at 4.15pm. You can find the full review at www.triathlon.org after the races.