Spanish speedsters favourites for sprint title

MURRAY HILLS
Last updated 11:05 22/03/2014

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Blink and you might miss them.

Two of the fastest men over triathlon's sprint distance go head-to-head in New Plymouth tomorrow.

World No 1 Javier Gomez from Spain is up against countryman Mario Mola in what should be a fascinating clash over the short course on New Plymouth's water front.

Gomez, who beat Kiwi Bevan Docherty in 2008 over the standard distance when the last World Cup event was held in New Plymouth, has dominated the sport since along with the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonathan, from Great Britain.

He was second at the 2012 London Olympics, with Alistair Brownlee winning gold and Jonathan Brownlee claiming silver.

The 30-year-old's stats are incredible. Between 2002 and 2010 he competed in 57 ITU events, with 54 top 10 finishes including 23 wins. Last year, he claimed his third ITU World Series title.

Toss in the fact that Gomez has raced four times in New Zealand for four wins – he has to be the man to beat in the Port Taranaki-sponsored New Plymouth race.

Mola is one of the talented new faces on the world scene.

Last Sunday, he blitzed the field in the sprint race at Mooloolaba burning off his rivals with a blistering sub-14 minute run. Mola was clocked at 13 minutes, 55 seconds for the 5km.

Gomez said he could recall racing in the city over the standard distance in 2008.

"I remember it well. It was one of my best races up until then. I did 29 minutes and 30 seconds for 10km, it was one of my fastest runs and I won the race," he said.

"I know the course even though it's only half the distance this time and like it. I've got good memories of New Plymouth."

In 2008, Gomez started the run more than a minute down on Kiwi Terenzo Bozzone but stormed through the field to claim victory in one hour, 47 minutes and 33 seconds.

Gomez said his buildup to this year's race had been good.

"We've been training in Wanaka for four weeks. I raced in a half ironman event in Panama in mid-February and then came to Wanaka . . . I like it down there, the place is just beautiful," he said.

"We head back down there after New Plymouth for two more weeks' training before racing in Auckland. That's the main goal, it's the first race in the World Series."

Mola, ranked three in the world, is the form athlete coming into the event.

"I had a good race, probably one of my fastest," he said yesterday "I was pretty pleased, it wasn't easy, but it was definitely nice to win."

Mola said Gomez was the man to beat.

"He's always the guy you have to beat, he's the best. He's a good friend. He's not only an amazing athlete, he's also a good person. I've learnt a lot from him."

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Mola said he had had a good buildup for New Plymouth.

"We've been based in Christchurch since the start of January and been training in Wanaka for the last three weeks. We'll head back there after New Plymouth for two weeks before racing in Auckland," he said.

As for the opposition in New Plymouth?

"There are a lot of great athletes, a lot have been training here or in Australia. The field is very strong, almost a World Series event apart from the Brownlees not being here. It's going to be a tough race."

It's impossible to go past the two for the Port Taranaki ITU race which has a prize purse of $US60,000 (NZ$70,280).

But the chances don't end there in a class lineup.

Switzerland's Sven Riederer was third in Mooloolaba last Sunday, while Frenchmen Laurent Vidal and Vincent Luis are both serious contenders who have been training in New Zealand.

Portugal's Joao Silva is always a threat over the sprint distance, while Ryan Sissons and Tony Dodds are the two top Kiwis.

- Fairfax Media

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