Montage of the expected top 5 women in front of the Colosseum with the words ROME at the bottom of the screen
Credit: World Triathlon

The first ever World Triathlon Cup Rome hits the Italian capital, with two stellar fields ready to tackle the stunning new course and bring the local sports fans plenty of fast and furious triathlon entertainment on Saturday.

It all begins in the Laghetto dell’EUR, the lake in the heart of the district purpose-built for the 1960 Olympic Games and now at the heart of Rome’s most famous urban park. It’s a sprint-distance affair, the 750m lake swim followed by a long 250m run into transition then out onto the 5-lap, 20km bike. The clockwise course packs long, rolling straights, tight turns and a twisting 5% climb at the halfway point, before the final 5km run segment plays out over two laps around the lake.

You can watch full coverage of the races over on from 9am (women) and midday (men) local time on Saturday 7 October.

Men’s preview

Fully-fit Vilaca ready to bounce back

Wearing the men’s number one will be Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca. Emerging from the disappointment of Pontevedra, where illness hampered his shot at the world title down the second half of the run, the 23-year-old will have taken much away from the experience, not to mention his best season to date.

Three years since his last World Cup foray when he followed Vincent Luis onto the Karlovy Vary podium, this would be the perfect time to see out a race to the golden conclusion his performances at a Cup and Series level have deserved. Definitely one to watch over the next 10 months as the Paris Olympics build up kicks in.

Lehmann looking for big finish

Hungarian triathlon is in a purple patch right now, and spearheading it on the men’s side is Csongor Lehmann. A former Junior and U23 World Champion, he scored a first World Cup gold in Karlovy Vary in 2022 and followed it with a home gold in Tiszaujvaros this year. A strong swim-biker who is also fearless on the run, his 7th place at the Championship Finals underlined how far the 24-year-old has come in the last two seasons.

Italian medal hopes may lie with Michele Sarzilla and Gianluca Pozzatti, the latter finally seeing out a Cup gold in Miyazaki last year having looked so close to the podium on so many occasions in the past. Young talent Nicolo Strada will also likely feature as he looks to back up his fine swim form with the finish to match.

Marten Van Riel continues to seek his 2022 race sharpness after a long injury lay-off that came to an end in May, the Belgian star fading over the 10km run in Pontevedra after a typically powerful bike segment. Someone who has built their finishes into medal-winning prowess is Norway’s Vetle Bergsvik Thorn, third in Tangier and sizing up a Paris 2024 starting berth for Norway. Britain’s Harry Leleu took a career-best fourth in Morocco and lines up alongside teammate and 2022 U23 World Champion Connor Bentley.

Germany and Spain field strong squads

Lasse Luhrs stamped his ticket to Paris with 5th place in Pontevedra, something that any one of the six Spanish men lining up would love to be able to say as competition for the start-list spots heats up. Antonio Serrat Seoane and Roberto Sanchez Mantecon may have the edge at the moment in the rankings, but Sergio Baxter Cabrera and David Castro Fajardo lie in 30th and 33rd respectively heading to Rome, while David Cantero de Campo’s win in Valencia has catapulted the 20-year-old into the reckoning.

Expect the likes of Austria’s Tjebbe Kaindl and Israel’s Shachar Sagiv to be driving the bike segment, young Greek talent Panagiotis Bitados will hope for a strong final push after some eye-catching performances and Richard Murray’s top 10 in Tangier will have whetted the 34-year-old’s appetite to be a feature, just as he was in WTCS Sunderland.

Women’s preview

Eim looks to continue hot run

The race number one Nina Eim booked her Paris 2024 ticket thanks to an outstanding 6th place in the Paris Test Event, marking quite the comeback for the 25-year-old after a rollercoaster 12 months.

A hip injury at the end of 2022 saw an enforced lay-off from training, then a twisted ankle in May put the German star’s ambitions on hold once more, but the bounce back has been stronger than ever. Series top 10s in Abu Dhabi and Cagliari and silver in the Valencia World Cup only outrun by Gwen Jorgensen, this could be the moment for a first Cup gold.

Italian team eyes the prize

A strong Italian line up includes Verena Steinhauser, also chasing that elusive first gold at this level after two bronze medals in Arzachena and another in Weihai, and the young gun Bianca Seregni. One of the fastest around in the water, the 23-year-old has proven she has what it takes on bike and run too after consecutive podiums in Karlovy Vary and a first gold in Weihai back in August.

Another Italian talent, Alice Betto was back with a bang in Pontevedra, scooping a first top 10 since returning to Series racing as a mother and looking every bit as fearless as she did on route to that 7th-placed finish at the Tokyo Olympics. Also returning to the blue carpet from maternity is Great Britain’s Vicky Holland. Seventh in her first race back for two years just a week ago in Tangier, the Rio 2016 medallist will be looking to build on that strong return here.

European athletes dominate line up

Expect Therese Feuresinger (AUT) and Olivia Mathias (GBR) to be right there with Seregni in the swim and aiming to make a breakaway stick if possible, and if the fearless Brit Jessica Fullagar is with them, the pace could well be on for the 20km bike.

That could also be make or break for Tilda Mansson (SWE), who ran her way into bronze in Tangier, just running out of course as Spain’s Noelia Juan took silver to underline her strong finishing power just as she did in Tiszaujvaros, where the Swede pipped her to gold right on the line.

U23 stars come out

Portugal’s Maria Tomé emerged with silver in the U23 World Championships after a compelling battle in Pontevedra with Angelica Prestia (ITA) and Cathia Schar (SUI). All three will start in Italy with designs on another podium.

Australia’s Natalie Van Coevorden starts her first World Cup since Lisbon two years ago. Having hammered on the door of the Series top 10 since then, a podium here would provide a huge boost heading into a decisive period for the team’s Paris 2024 qualification.

Expect the talented trio of Jolien Vermeylen (BEL), Solveig Lovseth (NOR) and Alberte Kjaer Pedersen (DEN) to also feature at the pointy end of this one, all at home on the podium, all looking to get October off to a winning start.