Chinese city Weihai is set to be the setting for the 12th stop of the 2018 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Cup season this weekend with both the men’s and women’s races filled with big-name talent.
The athletes will tackle a challenging standard-distance course that begins with two laps in the waters of Half Moon Bay before a six-lap ride that includes an energy-sapping two kilometres climb and four loops of a fast and flat 2.5km coastal run course.
Wearing the number one in the women’s event tomorrow will be the United States’ Taylor Spivey, fresh from her seventh-place finish at last weekend's World Triathlon Series (WTS) Grand Final on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Having posted six top-10 WTS finishes this season, and following her second-place finish in Miyazaki in Japan last year and again in Cagliari in Italy just over three months ago, Spivey will be eager to deliver her first ITU World Cup gold medal.
Austria’s Lisa Perterer was the champion in Cagliari and, despite not quite hitting those heights since, she will know that she has the potential to take control of the race if she can get her tactics right on the bike.
Standing in their way is a field rich in quality, however, not least Japan’s Yuko Takahashi, following her Asian Games triumph, and compatriot Ai Ueda.
The Belgian duo of Claire Michel and Valerie Barthelemy could also be potential challengers after strong showings in the WTS Grand Final.
Michel is no stranger to the ITU World Cup podium, where she will be keen to return for the first time since New Plymouth in New Zealand back in March.
Leading the line in the men’s race will be Belgium's Marten Van Riel, looking to bounce back after bad luck plagued his WTS Grand Final.
First, the Belgian was unseated by Frenchman Vincent Luis' back wheel early on in the cycling section.
His chain then dropped heading into transition two having worked hard to open up a sizeable gap over the pack.
That will no doubt leave him hungry for success in Weihai, but Van Riel is unlikely to be expecting things to go all his own way.
Last year’s top-three in Weihai - Spain's Uxio Abuin Ares and Antonio Serrat Seoane, the gold and bronze medallists respectively, and silver medallist Rodrigo Gonzalez of Mexico - all three return to China aiming to re-create that success.
Abuin is known for his strong finishes to the season, particularly in Asia, and the Spaniard is again expected to be a threat, despite a quiet year by his high standards.
Russia’s Dmitry Poyanskiy returns fresh from victory in Czech town Karlovy Vary, his second World Cup win of the year, while Norway’s Gustav Iden came out on top in Lausanne last month thanks to an incredible run that proved he is currently in some of the best form of his career despite disappointment in the final two WTS races of the season.
The Italian duo of Delian Stateff and Davide Uccellari are always capable of producing something special, and Germany’s Jonas Schomburg could be feeling that the time is right for him to deliver a podium-worthy performance after a busy 2018.