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Spain's Alarza favourite for men's Triathlon gold

Triathlon Bilgah Beach
The Baku 2015 Triathlon competitions will take place at Bligah Beach, just outside Baku. Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
Winner of Sunday's event will earn Rio 2016 place for his NOC

The first international men’s triathlon in Azerbaijan, to be staged at Bilgah Beach, will see a strong, open field. 

The race on Sunday 14 June offers not only a unique opportunity to become the first ever European Games champion, but also a golden ticket to Rio 2016 for the winning athlete's National Olympic Committee (NOC).

Spain's Fernando Alarza, third in the 2015 World Triathlon Series (WTS) rankings and considered by many as the athlete most likely to top the podium in Baku, is feeling confident. "I am the favourite and I think it is good a lot of people are counting on me. I am in good form and strong on the bike," he said.

"I will go for the gold medal but it is going to be a hard job with [Portugal's Joao] Pereira and [Russia's Dmitry] Polyanskiy. They are good athletes, but I think that I will win."

The 24-year-old Spaniard has enjoyed a blistering start to the year, finishing second only to Alistair Brownlee in May’s WTS race in London, with eighth in Yokahama his worst finish from all five World Series triathlons this year.

As triathlon is made up of three technically very different sections, and with Baku’s gusty winds potentially playing a part, even the strongest athletes cannot ignore tactics.

A good swimmer, Alarza is expected to join Polyanskiy and the Russian's younger brother, Igor, as one of the first out of the water behind Slovakia’s Richard Varga, regarded as the strongest swimmer in world triathlon and with a seventh place WTS finish under his belt from Auckland in March this year.

With one or two others in tow, a leading group will look to break away on the bike stage and stay clear of their faster-running rivals.

That is Varga's plan, too, although the peculiarities of Bilgah's beach may limit his advantage.

"The swim has more running than I thought – maybe 900m of swimming and 600m of running, jumping and messing around," he said. "Hopefully the swim will go well and with the bike I hope the best runners will not be there and I can fight for a medal. I feel quite confident with the running at the moment."


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    Spain's Alarza favourite for men's Triathlon gold

    Winner of Sunday's event will earn Rio 2016 place for his NOC
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