CONSIDERING their intense rivalry, you would have expected Brad Kahlefeldt to breathe a sigh of relief when he noticed the name of Spaniard Javier Gomez was absent from the starters' list for this weekend's Mooloolaba Triathlon.
However the Gold Coast-based Olympian says he is likely to be poorer for that absence, despite the two going tit-for-tat in the past two years.
The pair has been more like sparring partners after Kahlefeldt took out the 2007 Mooloolaba event, with Gomez a close second, only to have their placings reversed a year down the track.
However, with Gomez skipping the event in order to focus his attention on the World Championship series, which begins in Korea in early May, the door has been left ajar for Kahlefeldt to stamp his dominance on the event.
“It's always good to race Javier,” he said yesterday.
“He's set the benchmark for the sport of triathlon for the last couple of years.
“It's always nice to race him on home soil.
“When I race him in Europe he's close to home.
“It's a shame he's not coming. I always enjoy racing him.
“He definitely lifts my standards as well ... but I understand that with the World Championship Series, he wants to concentrate on that.”
After finishing 16th in last year's Beijing Games, Kahlefeldt endured a difficult back end to 2008 after being struck down with a hip injury.
After three months of rehabilitation, he returned to the fold with a surprise win in the Gold Coast Oceania Championships early this month.
Kahlefeldt said his hip was close to 100% and he backed himself to again be among the placings at this weekend's event.
“It's been close to three months now with a lot of rehab and just working on the hip,” he said.
“When I came back I was amazed with how clear it was.
“When I raced the Oceania Championships, I was quite surprised, but it's coming to the start of the season now for us and it's certainly one of my peak concerns.
“There are a couple of races out there this year that I want to go well at.
“This is the first big one of the year, so I certainly want to do well.”
While Kahlefeldt will begin the 51.5km World Cup race as favourite, he is likely to be closely tailed by Olympic teammate Courtney Atkinson.
Atkinson also enjoyed a stellar start to the 2009 season after taking out first and second place in the Perth and Gold Coast Oceania events respectively in the space of two weeks.
Kahlefeldt said the race was wide open, rating Atkinson, along with a host of other names, as capable of taking it out.
“Courtney is also up there, he's always a contender,” he said.
“A few of the young boys, as well, always go close. They always give it a crack.
“I think it's going to be a close race. There are a few guys who can take the race out.”