The new ITU Abu Dhabi course with its exciting mid-swim pontoon climb and dive made for a thrilling start to the ITU season. Trizone revisits last weekend’s race and Gomez’s win after a disappointing swim.
Dense championship field set for a ferocious race
The men’s starting line was stacked with multiple heavyweights, from two-time winner Mario Mola to South Africa’s Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman. With the brand-new race course though, none of the athletes was sure how the race would play out.
Despite the media pressure on him after winning the event twice before, Mario Mola was calm at the pre-race press conference. “I really don’t feel much pressure, [it’s] rather a motivation to keep trying things as I’ve done in the past,” he said. “For me it’s great to start the season here in Abu Dhabi. It’s a whole new season with lots of challenges, and a motivation to try to do the same this year.”
Abu Dhabi’s new climb and dive separates the field
The swim played a pivotal role in the makings of the race, with the group breaking up early in the first 900 metre swim loop. Surprisingly, top picks Richard Murray and Mario Mola struggled in the second pack, which helped dictate their fortunes throughout the rest of the race. The odd, yet exciting mid-swim pontoon climb and dive made for a fun twist to the ITU race, and the live stream was well-filmed, capturing the lightning-fast rush along the pontoon and rapid-fire diving of the eager athletes into the second 600 metre swim.
At T1, the group was scattered but the unique ten-lap bike course helped create a solid lead group by the third lap. Javier Gomez Noya of Spain was joined by Marco Van Der Stel, Ben Kanute, Polyanskiy, Schoeman and Greg Billington. The thick lead group took turns chasing different leaders until Mola, Murray and Fernando Alarza created their own lead pack, which yielded a one minute lead as they entered T2.
Slow transition threatens Gomez’ lead
Fumbling in T2, Gomez lost valuable time but luckily his strong running legs helped him return to the front of the run. As he started to break away, Great Britain’s Thomas Bishop was the only man able to stick with Gomez’s impressive stride, even overtaking him as the run progressed.
As the bell rang to signify the fourth and final lap of the run, Gomez had more juice left in his tank and maintained his lightning- fast pace to take out his 13th WTS win. After having pushed his way to sit behind Gomez during the run, Bishop maintained his impressive position, finishing only 14 seconds behind Gomez to take out second place. Frenchman Vincent Luis, meanwhile, placed third, which is a wonderful result after severe injury and nerve issues had threatened his career last year.
Humble podium features Gomez, Bishop and Luis
Despite his win, Gomez was modest during his post-race interview. “It is great to come back this way,” he said. ‘I still had a few mistakes in the race, I did not swim very well and had a bad T2. But I knew that is was going to be a very tough run, and with Tom Bishop it was very technical. On the third lap we slowed down a lot, just trying to save energy for the last lap and I made my move with about three kilometres to go and I won, so it worked well. So, I am very happy to be back this way.”
Tom Bishop was thrilled with his impressive chase efforts.“I can’t believe it to be honest. I had a plan, I wanted to swim as best as I could, save as much energy on the bike,” noted Bishop. “I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go because it was the first race of the season. I had a feeling that it might all come together when I found myself in the front group and there was a gap so I knew I had to work as hard as I could.”
After a dramatic race, it was clear each of the men on the podium was thrilled to be there for their own reasons. Vincent Luis said “it is awesome because I am back after 15 months outside of the WTS and it has been months since my last triathlon, so it is good. I have some nerve problems so that has taken me out a lot. But it is good to be back on the WTS, it is good to see Gomez back and see him winning again and I am just really happy to be back on the podium again.”
Trizone is thrilled to see the WTS starting with a bang, and will be reviewing each race throughout the year. Check back soon!
- Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) 01:52:31
- Thomas Bishop (GBR) 01:52:45
- Vincent Luis (FRA) 01:53:08