ITU Abu Dhabi was always going to be an exciting race, thanks to its brand new course utilising the F1 race track, but no one could have guessed it would end in such spectacular fashion. Trizone revisits the women’s race from last weekend.
Emotions ran high as Kiwi Angela Hewitt took to the starting line, ready to dedicate her race to her late fiancé Laurent Vidal. Last year’s champion Jodie Stimpson was ramping up for another victory, but on the brand new course no one was sure what to expect.
“As an athlete you try to prepare the best you can for each race,” said Stimpson at the pre-race media event. “This new course will definitely be a test, technically, for all athletes. You really have to be very on it on the bike course.”
Climbing on a pontoon mid-swim a new feature at ITU
As the women dived into the water the field became dense. They powered through the first 900 metre swim lap before climbing onto the pontoon and diving into the water for another 600 metre swim. This strange new feature of the brand new course was a clever use of space around the YAS Marina, helping establish Abu Dhabi as a truly unique fixture on the ITU circuit.
All-American bike pack develops early
The swim had a dense lead pack, with a group of four entering T1 together. As with any ITU race, though, it’s the small things that can make the difference, and a lead pack stacked with Americans developed quickly on the bike. Katie Zaferes (USA), Summer Cook (USA), Sarah True (USA) and Kirsten Kasper (USA) formed a ferocious and tight-knit group. Aussie Gillian Backhouse and Italian Alice Betto joined the top ranks quickly too. The ten-lap bike course followed a brand new track along parts of the F1 Yas Marina Circuit raceway.
Transition creates the podium
As lap three of ten passed, last year’s winner Jodie Stimpson had surged forwards with Kiwi Andrea Hewitt in hot pursuit. T2 was the decider, though, with Hewitt, Stimpson, Vilic and Klamer storming through the transition toward the 4-lap run course.
Thanks to multiple laps, Stimpson and Hewitt were able to see the field clearly and by the last lap, the ferocious Stimpson dug deep. She looked set to take out her second consecutive win at Abu Dhabi and started to sprint down the blue carpet. From behind her, though, with her legs turning faster and her drive proving stronger, Andrea Hewitt powered past Stimpson at the last second to break the finish-line ribbon. The finish was so close, the only difference was in milliseconds.
Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 02:03:46
Jodie Stimpson (GBR) 02:03:46
Sara Vilic (AUT) 02:03:53
Exciting sprint-finish sees a meaningful victory for Hewitt
Hewitt’s sprint finish was not only dramatic and impressive, it was beautifully meaningful too. After spraying the champagne atop the podium, Hewitt gave a teary interview. “It is amazing coming here to Abu Dhabi for me,” she said. “Last year the number one spot was dedicated to Laurent and this year I am dedicating to Laurent…Laurent always told me that I had everything, I had the dedication, I had the integrity, I had talent and he told me the one thing I was missing was emotion and I didn’t show it a lot of the time.”
Andrea went on to thank everyone who had supported her throughout the past year; a time when she was struggling with the death of fiancé Laurent Vidal.
Great Britain’s Jodie Stimpson was also thrilled with her second place finish, and made a gracious speech after the race: “Coming on that straight, Andrea was the stronger one, I was stronger on the hills. To be honest, I’m just ecstatic me and Andrea got on the podium. The amount of work we did all day, if I was going to lose to a sprint finish, I’m glad it was Andrea today,” she said.
“I can’t thank my family enough for getting me through that last year. That one was for my sister, she’s been my rock through this, and I couldn’t have done this without her.”
Austria’s Sara Vilic came in third, and was also gracious and ecstatic on the podium. “I can’t believe it, it’s crazy,” she said. “It’s such a nice feeling, I think I’m going to realise it tomorrow. I was training so hard and I’m so happy that it paid off now. I like those technical courses, so I guess it fits me.”
To see such gracious displays of sportsmanship in ITU racing so early in the year is truly inspiring for triathletes everywhere. ITU is off to a great start in 2017!