The first sprint distance races of International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) World Triathlon Series (WTS) in Abu Dhabi suffered some casualties on the bike course this weekend. Survivors Henri Schoeman of South Africa and Rachel Klamer of the Netherlands claimed victories, finishing the races in 00:57:03 and 01:00:43, respectively. Each race featured a 750m swim, a 20k bike, and a 5k run.
Schoeman Crushed It in a Predictable Race, Others Suffered Road Burn
Let’s begin with the boring men’s race.
Schoeman was the first to exit every leg. Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee wasn’t far behind him when he took a spill, and slid across the asphalt, more than 2.5km into the bike leg. He re-entered the race quickly and eventually made seventh-place. Italy’s Alessandro Fabian took the lead shortly into the bike leg before crashing.
Schoeman maintained a steady lead after passing Germany’s Justus Nieschlag about 8km into the bike course. Ireland’s Russel White crashed near the 8km point and continued the race within seconds.
Schoeman was ahead through the entire run. Entering the run, Spain’s Mario Mola was 22 seconds behind Schoeman. He rapidly closed much of the gap in the final kilometre, finishing just six seconds behind him with a 00:57:09. France’s Vincent Luis took third in 00:57:25.
“Tunnel of Doom” Claims Victory in Women’s Race
The biggest Nemesis in the women’s Death Match wasn’t wind. That was non-existent. The real winner was the Tunnel of Doom (ToD), or at least that’s what Trizone’s calling it for now. Recent rains, plus oil, made some turns dangerous for cyclists, and the ToD was responsible for the bulk of the crashes and wipe outs in both the men’s and women’s races.
Two-time World Champion, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, was first to finish the first of five 4km bike laps before wiping out in the ToD almost 2.5km later. After trying unsuccessfully to fix her chain, she quit the race, but she was fixed with a few leg bandages.
By the end of lap two, USA’s Kirsten Kasper was in the lead. By the end of lap three, USA’s Olympic triathlete Katie Zafares sped ahead of the pack. Canada’s Joanna Brown went down in that lap.
With just 3.2km to go, Zafares took a major spill in the ToD just before British triathlete Sophie Coldwell’s front wheel appeared to run over her head. The collision sent Coldwell and her bike flying through the air in two separate directions. Zafares initially appeared to be injured in the hip area. The hospital diagnosed her with a concussion and gave her stitches above the eye. Her husband, Tommy, tweeted that she also had some memory problems from the concussion and a case of road rash. Kasper was the first survivor to exit the bike leg at 00:43:26.
Aussie Snags Third in Surprise Photo Finish
In the final kilometre of the run, Klamer was in the lead in a pack of three, which included Kasper and Britain’s Jessica Learmonth. Kasper got nailed with a 10-second penalty, putting her in fourth in a photo finish with third-place winner, Natalie Van Coevorden of Australia. The two finished in 01:01:00 and 01:01:01. Learmonth snagged second-place in 01:00:57, 14 seconds behind Klamer.
Klamer’s Winning Strategy?
Klamer told Triathlon.org:
“I have to say I was quite scared on the bike because the last few months I have been training on only straight roads and didn’t do any corners. There was a lot of women crashing so I just decided to take it easy, ride hard, but just go easy through the corners. I ended up sitting behind a couple crashes, which wasn’t smart so I had to chase one whole lap to get back to the front pack. But I am happy I stayed on my bike.”