Sweltering temperatures both in and out of the water greeted the world’s top male triathletes at the final round of the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series.
Confusingly, however, the event was actually the second round in the 2022 WTCS, following Hamburg in September. The popular German event was short on big names, producing a career best race win for Germany’s Tim Hellwig, who started the UAE event in the No.1 spot.
Abu Dhabi was also missing the likes of Olympic and world champion Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and Olympic silver medallist Alex Yee (GBR). But double world champion Vincent Luis was in the field of 56 alongside Tokyo bronze medallist Hayden Wilde (NZL), plus some strong single-sporters like Antonio Serrat Seone (ESP), Morgan Pearson (USA), Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN), Jelle Geens (BEL) and Pierre Le Corre (FRA).
As expected, a back-in-form Luis was first out of the non-wetsuit 31°C 750m swim towing Hungary’s Márk Dévay in his wake. The pair set to on the first of five 4km laps and were just about able to stay ahead until the second lap, when the stronger riders in the chase pack were able to bridge the gap to swell the lead group to 17.
By transition 2, the leaders had pulled out 40secs over the chase pack, leaving the lead group of 17 to produce the podium.
A group of eight made their intentions known from the off, with Luis setting the pace and proceeding to trade places with Geens, Wilde and Le Corre over the two laps of 2.5km.
At at the start of lap two, a quintet of Luis, Serrat Seone, Geens, Wilde and Hungary’s Bence Bicsák had started to pull ahead. The first to drop was Wilde, struggling in the 34°c temperatures and perhaps still recovering from a bad jellyfish sting in training! Next was Serrat Seone on the final lap.
In the last few hundred metres Geens put the hammer down, Luis’ training partner keen to put the disappointment of Tokyo behind him (the Belgian was forced to withdraw from the individual race due to a positive Covid result). Crossing the line after 52:20, Geens, who had only ever DNF’d in his two previous Abu Dhabi outings, took his second WTCS title. Luis followed him in 5secs later, Bicsák third a further 3secs behind.
Gordon Benson was the first Brit home in 17th, Sam Dickinson 22nd.
Top image: Wagner Araujo/World Triathlon