On a searing hot day with the Arabian roads bound by date palms, the two pre-race and Championship Series favorites were in place to make the oddsmakers right and seize the day.
With just 400 meters to go, Hayden Wilde of New Zealand was in 5th place, which would have made him the champion until Matthew Hauser of Australia passed him. Alex Yee of Great Britain ran in third, which would make him the would-be Series champion until Jelle Geens of Belgium passed him for third place.
Whereupon the magical moment occurred.
Going into the race, Leo Bergere of France, who had so far in his career never won a WTCS victory, stood third in the Maurice Lacroix World Rankings and knew that only a win on in the Grand Final on Saturday afternoon could give him the slimmest of chances at the Series title. Even then, Bergere needed Yee and Wilde to falter. Bergere kept his part of the bargain as he held an 11-seconds lead at the finish. Then, Yee and Wilde fell short and the Frenchman’s face burst into ecstasy.
Bergere started his day in the first pack of the swim, closed to within 36 seconds of the leaders on the bike, and took the lead on the run. At the finish of his 5th-best 29:44 10k run split, Bergere won by an 11 seconds margin while fending off a hard-charging Morgan Pearson of the U.S (race-best 29:15 run), Jelle Geens of Belgium (29:28 run), Yee (29:24 run) and Matt Hauser (29:42 split).
At the conclusion of the 9-race season, Bergere earned 5587.45 points, Yee took 5002.35, Wilde took 4644.26 points, Antonio Serrat Seoane of Spain 4109.95 and Jelle Geens garnered 3788.42 points for 5th place in the Series tally.
After a moment to catch his breath, Bergere told World Triathlon media: “It’s insane, I don’t know what to say, I didn’t want to do the math before the race I just wanted to race it all out and try for a breakaway."
Trying to grasp the enormity of his victory, Bergere said, "I can’t believe today. I was chasing this win for a long time. I just needed all the stars to align, and to do it here at the final in Abu Dhabi is incredible.”
“I am glad we could put on an insane show,” said Series runner-up Yee. “I just gave everything out there. I was really suffering with a cramp on the second lap of the run and didn’t have it in the end." Reflecting on the outcome, he added. "I’ve been really proud of what I’ve achieved [this year] and second in the world is not bad.”
“The run is normally my strength so I don’t really know what happened there,” said Wilde. “I’m going to have to go back and assess. First lap was rough. I think I was a bit flustered when Morgan (Pearson) attacked and I couldn’t go. But from the second to the fourth lap I felt really good and I was actually gaining back, But it wasn’t enough on the day. I had a great swim; I just missed that front group and that could’ve been that. Third place, you’ve got to be stoked with that.”
Mark Devay of Hungary led the swim in Yas Marina with a 17:52 split, which gave him a 2 seconds lead on two-time World Champion Vincent Luis of France, 3 seconds on Takumi Hojo, 4 seconds on Henri Schoeman of South Africa, 9 seconds on Chase McQueen and Seth Rider of the U.S, 15 seconds on Jonny Brownlee of Great Britain, 17 seconds on Bergere, and 23 seconds on Wilde.
At T1, Devay and Luis had the lead just inside 18 minutes, followed closely by Tayler Reid. Wilde was 23 seconds arrears and Yee 41 seconds behind.
On the first lap of 9 on the bike leg, Luis led 14 riders powering along in a tight pack. While a big chase group came together 24 seconds off the leaders – Wilde and Yee together at the front and Hauser and Vilaca at the rear. At 6 laps, Yee, Wilde and 2021 World Champion Kristian Blummenfelt led the group. then accelerating over laps eight and nine to close the lead to 36 seconds off the bike leg.
Bergere had a quick transition and hit the front with Brownlee and Tayler Reid but soon thereafter Yee and Wilde arrived. A group of ten then gave chase and Bergere was alone out front by the end of the first 2.5km lap with Pearson, Hauser and Geens following in line .
Yee looked strong running on Geens’ shoulder and at the bell he looked like he could take the bronze once Pearson was out of range. But the Belgian responded well to the attacks, and Yee could not counter. Wilde then made a brilliant recovery to put himself back into contention, but Hauser passed him into fifth to end those title dreams and ensure Leo Bergere became the 2022 World Champion.
World Triathlon Grand Final 2022 Men
November 26, 2022
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
S 1.5 k / R 40k / R 10k
Grand Final Results
1. Leo Bergere (FRA) S 18:09 T1 1:04 B 54:57 T2 00:22 R 29:44 TOT 1:44:14
2. Morgan Pearson (USA) S 18:35 T1 1:02 B 55:13 T2 00:23 R 29:15 TOT 1:44:25
3. Jelle Geens (BELG) S 18:43 T1 1:10 B 54:53 T2 00:22 R 29:28 TOT 1:44:34
4. Alex Yee (GBR) S 18:33 T1 1:03 B 55:12 T2 00:27 R 29:24 TOT 1:44:37
5. Matthew Hauser (AUS) S 18:33 T1 1:06 B 55:11 T2 00:21 R 29:42 TOT 1:44:51
6. Hayden Wilde (NZL) S 18:15 T1 1:04 B 55:31 T2 00:24 R 30:01 TOT 1:45:13
7. Vincent Luis (FRA) S 17:54 T1 1:08 B 55:09 T2 00:25 R 30:45 TOT 1:45:19
8. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) S 18:27 T1 1:09 B 55:10 T2 00:26 R 30:10 TOT 1:45:19
9. Joao Silva (POR) S 18:48 T1 1:06 B 54:56 T2 00:24 R 30:10 TOT 1:45:23
10. Matthew McElroy (USA) S 18:48 T1 1:04 B 54:56 T2 00:33 R 30:06 TOT 1:45:26
11. Henri Schoeman (RSA) S 17:56 T1 1:07 B 55:08 T2 00:23 R 31:07 TOT 1:45:38
12. Shachar Sagiv (ISR) S 18:35 T1 1:03 B 55:11 T2 00:24 R 30:30 TOT 1:45:41
16. Seth Rider (USA) S 18:01 T1 1:07 B 55:03 T2 00:23 R 31:36 TOT 1:46:09
28. Chase McQueen (USA) S 18:01 T1 1:05 B 55:04 T2 00:23 R 32:26 TOT 1:46:56
31. Kevin McDowell (USA) S 18:43 T1 1:10 B 54:55 T2 00:24 R 32:15 TOT 1:47:25
Maurice Lecroix Season Rankings
1 Leo Bergere FRA 5587.45
2 Alex Yee GBR 5002.35
3 Hayden Wilde NZL 4644.26
4 Antonio Serrat Seoane ESP 4109.95
5 Jelle Geens BELG 3788.42
6 Vincent Luis FRA 3558.10
7 Lasse Luhrs GER 3313.32
8 Manoel Messias BRA 3280.71
9 Dorian Coninx FRA 2976.44
10 Matthew McElroy USA 2902.84