In his return to the WTS circuit after breaking his elbow last August and missing the Olympics, 5-time ITU World champion Javier Gomez fought off a surprising challenge from Tom Bishop of Great Britain to win the 2017 World Triathlon Series men’s opener in Abu Dhabi.
Gomez celebrated his 50th WTS start with his 37th podium and 13th victory in the series. Gomez, at age 33, found himself in a duel with 25-year-old Bishop, whose best previous WTS finish was 5th at WTS Edmonton last September. At 6km into the run, Bishop made an audacious surge to create a 10 meter gap. However, that was the end of Bishop’s reign as Gomez took back control and had a 35 meter lead at the end of the third of four laps on the run.
“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,” Gomez told ITU media.
At the end of a third-fastest 31:23 run split, Gomez crossed the line in 1:52:31 with a 13 seconds margin of victory over Bishop (31:36 run split) and 42 seconds on 3rd-place finisher Vincent Luis of France (32:05 run).
“It is great to come back this way,” said Gomez. “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 pushing hard it was very technical… So I am very happy to be back this way.”
While this was his first WTS race back since his injury, Gomez warmed up for Abu Dhabi with a win at Ironman 70.3 Dubai last month.
Bishop was pleased with his breakthrough performance. “I can’t believe it to be honest,” Bishop told ITU media. “I had a plan, I wanted to swim as best as I could, save as much energy on the bike. 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.”
Vincent Luis, who missed much of last season with injuries, was also pleased with his return to the full WTS circuit. “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.”
Super runners who fell a minute back of the lead pack on the swim and bike were led by Fernando Alarza of Spain who closed with the day’s fastest 31:03 run for 4th place, 10 seconds back of Luis. Richard Murray of South Africa finished with a second-best 31:14 run for 5th place, 7 seconds back of Alarza.
Joao Pereira of Portugal took 6th, Gregory Billington of the U.S. was 7th and last year’s WTS World Champion Mario Mola of Spain took 8th.
WTS Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
March 4, 2017
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Javier Gomez (ESP) 1:52:31
2. Thomas Bishop (GBR) 1:52:45
3. Vincent Luis (FRA) 1:53:08
4. Fernando Alarza (ESP) 1:53:18
5. Richard Murray (RSA) 1:53:25
6. Joao Pereira (POR) 1:53:38
7. Gregory Billington (USA) 1:54:00
8. Mario Mola (ESP) 1:54:06
9. Andrea Salvisberg (SUI) 1:54:20
10. Henri Schoeman (RSA) 1:54:35
16. Ben Kanute (USA) 1:56:08