Three time defending ITU World Triathlon Series World Champion Mario Mola of Spain posted race-best 14:00 5k for a come-from-behind 3 seconds winning margin over dark horse Alex Yee of Great Britain to win the 2019 WTS season opener at Abu Dhabi.
The win was Mola’s 23rd ITU victory and comes after a 2018 WTS season in which he won four times, took 2nd at Abu Dhabi, Leeds and the Grand Final on the Gold Coast, and was shut out of the podium at WTS Bermuda by a 1-2-3 Norwegian sweep.
“I had to dig deep there,” Mola told ITU media after his sprint distance race, “but I knew that if I was strong it would be a good fight. It was great to have a first battle against Alex and to have the new generation coming up, I know how good Alex is. There were some tricky corners and a few crashes right in front of me [on the bike leg] and it definitely wasn’t easy, but I’m really happy with that win.”
Yee’s silver was a smashing breakthrough in his debut in the World Triathlon Series as he hung tough when Mola arrived on his shoulder with 1700 meters to go, and then grudgingly surrendered in the final few hundred meters. Yee’s 14:07 run split was the second fastest of the day – 7 seconds slower than Mola and 11 seconds better than the next-best effort by 3rd place finisher Alarza.
“Second is above and beyond what I expected,” Yee told ITU media. “I came in just wanting this experience but training camp had gone well and I wanted to see how I went at this level, so I’m over the moon. These guys are my idols. I’ve watched them since I was practically a kid, and it is great just to race with them let alone to compete. There were hard times (injuries after a 2017 bike crash) but you have to have a positive mind set and get on with it.”
Yee’s running prowess is well known as he has broken the 14-minute mark and is a British 10,000 meter champion. Yee, who is 20, won the Junior European title on 2016 and took 5th in that category at the 2016 Grand Final in Cozumel. This year, Yee won the Cape Town World Cup and took 3rd in the 2018 Weihai World Cup.
Alarza overcame a 24th best 8:58 swim and a 24th best 27:41 bike split with a 3rd-best 14:18 run to edge Léo Bergere of France by 2 seconds for the final spot on the podium. Alarza was exhilarated at his effort which augured well for a charge at the 2020 Olympics.
“I cannot describe how that feels,” Alarza told ITU media. “I’ve had some personal issues the past year and had to work really hard. I had a beautiful daughter and this is for her and my family. The last kilometer was really hard but I was thinking of my baby and I got stronger. This could be the best season of my life and I will work hard for Tokyo.”
WTS Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
March 8, 2019
S 750m / B 20k / R 5k
1. Mario Mola (ESP) 52:00 S 8:50 T1 00:53 B 27:48 T2 00:29 R 14:00
2. Alex Yee (GBR) 52:03 S 9:05 T1 00:50 B 27:38 T2 00:22 R 14:07
3. Fernando Alarza (ESP) 52:12 S 8:58 T1 00:52 B 27:41 T2 00:23 R 14:18
4. Léo Bergere (FRA) 52:14 S 8:47 T1 00:54 B 27:45 T2 00:22 R 14:27
5. Vincent Luis (FRA) 52:15 S 8:39 T1 00:51 B 28:00 T2 00:22 R 14:23
6. Sam Ward (NZL) 52:16 S 8:45 T1 00:53 B 27:46 T2 00:21 R 14:31
7. Henri Schoeman (RSA) 52:17 S 8:38 T1 00:52 B 27:56 T2 00:22 R 14:29
8. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) 52:21 S 9:01 T1 00:52 B 27:36 T2 00:23 R 14:29
9. Thomas Bishop (GBR) 52:23 S 8:43 T1 00:55 B 27:54 T2 00:23 R 14:27
10. Hayden Wilde (NZL) 52:25 S 9:11 T1 00:50 B 27:23 T2 00:18 R 14:43
13. Eli Hemming (USA) 52:27 S 8:59 T1 00:53 B 27:34 T2 00:23 R 14:38
20. Matthew McElroy (USA) 52:47 S 8:59 T1 00:53 B 27:40 T2 00:25 R 14:50
29. Ben Kanute (USA) 53:21 S 8:41 T1 00:50 B 27:58 T2 00:22 R 15:30
DNF Morgan Pearson (USA) S 8:51 T1 00:50