We asked Pro triathlete, Harry Wiltshire to put his eye on the WTS race Abu Dhabi, here is what he had to say...
Six months after the final event of 2015 and just under six months before Rio the World Series show was back on the road. This year the race took place over the Olympic distance and provided athletes and spectators the opportunity to see who had managed to up their game over the off season and who might secure selection to their respective national teams in Rio.
The event was almost as notable for those who didn’t go as those who did. Last years World Series winner Javier Gomez took to Facebook to deny that he has sustained a stress fracture of the hip and to explain that he wasn’t racing after “physical discomfort and personal problems” during January. Both Brownlee brothers were also absent along with strong swim bikers Richard Varga and Vincent Luis. On the women’s side Gwen Jorgensen chose to compete in a sprint distance race at her training base in Woollongong whilst already Rios selected Non Stanford and Vicky Holland also chose not to start their season so early.
In the men’s race top swimmer and HUUBster Henri Schoeman took over the lead in the water from quick starter Aurelien Raphael creating a small breakaway group heading onto the bike. Regular front pack athlete (and the only man I have ever seen pull off a pair of skin tight white jeans) Alessandro Fabian pushed the pace hard at the start of the bike, but didn’t have the support to make the break stick; by 20km and thanks to some solid riding from Richard Murray everything had come back together. Fabian had another go towards the end of the bike and managed to show that the rest of the field weren’t pushing by gapping the field on his own. With all bar one coming off the bike fresh and together it was down to a foot race. That meant that despite a 15 second handicap (untidy in transition) Mario Mola was able to run away from the field looking pretty comfortable. The podium was rounded off by Murray and Silva.
In the women’s race a small break also formed out of the swim, this included Helen Jenkins and Flora Duffy who did the driving before being caught by a second group to form a front pack of 25 the group lost momentum and it wasn’t long before the Nicola Spirig train pulled back a 40 second gap to bring the rest of the field into the race. Spirig crashed just before transition and may as a result have to undergo surgery on her broken hand. Jodie Stimpson proved to be the fastest runner of the day escaping from Jenkins and Ashleigh Gentle in the closing stages of the flat 10km run course.
HUUB athletes Schoeman and Bishop both had races they will probably be happy to forget, commentator Rob Walker describing Henri as “drifting back to mid field.” Helen who has had some injury and illness issues showed she is quickly regaining form. Her head to head with Jodie on the Gold coast is likely to be the big media story of the next round. Lawrence Fanous finished in 50th and will be focusing on the Asian Games in April to try and secure his Rio slot.
I sensed that athletes are happy to have got going, those that did well will tell themselves they have stepped up their game over the winter whilst those who weren’t there will say that the field was soft and with more fire power at the front of the race results will change. The Brits are focusing on the next round taking place on the Gold Coast in a month’s time with the selectors taking results down under into consideration for Rio selection. On the boy’s front a Brit can only be selected in a “support” role, on the women’s side showing ability to win a medal in Rio could still get them selected in their own right. It’s a long way to Rio yet!
Commentary by Harry Wiltshire