It only seems like yesterday that the World Triathlon Championship Series was heading to Abu Dhabi for the 2022 Grand Final. Last year we were treated to some incredible racing, with the titles being decided in the final moments.
In 2023 we see the stars returning to the WTCS in preparation for Paris 2024 alongside the next generation of short-course stars. This weekend also sees the first major long course race of 2023 in South Africa, a truly epic opening weekend to the triathlon race season!
Abu Dhabi WTCS
Last year the title was a two horse race in the women's standings, with HUUB's Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) toe to toe with Flora Duffy (BER) all year, with Duffy taking the eventual spoils in the Grand Final last November. This weekend, with Duffy absent, Georgia Taylor-Brown will be the outright favourite and looking to improve on her 3 WTCS wins and 3 second places in 2023. Also in the mix for a podium will be Taylor-Brown's compatriots Beth Potter (GBR) and Sophie Coldwell (GBR). In recent seasons we've also seen a resurgence of the Germans with HUUB's Lena Meißner 3rd place at the 2022 Grand Final and a number of her team mates frequently inside the top 10.
In many people's opinion, Leo Bergere (FRA) was a surprise World Champion in 2023. Like the women's championship, it looked set to be either HUUB's Alex Yee (GBR) or Hayden Wilde (NZL) crowned World Champion. However, whether due to a long season or the pressure on the final race, both struggled in Abu Dhabi, and it was Bergere who came through to snatch the title. This year looks set to be more than a two-way battle for the title. HUUB's Jelle Geens (BEL) finished 4th in the rankings behind Bergere, Yee, and Wilde. And without some bad luck, he might have found himself right up there.
Jelle Geens told us how he feels pre-race, "I'm super excited that it's finally race week again! During my season preparation, I was feeling quite strong and in very good shape for that time of the year. Unfortunately, I crashed on the bike a couple of weeks ago, which forced me to take some easier days. I'm now back to full strength, and no matter what circumstances I faced in the preparation, the goal is the same as for every race - going all out and fighting for the win! The course in Abu Dhabi really suits me, so it's key for me to have a good swim so I can strategically position myself for a great bike and run. I'm especially looking forward to that technical bike course. I have great memories of this race and hope to continue my great performances here."
IRONMAN World Champion Gustav Iden (NOR) is returning to the fold for Abu Dhabi. His compatriot and 70.3 World Champion Kristian Blummenfelt is sitting out the first WTS of 2023 but will surely feature later in the season. It might not be the eventual World Champion that takes first blood, but this weekend will undoubtedly give us a taster of who will be in the mix through 2023.
The women's race will begin on Friday 3rd of March at 12:00pm local time (8:00am GMT), with the men's race two hours later at 2:00pm local time (10:00am GMT).
IRONMAN South Africa 2023
HUUB's Alistair Brownlee and Laura Zimmerman will be among those challenging for the $150k prize pot and getting early qualification sorted for their IRONMAN World Championship ambitions later in the year.
The men will start at 6:10am local time (4:10am GMT) on Sunday 5th of March, with the women setting off five minutes later.