Britain’s Alex Yee takes silver in his ITU World Triathlon Series debut, with Jess Learmonth stopping a USA medal clean-sweep in the women’s race by picking up bronze in Abu Dhabi.
In his first outing on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit, 21-year-old Yee showed experience beyond his years to take the silver medal behind a fast-finishing Mario Mola.
The race played to Yee’s strengths, with an attempted breakaway on the bike led by Britain’s Tom Bishop failing to separate the field, leaving a large pack entering T2 together. Despite New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde initially trying to create a gap on the run, it soon turned into a two-horse race between Yee and Mola; the Spaniard looking to go one-better than he did at the same venue in 2018.
Yee, who clocked a sub-28 minute 10k on the track last year, managed another storming performance on two feet, but didn’t quite have the strength to compete with Mola who is currently number one on both the ITU World and Olympic rankings.
Mola’s teammate, Fernando Alarza crossed the line third, with Bishop finishing in ninth place after a strong all-round performance.
Alex Yee, 2019 Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi silver medallist, said:
“These guys are my idols. I’ve watched them race over the years and it’s great just to be able to race on the same level as them, let alone be in a competitive situation with them.
“After my accident, this level of racing at times seemed so far in the distance. It’s credit to British Triathlon and all of the support staff that I can even race, so I’m really fortunate.”
The women’s race saw four out of Britain’s five females finish in the top 10, with Jess Learmonth claiming the final spot on the podium behind USA’s Katie Zaferes and Taylor Spivey.
After recently switching training groups for 2019, Non Stanford showed good form, finishing in fifth place. 2018 ITU World Champion, Vicky Holland was eighth, with Georgia-Taylor Brown in ninth. After a strong bike performance, India Lee came home in 26th place.
USA’s Zaferes continued her fine run of form to dominate proceedings. Once out on the bike, a seven-strong pack, including Learmonth, created a significant gap which lasted for the duration of the race. Zaferes broke away to perform a solo run to victory, with it looking like a USA podium domination until the last 200m when Learmonth found strength to edge past Knibb.
Jess Learmonth, 2019 Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi bronze medallist, said:
“Taylor (Knibb) kept pushing and I thought she might go past me. I thought it was going to be sprint finish which I didn’t really want, so I had to make a move before that and try to create a gap. I was hoping someone could have helped Katie (Zaferes) and I out on the bike a bit, but I think some of them were struggling which means we must have been riding well. It’s great to finally have a breakaway that’s actually worked, though.
“I just came here to get round really, so I’m surprised with how well it’s gone. It’s a big year for Olympic selection and the British girls are so strong, so I’m taking it one race at a time.”
Mike Cavendish, British Triathlon Performance Director, said:
“Some great results today from the entire British squad. With the course changing from what it was in 2018, we couldn’t necessarily predict how the races would pan out so it’s very positive to come away with two podium finishes, plus see a number of athletes return to solid form.
“Alex’s performance really indicates the level of potential he has and whilst he and Jess may have picked up the medals, I’m really happy with how every member of the team performed and we can leave Abu Dhabi having laid some solid foundations for the season ahead.”
2019 Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi RESULTS
1st Mario Mola, 52:00, ESP
2nd Alex Yee, 52:03, GBR
3rd Fernando Alarza, 52:12, ESP
9th Tom Bishop, 52:23, GBR
1st Katie Zaferes, 55:31, USA
2nd Taylor Spivey, 55:47, USA
3rd Jess Learmonth, 56:06, GBR
5th Non Stanford, 56:37, GBR
8th Vicky Holland, 56:50, GBR
9th Georgia Taylor-Brown, 56:53, GBR
26th India Lee, 58:25, GBR
For full results, visit https://triathlon.org/results/result/2019_itu_world_triathlon_abu_dhabi
Pictures: ITU Media