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Tales Of The Unexpected: Mark Allen reflects on a wild triathlon weekend in Abu Dhabi and Miami

Triathlon great Mark Allen recaps a wild weekend of action which featured WTCS Abu Dhabi and T100 Miami

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The big kick off to the triathlon season was mostly a statement of the unexpected. It’s old news now, but Friday just hours before the start of the WTCS 2024 season in Abu Dhabi the unexpected happened.  The entire two days of racing was called off.

It was predicted that an entire year’s worth of rain (13mm to be exact, which by most locations is not a lot) was going to potentially fall in just a couple of days. That required all available hands to do everything necessary to protect the residents from potentially huge floods. Putting on a triathlon suddenly dropped to the bottom of the to-do list.

With so few opportunities for Olympic triathlon hopefuls to test their fitness and to make their case to be on their country’s team heading for Paris, it puts even more pressure to perform in the few big races that will count toward to Games. That includes a suddenly elevated race in Hong Kong in two weeks and certainly in Yokohama in May.

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Pearson looking strong

At this exact moment in time, we have no idea where any of the key podium threats in Paris are in terms of their fitness. That is other than a guy who stayed home and race the Continental Cup in Miami. That was Morgan Pearson. He easily nabbed the top of the podium and was joined by fellow US athletes Darr Smith and John Reed who finished in 2nd and 3rd. Pearson, looking strong and most importantly healthy, was the only key Paris threat to achieve the “expected” last weekend.

Unexpected in that same race was Katie Zaferes, who was hoping that a strong finish would push her up the World Rankings among the US women – she currently sits in 7th. The former World Champ and bronze and silver medalist from Tokyo needs to be at least top 5 to get a guaranteed start in the last automatic qualifying race in Yokohama.

That plan went “unexpected” for Katie when she was forced to DNF. Afterwards on Instagram she revealed: “Well, that was fun until it wasn’t. I started the day with a really strong swim and a really strong ride, but was fried for the run and didn’t finish the race. I hate that. I hate the feelings that come with it.”

Ditlev and Lee rock Miami

Switching gears to the T100, it was a grab bag of expected and unexpected. The eventual men’s champ Magnus Ditlev was and wasn’t the top favorite. His Challenge Roth performance last year was off the charts, but his number of close-but-no-cigar races (most notably a 2nd in PTO Dallas 2022 and a 3rd at the IRONMAN World Championship in Nice last year) didn’t put him heads and shoulders above the rest. Calculated and aware of the impact of Miami heat, he patiently paced what everyone is now saying was a perfect race.

Also unexpected but expected was women’s champ India Lee. She’s won Olympic distance and 70.3 races with big wins starting all the way back in 2016 at the ETU European Triathlon Championships. But it could be argued that she’s never shown her true run legs against this type of field. Her post-race debrief on Instagram – “No Words…” – sums up her achievement.

India Lee (GBR) crosses the finish line in first in Miami.
India Lee claims a career-best victory at the big T100 series race in Miami on March 9, 2024 [Photo Credit – PTO]

‘Big Unit’ making big strides

Unexpected from a dominance perspective was the 1-2 punch bike and run of Sam Long. He erased most of the 2:27 deficit gap to Ditlev at the end of the swim to finish in second – a mere 35 seconds back. If he ever connects with the right resources to up his swim a bit more, he will be untouchable at the distance.

Those left wondering? Emma Pallant-Browne, who was once again forced to DNF in a hot humid race. Her body struggles in those conditions.

Kat Matthews was also a DNF and afterwards she revealed: “I’ve already dismissed the self-deprecating part of DNF. I ran out of T2 with excitement and then knew immediately I’d just torn my calf”. A true disappointment for someone who has already had one of the greatest returns from an accident ever in the sport.

The Instagram posts from many of the top athletes who raced in Miami had shadows of them expecting a bit more from themselves than they showed on the racecourse”

  • Lucy Charles-Barclay (2nd place) – “…it’s always challenging to line up this early in the year with such high caliber racing but totally worth it to learn & grow!
  • Daniela Ryf (5th place) – “It simply took me too long to find my rhythm om the bike. I’m not satisfied with my performance but pleased I could finish strong.”
  • Jason West (7th) – “I’m definitely disappointed as it was a pretty up and down performance.”
  • Sam Laidlow (9th) – Yet to post anything about his race to date.
Mark Allen
Written by
Mark Allen
Mark Allen has to be in any conversation about the greatest triathlete of all time. A six-time IRONMAN World Champion, he won every other title that mattered in the sport and dominated like few others
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