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Mario Mola edges out Alex Yee in World Triathlon Abu Dhabi thriller

An incredible debut on the World Triathlon Series today saw Great Britain's Alex Yee battling with World Champion, Mario Mola, at World Triathlon Abu Dhabi

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Silver for Great Britain’s Alex Yee on his WTS debut

Three-time World Champion starts 2019 with victory in Abu Dhabi

While the running and triathlon talent of Great Britain’s Alex Yee should be a surprise to nobody, converting that to success in the World Triathlon Series is not a given. Yes, he won his first ITU World Cup event in Cape Town last month, but there is a significant step up in terms of depth at WTS level. In theory at least… though it would seem nobody told the just turned 21 years old Brit!

Head-to-head with three time ITU World Champion Mario Mola with a kilometre to go, he ultimately came up just three seconds short – but what a debut at this level of competition.

CLICK HERE FOR THE SEPARATE ELITE WOMEN’S REPORT FROM ABU DHABI

How it played out

It’s never a surprise to see Richard Varga (SVK) lead out the swim (in a swift 8:28), and having Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Vincent Luis (FRA) right with him, it was a case of “new year, situation normal”. A great start from Great Britain’s Tom Bishop (8th, +0.05), with three-time and defending World Champion, Mario Mola (ESP) just 12 seconds from the head of the race.

In his weakest discipline – and this was a non-wetsuit swim too – Alex Yee was 32nd out of the water, 25 seconds in arrears. A solid start – and that position potentially significantly enhanced by the news that cycling powerhouse Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) was 4 seconds behind him. Could that offer the ultimate ‘BluTrain’ back to the front of the race?

The five-lap course saw several crashes (no rain to blame this season), with 2018 European Champion, Pierre Le Corre (FRA) an early casualty. As he typically does, Blummenfelt set about making his way towards the leaders, taking plenty of others with him. By the end of lap four much of the field had regrouped and a huge back of 43 athletes reached the dismount line within 13 seconds.

New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde was quickest through T2, but with Mola (7 seconds) and Yee (9 seconds) – plus pretty much all of the expected favourites present too – it was all set for a 5km showdown.

Having performed impressively through the Super League Triathlon season, Wilde started the run strongly with a huge pack of talented runners chasing him down. As they came through the 2.5km mark at the end of lap one, he still held the lead, but now Yee and Mola were right behind him and starting to distance themselves, perhaps, from the remainder of the field. Tom Bishop’s strong all-round race was continuing, still inside the top 10 at this stage and just a handful of seconds behind.

Into the second lap and Yee took the lead, Mola followed and the pain was starting to show on the face of Wilde. He couldn’t stay with them, but trying to hold off the chase from behind would now be his target – and he didn’t have too many seconds to spare.

With 1km to go, Yee was now on the shoulder of the Spanish legend. 800m to go and Mola upped the pace but couldn’t drop the Brit and it was only with 500m remaining that the signs of a gap showed. Was it decisive? Yee tried but he couldn’t close the gap, and as Mola turned on to the blue carpet he knew that he had got the race won – but he had been made to work very hard for it.

“I really had to dig deep to bridge that gap. It’s great to have the new generation coming up, I know how talented Alex Yee is.” he said post-race.

For Alex Yee, what an incredible World Triathlon Series debut. He matched the Silver medal that Tom Bishop (another strong race today, 9th) earned at this race two years ago, to join the short list of British male athletes to have secured a World Triathlon Series podium finish since the format was introduced in 2019.

“It’s above and beyond what I expected… I’m over the moon with the way it went. These guys are my idols, I’ve watched them since I was a kid.”

Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina – Friday 8th March 2019
750m / 20km / 5km – ELITE MEN

1st – Mario Mola (ESP) – 52:00
2nd – Alex Yee (GBR) – 52:03
3rd – Fernando Alarza (ESP) – 52:12
4th – Leo Bergere (FRA) – 52:14
5th – Vincent Luis (FRA) – 52:15
6th – Sam Ward (NZL) – 52:16
7th – Henri Schoeman (RSA) – 52:17
8th – Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) – 52:21
9th – Tom Bishop (GBR) – 52:23
10th – Hayden Wilde (NZL) – 52:25

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.

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