Katie Zaferes leads a U.S. one-two at World Triathlon Abu Dhabi

Chief Correspondent

Second career World Triathlon Series victory for Katie Zaferes


Bronze for Learmonth after Silver 12 months ago in Abu Dhabi

If the men’s race at today’s Daman ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi (full report on that HERE) was all about the thrilling run, the shape of the race was a complete contrast for the Elite Women. It was all about ‘complete’ triathlon, in a race which winner Katie Zaferes described as going “..about as perfectly as it could”, while runner-up Taylor Spivey said, “..the race couldn’t have gone better.” ITU racing is not all about a wet run…

For a while it looked as the though a fourth U.S. women’s complete podium sweep in recent years might be possible, but after finishing second in Abu Dhabi last year, 2017 European Triathlon Champion, Jessica Learmonth got the better of World Under-23 Champion, Taylor Knibb on the blue carpet to collect her fourth ITU World Triathlon Series podium finish.


Race Recap

Learmonth lead the way in familiar fashion through the opening 750m non-wetsuit swim, closely followed by Summer Rappaport (USA), Katie Zaferes (USA), Taylor Spivey (USA), Carolina Routier (ESP), Emma Jeffcoat (AUS), Lotte Miller (NOR) and Maya Kingma (NED).

While there was no major split within the swim itself, the opening few minutes of the bike are crucial, and saw a group of nine quickly establish themselves, before Rappaport, Lindemann and Jeffcoat were dropped. That left a leading group of six – Zaferes, Spivey, Knibb, Learmonth, Miller and Kingma.

Great Britain’s India Lee was pushing hard leading the chase pack on the bike (which included Vicky Holland, Non Stanford and Georgia Taylor-Brown), but with limited help and some strong athletes in the lead group, the gap continued to grow. By the time time they reached the T2 dismount line, the top six were already more than a minute ahead. Given the quality in that breakaway group, limited chances of the podium positions going anywhere else.

Zaferes has been exceptional in all of the Super League Triathlon series events and is renowned for her consistency. Despite that, Hamburg 2016 was her only WTS victory before today despite a bucket load of podium results. She set about adding a second one in style today, quickly moving clear and adding the fastest run split too (16:09) to take the win by a huge, in WTS terms, margin of 26 seconds.

“I’m so excited – the race went about as perfectly as it could. The plan is always to have a strong bike, it doesn’t always work out, but everyone did a great job today. I just want to keep getting better.”

Taylor Spivey was clear in second place and, like Zaferes, was thrilled with the way the race played out and her performance on the countdown to Tokyo 2020:

“The race couldn’t have gone better for me. We got a breakaway and made it stick. We started getting time splits and we could see how much the gap was increasing and that was reassuring. The U.S. women are so strong – starting 2019 with a second place is a great way to the start the Olympic qualification process.”

The real battle was for third and fourth, positions changing through the run but eventually the British athlete managed to get clear – both Learmonth and Knibb both recording 16:44 run splits. Asked about the motivation to prevent another all-U.S.A. podium Jess said:

“Sick of them getting a clean sweep, so I thought I’d push them out! We were working really hard and I’m glad that finally we’ve had a breakaway that has worked. It’s a big year for selection – I’m just going to take it a race at a time.”

While the U.S. athletes dominated the top section on the Elite women’s podium, the British athletes filled four of the top nine places. Non Stanford clocked the second fastest run of the day (16:11) to move through to fifth, joined by World Champion Vicky Holland in eighth and Georgia Taylor-Brown in ninth, both running 16:25.

Two excellent – but very different – races in Abu Dhabi today. Two quality winners and two British podium results too. A good day all round – and the World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series event still to come tomorrow too.

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

1st – Katie Zaferes (USA) – 55:31
2nd – Taylor Spivey (USA) – 55:57
3rd – Jessica Learmonth (GBR) – 56:06
4th – Taylor Knibb (USA) – 56:09
5th – Non Stanford (GBR) – 56:37
6th – Lotte Miller (NOR) – 56:42
7th – Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA) – 56:45
8th – Vicky Holland (GBR) – 56:50
9th – Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) – 56:53
10th – Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) – 56:57

26th – India Lee (GBR) – 58:25

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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