ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2018: previews and predictions

Blair Cartmell is back for 2018 to cast his experienced eye over prospects for Friday's ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi - and try and predict the podiums

Chief Correspondent
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ITU Abu Dhabi: The World Triathlon Series is back on Friday

Based at the impressive Yas Marina Circuit, Friday’s ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi kicks off the 2018 WTS season with sprint distance racing for the Elite men (13:36 local time / 09:36 UK time) and women (15:36 local time / 11:36 UK time) on Friday.

To look ahead to the race and preview and predict what may happen, we welcome back former Lead Performance Centre Coach with Triathlon Scotland, and founder of New Triathlon coaching (, Blair Cartmell.

The Brits secured two Silver medals inn 2017 through Jodie Stimpson and Tom Bishop – more podiums this year? Blair thinks so!


ITU Word Triathlon Abu Dhabi – Friday 2nd March 2018

Blair Cartmell previews and predicts…

Well that didn’t take long; the WTS season starts again on Friday.

For those athletes who are competing at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast in six weeks time, early season racing is crucial and it will be interesting to see if there is a clear divide in athlete performances or if the usual suspects come to the fore. Compared to last year, there are more athletes on the start list. As always, I want to see new athletes stepping up and challenging at the front.

Abu Dhabi

The Course – Sprint Distance

This year it is a Sprint race which, in my opinion, fits better with this time of year – plus the Commonwealth Games also over the sprint format in early April.

Swim – Non-wetsuit swim with water temperature around 22 degrees and a pontoon start.

Bike – 5-lap course based in and around the F1 race circuit should make for some fast and technical riding with a hill on each lap entering the race track. As always it will be crucial to stay near the front of the pack and and not lose concentration leading into T2.

Run – 2-lap course held on part of the bike course. There are two dead turns per lap and a slight hill as per the bike course.

ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi
ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi

Men’s Preview

67 men take to the start line in what will no doubt be a fast and furious race. It is a good start list with only a few big names missing – Javier Gomez and Alistair Brownlee. History has shown that Mario Mola excels in early season Sprint races and knows how to turn up ready to perform. Kristian Blummenfelt was superb in the closing races of 2017 and I don’t see why he will not continue that form, although Abu Dhabi was not kind to him in 2017. Other big names who excel in Sprint races are Richard Murray fresh off his World Cup win in Cape Town and Vincent Luis.

Mario Mola wins Abu Dhabi 2016

Jonny Brownlee by his own admission (read more HERE), has not had the best winter of training but you can never write off a Brownlee! Or maybe I have in the past! Jake Birtwhistle has shown his speed in the past and if he has a good swim, then will be a real danger.

Jacob Birtwhistle wins the Eliminator at Super League Triathlon Hamilton Island 2017 (Pic, Delly Carr)
Jacob Birtwhistle at Super League Triathlon (Picture, Delly Carr)

The other Brits racing include Tom Bishop who had a breakthrough performance here last year and has been training hard recently in Lanzarote along with Marc Austin who is also racing and looking for his first ever top-10 WTS result. Gordon Benson opens his season too.

ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2017

Men’s Podium prediction

  1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR)
  2. Mario Mola (ESP)
  3. Richard Murray (RSA)

Women’s Preview

This race should be a cracker. We have pretty much all of the athletes who were performing at the pointy end last season, including British breakthrough star Jess Learmouth. Flora Duffy obviously starts as the favourite, and possibly the pressure is on her to carry on winning and racing how she loves to do – from the front and apply the pressure early.

Jess Learmonth

Ashleigh Gentle has shown she has been consistently the fastest runner but has had to come from behind in most races. With this being a sprint, that possibly could play into her hands if she had a positive swim.

Ashleigh Gentle World Triathlon Yokohama

Vicky Holland has shown by her recent emphatic win at the Cape Town World Cup that she is back to full fitness which is fantastic to see. It will be great to see her and Non Stanford fight for the podium positions. Sophie Coldwell also races and looks to get her Commonwealth Games preparation off to a good start and build on from her excellent 2017 breakthrough season.

Cape Town ITU Triathlon World Cup

As always in a sprint race, the little details really count and will cost you places if you get it wrong.

Women’s Podium prediction

  1. Vicky Holland (GBR)
  2. Flora Duffy (BER)
  3. Jess Learmouth (GBR)
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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