The first men’s event in the 2023 World Triathlon Championship Season was a real display of intent at the front of the race, with some of the biggest names in the sport putting down some strong markers at the beginning of the year.
Alex Yee of Great Britain got the best of a stellar field as he strode away to victory over the closing mile to finish ahead of Portuguese star Vasco Vilaca in second and the brilliant Brazilian Manoel Messias in third.
There was disappointment for friend and rival Hayden Wilde, however, as the New Zealander struggled in the first race of the season, with world champion Leo Bergere (FRA) also off the pace as he raced for the first time as the WTCS world champion.
Swim – Luis leads out of the water
Frenchman Vincent Luis, victorious at last year’s WTCS Bermuda, made a strong start to the race as he finished the 750m swim in 8:57, with his characteristically smooth style creating an illusion of effortless as he exited the water in first.
Behind him, however, was a strong group of regular front pack swimmers, featuring the likes of South Africans Henri Schoeman and Jamie Riddle, Matt Hauser of Australia and Mark Devay of Hungary.
Out of T1, the front group also included Dorian Coninx (FRA), David Castro Fajardo (ESP), Kenji Nener (JPN) and Miguel Hidalgo (BRA), with their lead over the chase pack that included world champion Bergere at around 25 seconds.
Further back, strong runners, including Olympic bronze medalist Wilde, were well off the pace, with the Kiwi out of the water alongside Jawad Abdemoula (MAR), Gustav Iden (NOR) and Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) at a deficit of over 40 seconds.
Bike – Congestion charges in T2
With the front pack of 10 not cooperating as effectively as they could over the initial two laps, the race quickly came together, with the chase pack making their way up to the front of the race by the start of the third lap.
For the men with some serious leg speed, such as Yee and Matt McElroy (USA), the initial effort to bridge up to the front group looked set to pay dividends on the run, as the athletes initially in the chase pack quickly settled into a comfortable pace at the front of the race.
Further back, however, last year’s Super League Championship Series winner Wilde looked despondent as the cameras cut to him at the end of his second lap, almost two minutes adrift after a reported mechanical issue.
With two laps to go, Riddle, world champion Bergere and Roberto Sanchez Mantecon made a break for the front, as they opened up a small lead over some of the medal threats in the front pack such as Yee, Hauser, Luis, Coninx and Schoeman.
With a lap to go, however, the initial breakaway, which had made up just five seconds over the chasers, were hauled in, leaving 53 men, including some of the biggest names on the start list, such as Bergere, Luis and Yee, together coming into T2.
Outside of the main group, the biggest names off the back of the field were 2022 IRONMAN World Champion Iden and 2022 WTCS third place finisher Wilde.
Run – Yee in a different class
Out on the run, Brandon Copeland took it upon himself to set the early pace, as the Aussie tried but failed to string out a huge group of men who were leaving T2 like a train.
By halfway through the first lap, Luis and Yee were pushing the pace at the front of the field, with Canadian Tyler Mislawchuk, who had a 10-second penalty still to serve for equipment out of the box, running well after a challenging 2022.
By the start of the last lap, a small group of Mislawchuk, Yee, Messias and Vilaca had opened up the smallest of gaps to two time world champion Luis and the rest of the field.
After dropping off the early pace, Luis rallied, and tried valiantly to bridge back up to the leading group of four, latching onto the back of Mislawchuk, who dropped off the pace, before setting his sights on the podium as Yee powered ahead with a mile of running left.
On the same hill where Potter made her move for the women’s win, Yee kicked hard, dropping Vilaca and Messias, with the Brit quickly opening up a 20-metre gap by the crest of the incline.
Whilst Vilaca chased hard, Yee held strong to claim some vengeance after a disappointing race in Abu Dhabi last November, with Vilaca putting together his best performance since his 2020 World Championship in Hamburg, where he finished second, to again take silver ahead of Messias in third.
World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi 2023 Results
Friday March 3 2023 – ELITE MEN
750m / 20k / 5k
- 1. Alex Yee (GBR) – 52:53
- 2. Vasco Vilaca (POR) – 52:59
- 3. Manoel Messias (BRA) – 53:06
- 4. Vincent Luis (FRA) – 53:11
- 5. Dorian Coninx (FRA) – 53:14
- 6. Leo Bergere (FRA) – 53:15
- 7. Roberto Sanchez Mantecon (ESP) – 53:18
- 8. Matthew McElroy (USA) – 53:19
- 9. Max Studer (SUI) – 53:20
- 10. Adrien Briffod (SUI) – 53:24