For a couple of years now, France’s Leo Bergere has been the Mr. Consistent of the World Triathlon Championship Series. Consistently silver and bronze, that is. No more!
What a day to win your first WTCS race – the Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi, claiming the 2022 World Triathlon Championship in the process. What a truly brilliant finish the the season, Alex Yee (GBR) missing out on the overall win in a sprint finish with Jelle Geens (BEL).
Swim – Devay leads the way
The non-wetsuit swim in Yas Bay was reported to be at a bath-like 30-degrees, so nobody was going to be shivering today. In the Elite Women’s race yesterday we saw the field string out to a long line within the first hundred metres, but as the men reached the first turn buoy four minutes in, there was still a mass of athletes looking to make that 90-degree turn within seconds of each other.
On the return to the pontoon at the end of lap one, Mark Devay (HUN) started to stretch out the field in familiar fashion, with Henri Schoeman (RSA), Vincent Luis (FRA) and Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) among those just seconds behind. Yee was outside the top-40 after 750m, but the athletes were so close that was just 24 seconds, and perhaps importantly looking ahead to the bike, he was just in front of IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion, Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR). Things were going well for Hayden Wilde (NZL) too in his bid to become World Champion, who was only 16 seconds down on the front of the field.
At the end of lap two, it was Devay leading out the field (17:52), followed by Luis, Schoeman and Japan’s Takumi Hoji.
Amongst the pre-race favourites, we had Brownlee (+0:15), Bergere (+0:17), Wilde (+0:23), Blummenfelt (+0:35), Iden (+0:37), Yee (+0:41) and Geens (+0:52). A fantastic start for Wilde. Could he make the lead group on the bike?
Bike – the breakaway stays away
The pace was on from the start on lap one of the bike, with what was initially a group of around 15 being blown apart by the pressure at the front from the likes of Luis, Bergere, Brownlee, Schoeman, Pierre Le Corre (FRA), Chase McQueen (USA), Devay, Seth Rider (USA) and Tayler Reid (NZL). One lap in, and the big chase pack – which included Blummenfelt, Iden, Yee and Wilde – were over 30 seconds in arrears.
Did Jonathan have free reign to race, or would he be playing a team role for the series prospects of Alex? It appeared to be the former. What about Reid for New Zealand; working for Wilde? Luis and Le Corre, surely, would be looking to optimise the prospects for Bergere, who could still potentially become World Champion. Lots of individual, as well as team narratives to follow.
The leading nine extended their advantage to 40 seconds at the end of lap two, 48 seconds on lap three, 53 seconds on lap four… that front group were excelling, and Bergere’s prospects of shocking the Wilde / Yee battle for World Championship glory were still alive.
Nerves increased at the end of lap five, when the chase group – now more than a minute back – had the front two athletes fall on the same corner that Taylor Knibb crashed yesterday. Yee was the third athlete in line… but was able to miss the incident, just.
On lap six, finally, the chase group managed to stop the time gap growing and notably Wilde had taken closer order at the front of that huge chase pack. Those two things probably not unrelated.
At the end of lap seven – of nine – we had the bizarre sight of Bergere taking one foot out of his bike shoe approaching transition, seemingly confused about the distance / laps remaining. Having watched Luis do something similar in Leeds, that really was puzzling to watch. Fortunately, no damage done.
Nine laps complete, the pace-setting nine remained alone at the front and as they reached T2 and dismounted their bikes, their advantage was down to 37 seconds.
Run – No catching Leo, Yee misses out
Bergere and Brownlee led the leaders out onto the run, but further back Yee was not in a great position coming into T2, and he started the run in 31st position, 44 seconds down.
One lap (2.5km) in and Bergere was absolutely going for it. Leading solo, he was five seconds clear of Brownlee – but Yee was now up to 10th, 33 seconds back alongside speedy runners Geens and Morgan Pearson (USA). Wilde was seemingly suffering though. Which way was the title going? It was changing by the minute.
5km in and Bergere was still leading the way, 13 seconds ahead of a fast moving Pearson. Next was Luis / Schoeman / Brownlee / Yee / Geens, almost together, 22 seconds adrift. A Bergere win, and Yee would still need a podium to become World Champion. This was absolutely stunning racing.
2.5km to go and this was the situation; Bergere leading the way, Pearson seven seconds behind in second and then Yee and Geens together, 25 seconds back. The 14-month long 2022 WTCS season was going to be decided in the final five minutes. Epic!
Bergere was not fading, despite the pressure from behind. He would take a first career WTCS title and a few seconds later, when Geens outsprinted Yee for third place, he would become World Champion too. Incredible.
When stars align
Pre-race we’d done the calculations on what it would take for Bergere to top the year-end Maurice Lacroix World Triathlon Championship Series standing and become World Champion. If he won the race, he needed Yee to finish no better than fourth AND Wilde to finish no better than sixth.
Leo won the race. Alex finished fourth. Hayden finished sixth. The fine margins of elite sport – and one of the reasons that this race will live long in the memory bank.
WTCS Championship Finals Abu Dhabi 2022 results
Yas Bay, Abu Dhabi
Saturday 26 November 2022 – 1.5km / 40km / 10km
- 1. Leo Bergere (FRA) – 1:44:14
- 2. Morgan Pearson (USA) – 1:44:25
- 3. Jelle Geens (BEL) 1:44:34
- 4. Alex Yee (GBR) – 1:44:37
- 5. Matthew Hauser (AUS) 1:44:51
- 6. Hayden Wilde (NZL) – 1:45:13
- 7. Vincent Luis (FRA) – 1:45:19
- 8. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) – 1:45:19
- 9. Joao Silva (POR) – 1:45:23
- 10. Matthew McElroy (USA) – 1:45:46
Final Maurice Lacroix World Triathlon Championship Rankings 2022
- 1. Leo Bergere (FRA) 4742
- 2. Alex Yee (GBR) 4721
- 3. Hayden Wilde (NZL) 4696
- 4. Jelle Geens (BEL) 4385
- 5. Vincent Luis (FRA) 3881
- 6. Matthew Hauser (AUS) 3233
- 7. Antonio Serrat Seoane (ESP) 3001
- 8. Vasco Vilaca (POR) 2896
- 9. Lasse Luhrs (GER) 2793
- 10. Pierre Le Corre (FRA) 2727