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Henri Schoeman wins World Triathlon Abu Dhabi

An impressive Henri Schoeman defies the rain in Abu Dhabi to start the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Series with victory at the Yas Marina Circuit

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Fastest swim, first off the bike and great run takes Schoeman to victory

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Brownlee recovers from bike crash to take seventh in Abu Dhabi

There was no “Beast from the East” at the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi today, but the rare addition of rain to the smooth roads of the Yas Marina Circuit, the Formula 1™ base for today’s racing, provided plenty of challenges (and crashes) for the Elite men.

The non-wetsuit, 750m swim saw Henri Schoeman (RSA) lead out of the water, with Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee in great position just three seconds back in third. With not insignificant gaps back to many of the main threats on the run (Mola, Murray, Blummenfelt), combined with the weather, an early break was looking very possible.

When a small group of Schoeman, Brownlee, Ben Kanute (USA) and Vincent Luis (FRA) quickly formed, that was exactly the dream scenario for all four – but it wasn’t long until the conditions (which Jonathan Brownlee would surely have been relishing to this point?), played their part and he and his Scott bike were on the deck. No major damage appeared to be done and he (along with his bleeding knee), were quickly back up. It wasn’t too long before he was back towards the leading group, and with Mario Mola (ESP) still over 20 seconds back, all was still looking good for the Brit.

Mola was impressive on the bike today – and worked his way through to eliminate any deficit and once he caught the leaders, was looking set to potentially deliver on his pre-race favourite status. More than that, once in the group of around nine riders he was more than doing his share of the work, pushing the pace, and unusually it was Jonathan Brownlee who was far less visible than usual, perhaps still impacted by this crash.

Midway through the bike leg, Henri Schoeman gained a few seconds on the group. He said post-race it wasn’t planned, but dealing really well with the wet conditions he was gaining time and continued to work. He lead into T2, starting the run with a narrow lead over late chasers Adrien Briffod (SUI) and Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN), but perhaps more importantly 20 seconds on Mola, Luis, Birtwhistle and Brownlee.

Mola made ground (running 14:27 to Schoeman’s 14:41 for the 5km), but it wasn’t enough, with the thrilled Olympic Bronze medallist celebrating on the blue carpet, taking his second WTS victory to add to that at the memorable Grand Final in Cozumel. Mola’s fastest run split gave him the Silver, with 2017 Grand Final winner, Vincent Luis completing the podium.

After looking like he may be out of the top-10 at one point on the run, Jonathan Brownlee recovered over the final kilometre or so to earn seventh place. More work to do for him over the next month to peak for the Commonwealth Games.

Post Race Podium Comments

A thrilled Henri Schoeman said post-race:

“Before I knew it I had a gap – I was just trying to be safe out there. I was flowing through the corners really easily so I thought just go for it. I was running scared but my fitness was there. I’m glad I did it in such a great way.”

The thoughts of defending World Champion, Mario Mola:

“I’m happy with how the race went. Just to make it to T2 without a crash was something! It was really slippery – it doesn’t rain very often here, but it made it very difficult. I didn’t give up, I tried to fight as much as I could and today that was good enough for second place. I’m happy with that.”

Third last year, Vincent Luis repeated that result in 2018:

“I’m feeling better than last year. I spent a lot of energy on the bike. I had quite a good run – not as good as I would like, but it is still only early March, so there is lots of time to get better through the year.”

ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi – Friday 2nd March 2018
750m / 20km / 5km (Draft Legal) – ELITE MEN

1st – Henri Schoeman (RSA) – 57:03
2nd – Mario Mola (ESP) – 57:09
3rd – Vincent Luis (FRA) – 57:25
4th – Leo Bergere (FRA) – 57:34
5th – Jacob Birthwhistle – 57:40
6th – Joao Silva (POR) – 57:45
7th – Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) – 57:56
8th – Adrien Briffod (SUI) – 57:57
9th – Gustav Iden (NOR) – 57:58
10th – Richard Murray (RSA) – 57:59

14th – Thomas Bishop (GBR) – 58:19
27th – Marc Austin (GBR) – 59:09
45th – Gordon Benson (GBR) – 1:01:36

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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