It was back to business for Britain’s Alex Yee on Friday afternoon as he delivered a trademark 5km run to hold off a strong field and earn the first World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi gold of 2023.
It was the perfect way to banish the Championship Finals blues of 2022 for the Olympic silver medallist, 30 seconds back out of the water, bridging to the leaders early on in the 20km bike and then seeing off a field stacked with incredible running talent that had boiled down to Yee, Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca and Brazil’s Manoel Messias with silver and bronze respectively.
“I came here with no expectations and raced free and I guess that’s the outcome when you enjoy what you’re doing!” said a satisfied-looking Alex Yee. “It’s just so good to be back racing these guys. I just wanted to see how the last weeks of training in Australia had gone, so it’s the fruits of our labour, it’s worked out well, and I was feeling pretty good today.”
With last season’s top three of Yee, Leo Bergere and Hayden Wilde all lined up on the far right of the pontoon, it was France’s Vincent Luis with the curveball of a middle-pontoon starting position that clearly paid off has he scooped the fastest swim of the day.
Gustav Iden was also at the back of the field, but it was Wilde who suffered a flat right out of T1 and would face the next 20km riding solo as a result.
On the first of five bike laps, a 10-deep pack powered by Coninx, Riddle, Kenji Nener (JPN) and Matthew Hauser (AUS) had daylight to Portuguese duo Vilaca and Ricardo Batista, Tyler Mislawchuk also bridging up and the trio joined the leaders.
Bergere, Riddle and Roberto Sanchez Mantecon rolled the dice on lap three, but there break was short-lived, and though Zachaus, too, tried to make a move, it was a mighty group that poured into transition for the second and final time, all eyeing success at the end of the 5km run.
Brandon Copeland (AUS) flew out of T2 first but was soon caught by Max Studer and Hauser, before Luis assumed control at the pole, Yee moving into position right on his shoulder. Sanchez was next to the front before Luis drove forward once more and things began to break up over the first climb.
The first lap belonged to Messias as he picked his way towards the front along with Mislawchuk, but a 10 second penalty for the Canadian for an equipment violation would end his resurgent podium challenge.
Yee was just biding his time, however, working back to the front and then away up the hill, Messias and Vilaca unable to answer the call and from there it was a one-man race to the tape for Yee, erasing his Championship Finals pain with a golden start to the campaign, Vilaca holding off Messias to silver.
Vincent Luis led Dorian Coninx and Leo Bergere across the line, Roberto Sanchez in 7th, Matt McElroy, Max Studer and Adrien Briffod rounding out the top 10.
“It has been three years since I was on the podium in Hamburg and it’s amazing to start the season like this,” said Vasco Vilaca. “An amazing race and amazing to run with Alex and Manoel going all in to the end. Alex had an extra gear up the hill, so I just did my best. Now I need to fight to stay in the medals and get among the podium again.”
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