Abu Dhabi: South Africa’s Henri Schoeman come up with a stellar performance in wet, tricky conditions to claim victory at the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi on Friday.
The event saw crashes in the bike section, but Schoeman was the first to the tape after leading all the way — in the ‘swim, bike and run’.
Finishing second was World Champion Mario Mola of Spain, who won at the capital course in 2015 and 2016. The third place was bagged by Frenchman Vincent Luis, in a repeat of his 2017 performance.
“To be honest, I’m just so happy, there really is no words to explain. It has been a tough year since the Olympics and it just feels so good to have a statement,” said a beaming Schoeman adding that his focus was to ‘play it safe’ with the track being slippery following the untimely downpour.
“I found myself in front on the bike and before I knew it I had a gap and the gap grew. To be honest, I was having fun out there, I was telling myself that if they catch me on the run, well whatever, because I had fun on the bike and I was safe,” added Schoeman, who accepted that with Mola giving chase he was always under threat.
“Mario is a fantastic runner, so I was running scared. Thankfully, my fitness was there and it is good to have a race like this,” said Schoeman, adding that the win has put him in exceptional condition for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast next month.
“This title has shown me that I’m in great form as the Commonwealth Games. I’m so thrilled, the last time I was on the top step was in Cozumel in 2016 and I am so glad I did it in such a great way.”
Mola was 30-second adrift on the 38th spot after the swim but regained a lot of ground once on the bike. After the bike stage he was fourth but despite his best effort couldn’t catch-up with Schoeman, who was in a league of his own.
The Spaniard speaking about his showing said: “I’m happy with how the race went. It was really slippery, so just to make it into transition without a crash I think it was a completion.
“I’m very happy, I gave 100 per cent. I managed to get ahead on the bike and made time up on the run, but Henri was up there, so congratulations to him. I didn’t give up until I saw him on the blue carpet, already celebrating. But I tried and I will fight for the next one.”
Double Olympic medallist Johnathan Brownlee also slipped in the bike sector and eventually had to be content with the seventh spot.
Third-placed Luis, who had to beat his fellow countryman Leo Bergere for a place on the podium, said: “I felt blessed last year but this year is better, I am feeling a lot better than last year. No injuries this winter, so I am back full and fit.
“A lot of people were crashing right in front of me. Jonny Brownlee crashing is a nonsense, it’s Jonny Brownlee. I had quite a good run, not quite as good as I expected, but it’s the first race, a sprint race and it’s only March so we have plenty of time until the end of the season.”
Netherland’s Rachel Klamer showed she had enough legs to get across the line to clinch title in the women’s action.
The second spot was bagged by Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth, while third place went to Aussie Natalie Van Coevorden in a photo finish.
“I’m so happy, there was no way I was expecting this. I have to say I was quite scared on the bike because the last few months I have been training on only straight roads and didn’t do any corners. There were a lot of women crashing so I just decided to take it easy, ride hard, but just go easy through the corners,” said Klamer adding that she ended up sitting behind a couple of crashes and had to work her way up.
“I had to chase one whole lap to get back to the front pack.
But I am happy I stayed on my bike. When we started running I tried to focus on my breathing because normally at the start of the season I often get side stitches. I stayed at the back of the back on the first lap, but on the last lap I thought I would just give it a try,” added Klamer.