The 2017 ITU World Triathlon Series debuts this weekend, bringing the top triathletes from all over the world to compete in the most prestigious nine-stop tour event for the sport. For the third consecutive year, the Series will begin in the Middle Eastern nation of the United Arab Emirates, with the men racing on Saturday after the women kick start the season on Friday. For the second time Abu Dhabi is offering up a standard-distance event, but debuting a brand new course that will stretch over the famed Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix course - a new feature that is sure to add to the excitement of a new season.
The women will compete first as the horn goes off on Friday, March 3 at 15:55pm. While the men will be competing the same time the following day on Saturday, March 4. This year’s opening roster is roaring with talent in Abu Dhabi.
Wearing the golden number one to start out the season is the reigning ITU World Champion, Mario Mola (ESP). Last year Mola had a storybook journey to earn his first-ever World Championship title after winning four WTS events. Then a fifth-place finish in the Cozumel Grand Final landed him enough points to take the crown. As he begins his WTS season this Saturday, he will officially begin his trek to reclaim the ITU throne. But if Mola is looking to start the year with the same success, Abu Dhabi is the best place to start. Mola is undefeated on the Abu Dhabi course as he has claimed the gold in each of the last two years.
Mola isn’t the only Spaniard that is expected to make headlines this year. And then the triathlon world is highly anticipating the return of Spaniard Javier Gomez Noya to the WTS calendar. Gomez was secured to compete in the Rio Olympic Games and was starting out his competition year looking strong. He won the ETU European Championships in Lisbon and placed fourth in WTS Leeds. He then unfortunately suffered an injury while cycling on a training session that caused him to have to pull out from Rio and the rest of the WTS season. Suffice it to say, everyone eagerly awaits the return of the five-time ITU World Champion.
Mola and Gomez’ teammate Fernando Alarza had his best season to date last year and will undoubtedly be looking to follow it up with more. He made it onto three WTS podiums, including his first-career victory in Cape Town.
South Africa has two strong men that have performed well across the board. Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman have put their nation on the map and are sure to continue that success this year. Murray scored two WTS podiums last year, earning silver in Abu Dhabi and then a bronze in Edmonton. He came just shy of the Rio Olympic podium by finishing in fourth, but he had the fastest run split time of the day. He also is starting the WTS season with an early season win spirit after winning the first World Cup race of the year in Cape Town.
Schoeman however, came out of the woodwork last year and had not one, but two historical moments in his career. He won the bronze medal in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and followed it up by winning his first WTS race of his career in Cozumel. Schoeman is one of the strongest swimmers in the men’s field, and really showcased his strength in the bike and run last year and is becoming a solid three-discipline athlete.
Other big names that are going to draw attention this year is Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales, Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt and Portugal’s Joao Silva.
Grajales and Blummenfelt both stood on the WTS podium for the first time in their careers in Yokohama, with Grajales earning the silver and Blummenfelt with the bronze, both of which was a first time for their nations. Grajales is lethal on the run, while Blummenfelt can book it on the bike. Silva was on the Abu Dhabi podium last year with the bronze, so he will be looking to get onto the familiar step.
There are also two Frenchman who collected medals last year and are rising talent for their country. Pierre Le Corre claimed the bronze medal in Stockholm and Dorian Coninx claimed the bronze in Cape Town. But the return of Frenchman Vincent Luis is what everyone is buzzing about. He has not competed in the WTS circuit since 2015, after his focus last year went to the Olympics. But Luis is entering back onto the scene this weekend in Abu Dhabi and it will be exciting to see what he can do.
The women will get the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi underway at 15:55 on Friday, March 3, while the men will follow on Saturday at 15:55 local time. Follow all of the action live at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter @triathlonlive. Trifecta is here again this year with new features. Create a new login and pick your favourites now at trifecta.usatriathlon.org.
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