The 2018 ITU World Triathlon Series starts on Friday in Abu Dhabi. Athletes are set to race at eight global destinations to decide the ITU world champions on Australia's Gold Coast in September. The opening round, taking place over the sprint distance, features an exceptionally strong field, including British Olympic medalists, Jonathan Brownlee and Vicky Holland.
Defending ITU world champions, Mario Mola (ESP) and Flora Duffy (BER) both feature in a lineup that includes nine of last year’s top ten world ranked women, and eight of the top ten men.
Jonathan Brownlee is targeting Series success this year as well as using this first race to help prepare him for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April.
Having not raced in Abu Dhabi since 2015, Brownlee said: “To race on a F1 track is very special. For actually racing, it’s more technical on the bike. You can make the race interesting and hopefully I’m looking forward to a good race on Friday.”
Team England Commonwealth Games team mate, Tom Bishop returns after memorably finishing second last year, achieving his first ever Series podium finish. Olympian, Gordon Benson, and Team Scotland Commonwealth Games athlete, Marc Austin are Britain’s other male competitors.
Vicky Holland arrives in Abu Dhabi having started the season with an ITU World Cup win in South Africa earlier this month following a nine-month injury lay-off. The Rio 2016 bronze medal winner is part of a strong British lineup, including ITU Grand Final podium finisher, Jess Learmonth, former ITU world champion, Non Stanford, and world U23 medal winner, Sophie Coldwell.
Holland said: “This is a really stacked race to begin the year with, you don’t often get that at the first race of the year. I’ll get to test myself against the best.”
Alistair Brownlee has withdrawn from the race to continue treatment of a pulled calf muscle. He plans to travel to Australia next week to join the rest of the home nations teams preparing for the Commonwealth Games.
The ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi takes place on Yas Island. The course covers a 750m sea swim, 20km bike and 5km run. Start lists: https://www.triathlon.org/events/start_lists/2018_itu_world_triathlon_abu_dhabi
The event also features an open wave Paratriathlon for the first time ever. Rio Paralympic Champion, Andy Lewis, is taking part as a VIP on Saturday morning.
How to watch:
Elite men’s race: BBC Red Button & online live from 9:20am (start 9:36am)
Elite women’s race: BBC Red Button & online live start 11:36am.
Highlights: BBC One from 1:15pm on Saturday, 3 March.
British athletes racing in Abu Dhabi: