Beth Potter took the first World Triathlon Championship (WTCS) Series win of the season and her first WTCS win, with Alex Yee making it two-from-two as he followed her onto the top step of the podium.
Georgia Taylor-Brown was the first athlete onto the pontoon as she wore number one in Abu Dhabi, before being joined by a full start list of women including compatriots Sophie Coldwell, Beth Potter and Kate Waugh for the inaugural women’s race of the series.
Coldwell took the race quickly through the early stages of the 750m swim, spearheading the field around the turn buoys and driving through to T1. However, she was given a ten second time penalty for entering the water too early, but such was her lead that she was still in the lead group alongside Potter onto the bike.
Taylor-Brown and Waugh both started the 20km bike leg inside the top-15 and looking to chase down the six-strong lead group where USA’s Taylor Spivey was attempting to drive the pace. At the start of the third lap, the gap was 28 seconds between leaders and chasers.
This was a lead that Coldwell, Potter, Spivey, Summer Rappaport (USA), Lena Meisner (GER) and Vittoria Lopes (BRA) would extend over the final laps of the bike to enter transition with a lead of 47 seconds. Onto the 5km run and the first lap would start to string out the lead group.
Potter put her foot down over the latter part of the first lap with only Coldwell able to stay near her compatriot, leaving the rest of the lead group behind. Coldwell took the lead heading onto the final lap, with 2.5km of the race to go and a sprint finish on the cards.
Potter had other thoughts however, using the slight hill on the F1 track to break from Coldwell and surge to the finish line, taking the first win of the 2023 World Triathlon Championship Series ahead of Coldwell and Spivey (USA). Taylor-Brown crossed the line 15th and Waugh finished in 32nd.
Speaking having won her first World Triathlon Championship Series gold, Potter said: “I feel like I’ve done really well at training. Jonny [Brownlee] texted me last night and said you’re going to win and I didn’t quite believe it.
I’ve been working really hard, not only on my physical side this winter but also on the mental, so I feel much more positive and calm, relaxed going into racing and more aggressive.
“I was biding my time and I knew I could potentially attack up the hill and off the top. Back to my cross country days, so I knew to run hard over the top of the hill and then there was the downhill.”
Coldwell commented on her best WTCS result: “I’ve just come back from a training camp in Australia, so thought ‘it’s on the way home so I might as well stop off’, so to come second, my best result, I’m lost for words. I can’t believe it.
“As soon as I dived in I was like ‘oh that might have been early’, so I just kept my head down and if it is a penalty you’ve just got to serve it and relax. Thankfully I got on the back of the [lead bike] group and it was a really good working group.”
In the men’s race, Alex Yee and Barclay Izzard represented Great Britain, with Yee wearing number two after his second placed overall finish in the 2022 WTCS season.
French athlete Vincent Luis and Hungarian Mark Devay led the swim out, with Yee 31st and Izzard 40th out of the water over 20 seconds back.
Over the opening laps of the 20km bike, the chase group successfully bridged the gap to the leaders to create one large pack riding together, with the two Brits cemented within that group.
There was a four-athlete break away to forge a seven-second gap at the start of the third lap of five, with 2022 world champion, Leo Bergere (FRA), among them. Over the closing laps however, this group was reeled in to create a showdown finish over the 5km run.
Both Yee and Izzard were well-placed with the leaders as the large group started to be stretched out over the first of two laps. As the pace picked up, Yee was sat on the heels of Luis (FRA) before pulling ahead to lead at the start of the final lap.
Yee was alongside Manoel Messias (BRA), Vasco Vilaca (POR) and Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN), with the Brit seizing the momentum and driving up the same hill that Potter had done in the women’s race to make the race his own in the finishing stages.
Yee took the tape, ahead of Vilaca in second and Messias in third, before Izzard crossed the line in 15th.
Speaking after the race, Yee reflected: “I came in, honestly, because it’s so close to the end of the season, with no expectations. I raced free and had fun, and I guess that’s the outcome when you enjoy what you’re doing.
“For me I just wanted to see how the last four weeks in Australia had gone and the fruits of our labour. I think I swam pretty solid, not amazing but pretty good, so I’ll take it and hopefully build on it.”
The next WTCS race of 2023 will be in Yokohama on Saturday 13 May.
The British leg of the WTCS for 2023 will take place in Sunderland on 29-30 July. AJ Bell 2023 World Triathlon Championship Series Sunderland will host elite athletes for individual sprint and mixed relay racing, as well as provide the opportunity for thousands of participants to give swim, bike, run a go.
Find out more about the event here: https://sunderland.triathlon.org.