Alex Yee added World silver at the World Triathlon Championship Finals Abu Dhabi to the two Commonwealth golds and multiple race wins he has secured in 2022.
The season-ending race was headlined as a head-to-head battle between Yee and New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde, but despite the best efforts of Yee, which saw him finish fourth in Abu Dhabi, it was France’s Léo Bergere who became world champion.
It was another race where British triathletes were at the forefront of the action, not only with Yee at the centre of the race for the world title, but Jonny Brownlee spent all the bike and the early stages of the run leg at the front of the race, which also saw Sam Dickinson, Jack Willis and Grant Sheldon represent Great Britain.
The 1500m swim was led by Hungary’s Márk Dévay, with Brownlee the first Brit to exit the water in 13th, 15 seconds behind the race leader. Dickinson, Willis, Yee and Sheldon were all part of the main pack.
Brownlee’s position in the swim and then a smooth transition saw the 2012 world champion take his place in the front group on the 40km bike, initially made-up of eight athletes before growing to 14 by the end of the first lap.
Yee, Willis and Dickinson were all part of the chase group with Sheldon not able to continue after the opening bike lap.
The front group reduced to nine, with Brownlee a regular presence at the front, as the leaders’ advantage grew to around a minute.
The gap had been reduced to 36 seconds by transition two, with Yee, Dickinson and Willis, who had hit the floor earlier on the bike leg, contributing to the efforts and workload of the chase group.
At the front, Brownlee, who had led the run at World Triathlon Championship Series Cagliari, again moved himself to the front of the race, opening up a gap on the rest of the athletes from the lead group, before being joined by Bergere.
Yee and Wilde both started the run in a small group from the chase bike group who set out in pursuit of the athletes from the group in front. Yee gained 21 places on the first run lap to move into the top-10 and in doing so had also gained an advantage of four seconds over Wilde.
Bergere was the sole leader at this point, having built a lead over Brownlee, and at the end of the second lap Brownlee was passed by Yee, who had moved up into sixth. Yee and Jelle Geens (BEL) continued to make progress on the athletes in front and were third and fourth with one lap to go.
With Bergere out front and claiming the win and Morgan Pearson (USA) taking second, the world title would be decided by the battle for the places behind. It came down to a sprint finish for third as Geens edged Yee in the sprint to the line.
Yee gave everything he could, falling onto the floor after the finish line, a sign of his effort on the day, but the race win for Bergere and fourth place for Yee saw the Brit end the series in second to claim World silver.
“It’s been a long year,” Yee said. “I felt like I put myself out there today, I did everything I could. Maybe I didn’t have the best race in the world, but I came away with second in the world. It’s a shame that it came so close but that’s life.
“I’m glad we could put on an entertaining show. I gave everything out there. I was really suffering bad with cramp from the second lap of the run and just didn’t quite have it at the end when it came down to it.
“It’s been an amazing year. I won’t reflect on that as the outcome of the year. I’ve been really proud of what I have achieved this year and second in the world isn’t bad.
“I didn’t want to hide in the group [on the bike]. I wanted to do some work, I wanted to be responsible for the outcome of my race, I didn’t want to sit in and see what happened. I’m proud I did that. Léo [Bergere] raced the perfect race and deserves to be world champion, congratulations to him.”
After his efforts at the head of the race, Brownlee crossed the line in 26th, with Dickinson 29th and Willis ending his first World Triathlon Championship Series race in 32nd.