Abu Dhabi Triathlon: Gomez's golden comeback

The Spaniard was in top form in the UAE capital.

It was Gomez’s 13th career WTS win after almost a year break from the Series.

The five-time ITU World Champion looked as strong as ever, celebrating his 50th WTS race with the fastest time of the day.

“It is great to come back this way. I still had a few mistakes in the race, I did not swim very well and had a bad T2. But I knew that is was going to be a very tough run, and with Tom Bishop it was very technical,” the 33-year-old said.

“On the third lap we slowed down a lot, just trying to save energy for the last lap and I made my move with about three kilometres to go and I won, so it worked well. So, I am very happy to be back this way.”

The win also earned the Spaniard his 37th WTS podium with a career record equaling 13 wins, 17 seconds and seven third place finish.

Great Britain’s Tom Bishop claimed the silver medal, his first WTS medal of his career and becoming the sixth man in Great Britain’s history to ever do so.

The bronze went to France’s Vincent Luis, who made a comeback appearance today after not having raced the WTS circuit for nearly 15 months.

Bishop said of his performance: “I can’t believe it to be honest. I had a plan, I wanted to swim as best as I could, save as much energy on the bike. I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go because it was the first race of the season. I had a feeling that it might all come together when I found myself in the front group and there was a gap so I knew I had to work as hard as I could.”

The race was split early on, with a longer 900m swim loop helping to break up the bunch. Aurelien Raphael (FRA), Pierre Le Corre (FRA), Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Igor Polyanskiy (RUS) exited first, some top names such as Mario Mola (ESP) and Richard Murray (RSA) struggled in the second half of the field.

While not the fastest athletes in the water, Gomez and Luis were positioned perfectly only about 10 seconds behind.

The leading men made a swift break through the first transition and onto the bike, taking the first several laps to form a strong working group. By the third lap, a group of 10 men which included Gomez, Polyanskiy, Schoeman, Luis, Bishop Andrea Salvisberg (SUI), Marco Van Der Stel (BEL), Ben Kanute (USA), Leo Bergere (FRA), and Greg BIlllington (USA) finally put the hammer down, regularly maintaining 45 seconds over the chase.

Mola, Murray and Spaniard Fernando Alarza took turns leading the chase, but their gap only increased lap after lap. Heading into the second transition, the chase had over a minute to make up on the run.

Despite a slow second transition, Gomez quickly became the front-runner on the first lap. Schoeman, Luis and Bishop gunned it down the pavement alongside Gomez early in the four-lap run course. When Gomez tried to break off, only Bishop stuck with him stride for stride.

Although Bishop kicked ahead of the five-time World Champion, Gomez hit his stride as the bell rung out on the final lap. From there it was only a matter of keeping the pace, Gomez sailed ahead to the finish line for lucky number 13 WTS win.

The bell lap looked to drain Bishop of his energy, but the Brit managed to hold on for held on for second place. After a year plagued with injuries, Luis steadily ran his way to bronze.

Luis added: “It is awesome because I am back after 15 months outside of the WTS and it has been months since my last triathlon, so it is good. I have some nerve problems so that has taken me out a lot. But it is good to be back on the WTS, it is good to see Gomez back and see him winning again and I am just really happy to be back on the podium again.”

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WATCH: Hewitt takes gold at 2017 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi

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Hewitt’s win was a long time coming as her victory was dedicated to her beloved and talented fiancé, the late Laurent Vidal, who was honoured after his passing with the number one position in the same venue just one year ago.

“It was an amazing race for me, it is amazing coming here to Abu Dhabi for me. Last year the number one spot was dedicated to Laurent and this year I am dedicating to Laurent. I raced two weeks ago, my race of this year in Tiga and I won. So I knew I was coming here really fit. Laurent always told me that I had everything, I had the dedication, I had the integrity, I had talent and he told me the one thing I was missing was emotion and I didn’t show it a lot of the time,” Hewitt said through tears.

“I have to say thank you to Maddie Dillon, she has been beside me for one year and knows exactly what I am going through and my friends, my family I just want to thank everyone.”

His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, host of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, said: “Congratulations to Andrea Hewitt, Jodie Stimpson and Sara Vilic on an outstanding and well-deserved win at the ITU World Triathlon Series season opener. All 32 elite women who competed on Yas Island today are true champions and they play a significant role in inspiring other women and future generations to take up the sport and adopt a healthier lifestyle.”

He added: “It’s been a fantastic debut on Yas Island and we hope to see everyone again on Saturday for the highly anticipated men’s race.”

The women started with a two-lap swim, first tackling a long 900-metre lap before climbing onto the pontoon to dive into the water again for a shorter 600m swim. A small group of women used the first longer lap to gain a slight lead right off the bat. Spaniard Carolina Routier along with Summer Cook (USA), Katie Zaferes (USA) and Anastasia Abrosimova (RUS) paved the way in the water.

Photo finish: An epic ending to the race.

The group of four exited the swim for the first transition zone, while the entire field followed 20 seconds behind. It took only a couple of kilometres on the start of the bike for a lead pack to form.

Stacked with Americans Zaferes, Cook, Sarah True and Kirsten Kasper, Aussie Gillian Backhouse and Italy’s Alice Betto joined forces with the US team. They opened up the tough and technical bike course, which wound around the F1 Yas Marina Circuit raceway.

Stimpson, who was 25 seconds down out of the swim, managed to bring the chase up to the leaders by the third of ten bike laps. Stimpson and Hewitt’s strength in the cycle was too much to handle for some of the women, with five women quickly dropping off for a 10-deep leader group.

As the leaders entered the second transition, it became clear right out of the gate who wnted a medal. Stimpson, Hewitt, Vilic and Klamer quickly bunched together, dropping the remaining women. Midway through the run, as the finish line drew nearer, Stimpson, Hewitt and Vilic made their move to power ahead.

On the final lap, with the blue carpet in sight, Stimpson made a final push to break from her competitors. It looked like victory would be hers in Abu Dhabi for the second year, but in the final seconds, Hewitt came blowing by in an exciting sprint finish to just barely swipe the title away from Stimpson, giving Hewitt her first WTS win since 2011.

Stimpson then followed just an inch behind to earn the silver. It was Vilic who clung on to get the bronze, clenching her first-career WTS podium.

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IN PICS: Scotland Legends beat England Legends in Jebel Ali

It was a fun day out for all involved.

Former Scotland strikers Darren Jackson and Ally McCoist turned back the clock as they helped the Tartan Army to an 8-4 thrashing of England in the annual legends match at Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence.

The ex-Celtic and Rangers stars were among the goals in front of more than 500 fans.

In this clash of retired football heroes, they were competing against the likes of ex-England and Tottenham Hotspur utility man Darren Anderton, Leeds United snarler Lee Bowyer – who scored once – and Aston Villa wide man Lee Hendrie.

For Scotland, Rangers shot stopper Andy Goram was in-between the posts and ex-Blackburn Rovers battler Colin Hendry manned the defence.

Leicester City’s Steven Howard got a brace for England.

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