There was a Spanish winner at the IPIC World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, but it was Mario Mola and not four-time reigning world champion Javier Gomez who stormed to victory in the UAE.
The event, the season opener to the International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Series, saw the 25-year-old from Majorca stake an early claim for the championship in which he finished second last season.
Competing in the Elite Men’s Sprint distance, Mola beat Frenchman Vincent Luis by 13 seconds, with South African Richard Murray third, a further five seconds back.
The first WTS race of the season had been billed as an Abu Dhabi duel between defending champion Gomez and 2012 winner Jonathan Brownlee – the silver and bronze triathlon medallists at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
However, with Gomez still recovering from flu and injury, and Brownlee admitting he made “too many mistakes”, Mola picked an opportune moment to shine.
Here is the winner of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon. Spanish world no2 Mario Mola pic.twitter.com/8lasrM9AvW
— Sport360° (@Sport_360) March 7, 2015
Mola was only 17th after the opening 750m swim on the capital’s Corniche, but made that time up significantly in the 20km cycling stage by posting the third fastest time.
The Spaniard, renowned for his sprinting ability, consolidated his advantage on the final, 5km run, with the rest of the field just unable to keep pace with him, as he posted a winning time of 52 minutes, 31 seconds.
Mola could easily have been mistaken for a holidaymaker who had just strolled of the Corniche beach after a day of sunbathing when he spoke after the race.
He looked like he had hardly broken sweat, but admitted victory had not been easy.
“Well, I’m tired. Perhaps I will be even more tired later but the happiness is bigger than the tiredness right now,” he said.
“I was very happy with how things went today, I couldn’t be happier.
“It wasn’t easy. I think I had an okay swim, not the best one, but I managed to stay in the first group on the bike.
“I knew how strong Richard and Vincent were at the sprint finish so I had to make my move and it worked today, so I’m happy with how things ended and I was able to enjoy the last few metres. It’s good to do it this way.”
Luis, also 25, said: “That’s a good way to start the season. I’m really happy with second place.
“I tried to stay with Mario. Mario helped me (on the run) but then when Mario attacks you cannot follow him. You can follow him once but not more than once, it’s too much.”
— Sport360° (@Sport_360) March 7, 2015
Murray was pleased to have raised his level from a disappointing 52nd place in last season’s WTS Grand Final in Edmonton, Canada.
“I fumbled with my helmet in the transition of the bike and someone crashed into me on the last lap, almost taking my front wheel out, so I was glad to finish well,” said the 26 year old from Cape Town.
There was disappointment though for Yorkshireman Brownlee, who endured a disastrous day.
Down in 32nd place after the opening swim, the 24 year old clawed his way back up the field on the next two legs to eventually finish fifth in 53 minutes, two seconds.
“It was just messy. I messed up everything I possibly could,” said Brownlee seconds after crossing the line.
“I don’t know what happened. I got beaten up in the swim. I got nailed. I don’t know what the other guys were doing. They just dived on top of me at the start and I had to swim really, really hard.
“Then on the bike I crashed into the fence and made a right mess of it. I just made too many mistakes, but this is what the first race is about, getting those mistakes out of the way. I need to iron out the mistakes and shape up.”
Gomez, 31, said he was satisfied with his sixth placed finish, considering his recent troubles.
“I got flu two weeks ago which kept me in bed for some days, then I raced in Dubai last week and had a problem with my glute,” said the 31-year-old, who finished nine seconds behind Brownlee.
“Even though my preparations have been good for a few months, these last few weeks went wrong, so I didn’t expect to be very fast here, but I was better than expected.”
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