: The superstars of elite triathlon are just weeks away from competing in the pinnacle of the sport as the countdown to the ITU World Triathlon Series (WTS) 2018 season-opener in Abu Dhabi begins. Sixty-five of the sport's leading male athletes from 25 countries, including eight of the world's top 10 ITU ranked athletes, will go head-to-head for the season’s first honours on 2 March on the iconic Yas Island.
The star-studded line-up will feature 2017 ITU World Triathlon Series World Champion and 2016 WTS Abu Dhabi winner, Mario Mola, who will go up against two-time Olympic champion, Alistair Brownlee making his WTS Abu Dhabi debut. The pair are joined by more world-class competition, with the likes of Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt, South African Richard Murray and Spaniard Fernando Alarza – all ranked in the ITU’s top five set to compete. The eye-catching line-up also features crowd favourites including; Vincent Luis, who was victorious in the ITU World Triathlon Series 2017 Grand-Final in Rotterdam, Henri Schoeman, also a former ITU World Triathlon Grand-Final winner and Jonathan Brownlee, the two-time Olympic medallist.
"Abu Dhabi is the one date that really stands out in my calendar,” said Mario Mola. “It’s the season opener and the opportunity for triathletes to kick-start their season with a win on what is becoming one of the most exciting races on the WTS circuit. Last year was a real challenge for me with the new course on Yas Island and the competition was extremely high. But I’m hoping for a better result this year as I go for a hat-trick of Abu Dhabi wins. I’m familiar with the course and want to put on an amazing show for all the fantastic spectators that come out to show their support. The quality of triathletes competing this year is truly world-class, you just have to look at those who will be standing side-by-side on the start line and it already fills me with huge amounts of excitement. I can’t wait to get started!”
Mola, who is going for a hat-trick of Abu Dhabi triathlon victories, will face fierce competition from fellow competitors, not least Alistair Brownlee who will be hoping to make a lasting impression in the capital. "I’m really looking forward to racing at WTS Abu Dhabi. I haven’t competed in a lot of WTS events over the past year but when I have, I’ve given 100% and tried to be as competitive as possible, as shown with my result in Leeds last year. It is a tough field in Abu Dhabi but I expect to be in the mix at the end of the race.”
The world-class line up for WTS Abu Dhabi 2018 men's elite field have recorded a combined total of 282 wins on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit and shared more than 700 podium places between them – delivering the strongest WTS Abu Dhabi line-up in the history of the event.
"We are thrilled to announce the most spectacular elite line up the WTS Abu Dhabi has ever seen. Triathlon’s biggest names, including the full Rio 2016 Olympic podium will compete on Yas Island on 2 March on one of the most unique courses on the series. Final preparations are underway for the event, where we expect to see a record number of participants take part and thousands of spectators coming to show their support for family, friends and their triathlon heroes," said His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), host of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi. "This year’s triathlon marks another momentous occasion for sport in the UAE, as we welcome participants of all experience levels and offer an increased number of entry categories, making this a truly inclusive event. With the race just weeks away, I’d like to encourage all potential participants to sign up now via abudhabi.triathlon.org and join me on the start line as we help make history here in the UAE.”
In addition to the stunning elite field, the WTS Abu Dhabi has amateur race categories suited to all ages and abilities, and will welcome 3,500 amateur athletes to take part in the two-day event, giving participants the chance to race alongside the likes of Mario Mola, Alistair Brownlee and Richard Murray. Age group competitors will be able to choose from three course types, all ranging in distance. The three distances available to age groupers are:
- Sprint: 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run
- Olympic: 1,500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run
- Middle: 1,900m swim, 90km bike, 21km run
The ITU World triathlon Abu Dhabi 2018 will also see the return of the Junior Triathlon – a fun event aimed at encouraging youngsters to get active – which hosts race categories for children aged 5 – 15 years old. For juniors looking to take on a triathlon, there are four entry categories for the 2018 edition:
- Mini 1km: 1km run (5 – 8 year olds)
- Kids Duathlon: 3km cycle and 500m run (7 – 11 year olds)
- Junior Duathlon: 6km cycle and 1 km run (12 – 13 year olds) / 6km cycle and 1.5 km run (14 – 15 year olds)
- Junior Triathlon Super Sprint: 400mswim, 10km cycle and a 2.5km run (12 – 15 years)
In addition to Age Groupers and Junior races, organisers have also confirmed that the 2018 global triathlon season-opener will feature dedicated waves for para-triathletes for the very first time. First timers and seasoned para-triathletes will also have the chance to rub shoulders and compete alongside inspirational heroes of Paralympic triathlon including; World and European Champion and Rio 2016 Paralympic Gold medallist, Andy Lewis and Mohamed Lahna, the Bronze medallist at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
Online entries for the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi are open to the public via the race website, AbuDhabi.Triathlon.org. Race spots are quickly filling-up and organisers are urging those interested to sign-up soon before registration closes on 27 February.