WTS Abu Dhabi: 10 things we learnt from the 2019 season opener

The ITU World Series got underway in the Emirates’ capital this weekend, with success for Mario Mola and Katie Zafares in the individual races and Australia in the mixed relay. But beyond the headlines, what else did we learn from the elite level racing? 220 columnist Tim Heming reflects.


1. Super League Triathlon has upped the ante. Compared to the fast-paced, multi-transition, mixed-up world that Chris McCormack and co have delivered, the World Series – even at sprint distance – looks pedestrian. It’s particularly a problem on the bike, where triathletes such as Flora Duffy and Alistair Brownlee, who can really blow racing apart, are sorely missed. The men’s race in Abu Dhabi was effectively neutralised until T2, and if new fans are to be engaged, that must change.

2. Abu Dhabi’s state-of-the-art Yas Marina motor-racing circuit fails to convince. Yes, it’s a fillip that ITU now has an established venue for the World Series curtain-raiser and the warm climate is no doubt welcomed by the triathletes. But the eerie, empty grandstands draw obvious if unfair comparisons with the fervour of when Formula One lands here in December, and the wide, sweeping track also doesn’t make for exciting cycle racing – until the bike tyres hit a patch of motor oil.