Nine of the top 10 women in triathlon will lead a pack of 50 women from 20 countries at the ITU’s World Triathlon Series (WTS) season opener on 2 March. The world-class field, set to tackle a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run on the spectacular Yas Island course, will make for one of the most competitive women’s line-ups in the history of ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi.
The women's field - crowded with World Champions, Olympians, titleholders and contenders - includes Bermuda's Flora Duffy, ITU World Triathlon Series 2017 Champion; New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt, Abu Dhabi defending champion; Austria's Sara Vilic, who also earned a podium finish in Abu Dhabi last year; World Number two Australia's Ashleigh Gentle, World Number three and Olympian USA's Olympian Katie Zaferes and Olympic medallist Great Britain's Vicky Holland. The top nine female titans boast a total of 61 wins and 171 podium finishes between them.
"This is another world-class field for Abu Dhabi and it’s fantastic to see nine of the top ten female triathletes in the world taking part, including two World Champions and 22 Olympians headlining the 2018 race,” said His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, host of the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi. "This will be one of the most exciting fields on the WTS calendar, greatly complementing our efforts to encourage more women in the region to follow in the footsteps of such inspirational athletes and take up the sport."
After a stunning 2017 that saw Flora Duffy notch-up four gold on the WTS circuit and the World Champion title, Bermudian superstar is looking forward to make her debut on the iconic Yas Island course.
"I was disappointed to miss the Abu Dhabi race last year due to an injury," said Duffy. "I've heard a ton of great things about Yas Island course so I can't wait to tackle it next month – especially the bike course which looks like it’s really suited to my aggressive style of racing."
"I've never topped the podium in Abu Dhabi so, of course, it would be amazing to start the season with a win. I’m going all in as always and hoping for the best possible outcome!" said Duffy, who has made a name for herself as one of the strongest cyclists in the field.
Carrying the USA flag next month will be compatriots World Number three and four Katie Zaferes and Kirsten Kasper, returning to take on the Yas Island course this March.
"I had a really good season last year and I am intent on maintaining that momentum," said Zaferes who earned medals in three WTS races in 2017 and finishing in the top 10 in all but one race. She finished the WTS series ranked third overall, which marked her first-ever world championship medal. She was fourth overall in 2016 and fifth in 2015.
"I am very fond of the Abu Dhabi race and have flown in to compete since 2015. The start list is very exciting and I can't wait to get back to the Yas Island course this year," said Zaferes who is intent on a podium finish.
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 the Brownlee brothers, Flora Duffy, Andrea Hewitt and more. 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.
For international triathletes, organisers have created travel packages which include a choice of outstanding hotels located on Yas Island, which include access to state of the art training facilities, restaurants, entertainment and shopping. To find out more visit abudhabi.triathlon.org.