Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk broke away from the field to deliver his best result since the 2016 Olympic Summer Games with an 11th-place finish at the season-opening World Triathlon Series race on a wet Friday in Abu Dhabi.
The 23-year-old Mislawchuk was one of two men and two women from Triathlon Canada’s National Performance Centre in Victoria that hit the pontoon to compete against a stacked international field down the waterways and roads of Yas Island. The Oak Bluff, Man. resident posted his best result in nearly two years, clocking an 11th-place time of 58:07.
“I’m stoked to be back battling up in the front,” said Mislawchuk, who rattled off a handful of top-10 finishes two years ago before a 15th place result at his Olympic debut in Rio. “I pushed the technical course on the bike, and ended up off the front with one other athlete in a breakaway. I’m going to use this momentum going forward towards the Commonwealth Games (in April).”
Working tirelessly to regain his top race form, Mislawchuk put his off season training at the National Performance Centre with coach Jono Hall on the line, and delivered. Coming out of the short 750-metre swim in the top-20, the hard-nosed Canuck hammered the pace on the slick 20-kilometre bike course, before emptying the tank for 11th spot in the 10-kilomtre run.
South Africa’s Henri Schoeman made a statement, charging his way into the winner’s circle with a time of 57:03. Spain’s Mario Mola was second at 57:09, while Vincent Luis, of France, rounded out the men’s podium in third at 57:25.
Victoria’s Matt Sharpe achieved his goal of grabbing a spot in the top-20. Recovering after a difficult swim which was made worse by falling hard out of the water while running into the first transition area, the 26-year-old regained his composure and stayed relaxed on the bike where he was able to crawl his way up through the field.
“The race itself was total carnage, for myself and the competitors. It rained before our race and so the course was slick and the turns became treacherous,” said Sharpe. “It was one of those days where guys were crashing left,right, and centre. It seemed like every corner someone was going down. Just getting off the bike in one piece was an achievement today. I settled in the second pack on the bike and just tried to focus on being in a good position through the technical sections.”
Sharpe found his rhythm on the run and pushed himself into the final spot in the top-20, stopping the clock at 58:31.
The story was much the same in the women’s sprint-distance race with the world’s best battling a wet course that sprawled through the desert. Mother Nature stole the show, knocking many of the top names out of the race in the bike course, including Canada’s Joanna Brown.
Coming off a strong season where she was regularly in the podium mix, the 25-year-old Brown fought her way into a lead pack of nine women on the bike after a decent swim. Strong through the first three laps, the Carp, Ont. resident stayed cautious and was in great position until her day came to an end after crashing to the pavement on a tight left corner.
“It is very frustrating because I wasn’t being aggressive in any way and the next thing I knew I was on the ground,” said Brown, who added the same corner sent 10 other elite atheltes to the road. “I had a few tears of pain and frustration in the medical tent. It is hard to leave Abu Dhabi knowing that I could have been fighting it out for a spot on the podium, but we will move onto the next one.”
Canadian teenager, Desirae Ridenour, finished in the middle of the field against 48 of top women’s triathletes in the world while competing in her first World Triathlon Series race. The 18-year-old was steady in all three disciplines en route to clocking a 23rd-place time at 1:03:02.
“I came into this race with zero expectations. I had a decent swim and got onto the bike with Joanna. I tried to get on her wheel but missed it and was in the chase pack,” said Ridenour, who had stellar 2017 season racing against the world’s best junior athletes. “Luckily I didn’t crash – there were a few close calls. I played it conservative on the run climbing up a large hill every lap. Overall, I’m happy with this result considering the depth of the field.”
Rachel Klamer, of the Netherlands, won her first World Triathlon Series race with a time of 1:00:43. Jessica Learmonth, of Great Britain, finished 14 seconds off the pace in second at 1:00:57. Australia’s Natalie Van Coevorden was third at 1:01:00.