ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The 2017 ITU World Triathlon Series opened Friday, with U.S. Olympian Katie Zaferes leading the charge with a seventh-place finish at ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi and New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt capturing the win.
Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.) clocked in at 2 hours, 5 minutes, 2 seconds on the standard 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run to finish solidly in the top 10. Hewitt won her first ITU World Triathlon Series event since September 2011 (WTS Yokohama), posting a final time of 2:03:46 in a sprint finish with Great Britain’s Jodie Stimpson. Stimpson also finished in 2:03:46, half a step behind Hewitt. Austria’s Sara Vilic earned her first career WTS podium finish, finishing third in 2:03:53.
The Americans were out front at the start of the race with Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.), two-time Olympian Sarah True (Hanover, N.H.) and Zaferes exiting the water in the top five and leading the charge out onto the bike course. The trio stayed clear of the chasing pack for the first few laps, but the chase, which included the eventual podium finishers, bridged the gap before the midway point on the 40k bike course.
The 10-lap bike course featured tight turns and hills, separating the larger lead pack as athletes settled in. The lead group included four Americans — Cook, True, Zaferes and Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) — until a mechanical ended True’s race day early. Kasper also lost contact with the lead group near the end of the 40k ride due to a flat tire.
Once out on the run, Zaferes fought to stay in contact with the leaders. Hewitt, Vilic broke away, putting a gap of nearly 30 seconds up on the rest of the field over the final 5 kilometers. The finish came down to the wire, as Hewitt and Stimpson battled for the top spot on the podium in the final straightaway, with Hewitt taking the tape. Zaferes finished just 10 seconds outside of the top five.
“I’m really, really happy with the result. A lot of it was process-oriented for me and just kind of breaking down everything,” Zaferes said. “For me, the bike was a key factor, and I think that was one of the bike rides I’m most proud of technically. Even though there were parts that weren’t perfect, it was still above what I had done last year in the bike ride. Anything with a lot of spikes takes a lot out of my legs, but also when you’re riding with Andrea Hewitt and Jodie Stimpson and they’re pushing the bike, to hang with them and try to stay connected took a lot out.”
Greg Billington (Spokane, Wash.) and Ben Kanute (Geneva, Ill.), both members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, will kick of their 2017 season on Saturday as action continues at ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi. The race begins at 6:55 a.m. ET and will be streamed live on triathlonlive.tv.
The next ITU World Triathlon Series stop will be April 8-9 in Gold Coast, Australia.
2017 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Elite Women—Complete Results
1. Andrea Hewitt (NZL), 2:03:46
2. Jodie Stimpson (GBR), 2:03:46
3. Sara Vilic (AUT), 2:03:53
7. Katie Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.), 2:05:02
17. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 2:07:24
22. Renée Tomlin (Ocean City, N.J.), 2:12:24
23. Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.), 2:12:31
DNF Sarah True (Hanover, N.H.) - mechanical