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Abu Dhabi: Spanish ace and world No 1 Mario Mola is keen to start on a high in his quest for ITU’s Global World Triathlon Series title-defence with the season-opening Daman World Triathlon at the iconic Yas Island on Friday.

Mola will not have to bother about the British star pair, brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, as they have pulled out but he will be locking horns with the creme de la creme of the sport. All the men’s top 10, including defending champion Henri Schoeman, have confirmed their availability and the stage is set for an absorbing contest.

“This is the first race of the year and you are not sure how you are. We all did the same, we prepared over the winter and no matter how the course is we are going to have a solid swim, bike and run. Hopefully, that will help to finish well,” said Mola, who has three back-to-back world titles under his belt — a feat that was achieved by his compatriot Javier Gomez earlier (2013, 2014, 2015).

“With every season, we try to be consistent and this first race is always important and winning here is also very special for me. But that’s the past and I’m now ready and prepared for the future.

“With every race counting towards our total points for the Tokyo Olympics, we must aim for strong finishes to gain maximum points,” added Mola.

World champion and Olympic medallist Vicky Holland from the UK will be leading the charge in the women’s category. She will be facing stiff challenge from the nine athletes in the top 10, including world No 2 Katie Zaferes of United States.

“2018 was an interesting year and the big aim for me was the Commonwealth Games but I fell short there and finished fourth. But, every race I did after that I seemed to get better and better. The Grand Final race, certainly between myself and Katie [Zaferes] was fantastic for us as athletes but also for spectators too; it was a great way to win the world title,” said Holland, adding that the only pressure she would face going into the contest is the pressure from ‘herself’.

“I think I have the same attitude I had last year but it is great to come in with that title that I’m really proud of but I don’t think that is going to change anything and the way I race or approach the race either.

“I’m focusing on that podium spot once again. Our training are the same for all races. I taper down a week or so before the event so I’m firing on all cylinders come race day,” said Holland, adding that her focus is also the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“I have won a bronze medal at Olympics and obviously that’s the big priority to try and qualify for Olympics. We have a strong field in Great Britain and getting into the team is tough,” revealed the 33-year-old.