Mario Mola celebrates as he crosses the finish line during the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, the first of the ITU’s Global World Triathlon Series, at the Yas Marina Circuit. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Spanish ace and World No. 1 Mario Mola has sent in a strong warning that he will again be the one to beat after powering his way to clinch the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, the first of the ITU’s Global World Triathlon Series at the Yas Marina Circuit, on Friday.

Finishing second with a brilliant race on debut was 21-year-old Alex Lee of Great Britain while the third place was bagged by Mola’s compatriot Fernando Alarza, who showed he had strong legs towards the end to finish on the podium.

A jubilant Mola, who clinched his third title at the capital course after having won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 said: “My swimming and bike weren’t smooth but these things happen and I knew I had to dig deep and run consistently to breach that gap. Alex is a talented kid and it was great battle against him.”

Mola added that so many youngsters are catching up fast and it was proving difficult for him to keep ahead of them with every passing year.

“Yes it is great to see new generation of athletes and they all are talented,” he said. “I knew I had to work really hard and luckily I had good legs today. It was great to start with a win at the beginning of the season.”

World No. 2 Katie Zaferes of the US celebrates after winning the women’s category in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Twitter

Mola felt that the course was technical and hence it was important to be a bit cautious at some corners during the bike ride.

In all, 55 athletes took to the race, with sunshine and calm waters aiding the spectacle around Yas Viceroy and Yas Marina Circuit.

First out of the water after the 750m swim was Slovakian Richard Varga followed by defending champion Henri Schoeman of South Africa and Frenchman Vincent Luis while Mola was 16th.

However, that equation changed quickly once they were on the bike as a sharp turn just into the first corner saw number of riders’ crashing.

Taking charge upfront was New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde and he remained in control until the end of 20-km ride. Here, Mola was down to 24th but once the run started he slowly made amends despite Wilde continuing to set up good pace upfront. It didn’t take long for Mola to make his way up to third as Alex Yee split him and Wilde.

As soon as the final lap started, Yee overtook Wilde. The Briton showed he maybe a rookie but with the legs to test the best. With 1.82km from finish, Mola move to second spot and then leapfrogged to the top with 1.70km remaining. Yee kept close pursuit with the three time World Champion until the 0.57km mark. However, the experienced Spaniard simply pulled away to clinch his third title as his countryman Alarza came from behind to take an impressive third.

“I came in just to get experience at this level and had a very good camp. I felt really good as we prepared hard and wanted to give my best and see where I am. I’m on cloud nine to win here,” said an elated Lee adding that it was a dream to race against Mola and some of his other idols whom he had watched growing up.

Alarza credited his success to his daughter. “I started feeling Triathlon is not mine and then I started working really hard once I got the gift of a beautiful daughter. This win is for her as I just thought about my baby towards the last kilometre and gave it everything so that I can be on the podium. I’m really happy,” he said.