Taylor Knibb Earns Fifth Place in Abu Dhabi to Close Out 2021 WTCS Calendar Year
by USA Triathlon
ABU DHABI, UAE — Putting a close to the 2021 calendar year for the World Triathlon Championship Series, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates welcomed a talented roster of elite triathletes to compete in the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi on Friday, November 5.
Tokyo 2020 Olympian and Mixed Relay silver medalist Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) led the U.S. contingent with a fifth place finish. Showcasing her signature style of strategic attacks on the bike, Knibb finished with a time of 56 minutes, 35 seconds on the fast, but hot climate, 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run sprint-distance course that toured around the Formula One and circuit track.
The remaining U.S. women also put forth solid performances to all land within the top 20. Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) placed 11th in a time of 57:51, Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.) took 15th at 58:06 and Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.) closed out the U.S. team in 17th with a time of 58:15.
The 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi is the second WTCS event counting toward the rankings of the 2022 WTCS. Rappaport is the current 2022 WTCS series leader, with 1,143 points following her third-place finish at Hamburg in September, and her showing Friday in Abu Dhabi.
Knibb, whose recent string of success includes a third-place finish at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, pushed the pace on the bike, leading the front group that included Tokyo 2020 gold and silver medalists Flora Duffy (BER) and Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) and fellow Great Britain stalwarts Sophie Coldwell and Jessica Learmonth. The group dropped the chase pack, putting a nearly two-minute lead on the group. Knibb led the pack heading into the transition for the run.
Once out onto the run, Knibb ultimately couldn’t keep her legs and she fell back from podium contention, as Duffy ran away to secure the win in a time of 55:41 as the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series winner earned her first career win at Abu Dhabi.
Great Britain took the silver and bronze as Taylor-Brown finished second in 55:53 and Coldwell took third in 56:11.
The men's race kicked off the elite action on Friday, as Tokyo 2020 Mixed Relay silver medalist Morgan Pearson (New Vernon, N.J.) led the U.S. squad, with a 24th place finish in a time of 54:13.
Earning the men’s win was Belgium’s Jelle Geens (52:20), followed by Frenchman Vincent Luis (52:25) and Bence Bicsak of Hungary (52:28).
Strong off the podium dive, the swim was fast and furious with 10 athletes having a sub-9-minute 750-meter split time.
Both Pearson and U.S. teammate Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.) had solid performances in the water, exiting the swim just 20 seconds back from Luis who led into T1. Out onto the bike, the 56-strong field split into three main packs. The leaders tallied 17 and Rider, one of the stronger U.S. cyclists, found himself among the front group.
Despite his swift start, Pearson missed getting into the lead pack. He found himself pushing the chase, which couldn’t close the gap over the course of the five laps. Upon entering T2, the gap had extended to 40 seconds from the front 17.
Pearson eventually caught Rider on the run, but neither could move into podium contention as Rider finished in 56:03 to take 41st .
In his debut WTCS race, Clayton Hutchins (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) placed 46th with a time of 57:23.
2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Abu Dhabi
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Elite Women — Complete results
1. Flora Duffy (BER) 55:41
2. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) 55:53
3. Sophie Coldwell (GBR) 56:11
5. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) 56:35
11. Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) 57:51
15. Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.) 58:06
17. Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.) 58:15
Elite Men — Complete results
1. Jelle Geens (BEL) 52:20
2. Vincent Luis (FRA) 52:25
3. Bence Bicsak (HUN) 52:28
24. Morgan Pearson (New Vernon, N.J.) 54:13
41. Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.) 56:03
46. Clayton Hutchins (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) 57:23