For France’s Leo Bergere to win the World Triathlon title he needed to win the race and the two men expected to vie for the world championship – Alex Yee (GBR) and Hayden Wilde (NZL) – finish no better than fourth and sixth respectively. Heading into the standard-distance race in Abu Dhabi all eyes were on the Brit and Kiwi, who had dominated the race scene for most of the year and appeared to be the most likely candidates for the world title. Burger, though, had quietly put together a consistent enough year to be in the mix.
Hungary’s Mark Devay led the men out of the water with Bergere’s countryman Vincent Luis right behind. Bergere and Luis were part of an initial breakaway group of 15 that quickly whittled down to nine. The lead group was able to open up a gap of almost a minute on the large chase pack, but by the end of the bike that was down to 37 seconds.
Bergere and Great Britain’s Jonny Brownlee led the way out onto the run course, with Wilde and Yee starting the run about 40 seconds behind the leaders. Bergere powered his way to the front ahead of fellow breakaway members Morgan Pearson (USA) and Jelle Geens (BEL). As the run progressed, Wilde appeared to be wilting in the heat, but Yee was slowly gaining time on the leaders.
Bergere would hang tough and take his first WTCS win, with Pearson taking second. That meant the world title would come down to whether or not Yee could sprint his way to third. In the end, though, the Brit couldn’t get ahead of Geens, who beat the Brit to the line by three seconds to round out the podium. That left Wilde needing a fifth to top the final standings, but he would end up sixth.