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Abu Dhabi Debut Kicks Off 2015 WTS Season Saturday

Both reigning ITU world championships will race this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

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The ITU World Triathlon Series kicks off this weekend in Abu Dhabi and a stellar pro field will be on the start line, including both reigning ITU world champions. This will be the first time that a WTS race has been held in the Middle East (this is the 16th country that has hosted a WTS race since the series started in 2009), and the race will be a sprint (750-meter swim, 20K bike, 5K run)—the eighth ever sprint race in the series. With the potential of warm temperatures and high winds, Abu Dhabi could make for an exciting venue and might have new athletes atop the podium.

Men’s Race
In the men’s race four-time ITU world champion Javier Gomez (ESP) headlines a deep pro field that includes nine of the top 10 ranked men, but Gomez has yet to win a WTS sprint race. Three other men in this field have won ITU sprint races, including world No. 3 Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), who’s won four out of the seven ever held, Mario Mola (ESP), ranked second after last season, and Richard Murray (RSA). Other top athletes who could make their way onto the podium include Joao Pereira (POR), Allessandro Fabian (ITA), Vincent Luis (FRA) and Sven Riederer (SUI).

Some up-and-comers who’ll be toeing the line in Abu Dhabi include Under23 World Championship medalists Dorian Coninx (FRA) and Gordon Benson (GBR). Also, fourth-place Olympics finisher David Hauss (FRA) could be a factor in the race. Of note to U.S. triathlon fans, American Alan Webb will be making his WTS debut this weekend.

Find the full men’s start list here.

RELATED: 10 Reasons We’re Excited For The 2015 ITU Season

Women’s race
With the two top women in the world—Americans Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True (née Groff)—on the start line (with a target on their backs), the race is guaranteed to be an exciting, fast sprint race. Jorgensen is now the winningest woman in WTS history, and she’s claimed two sprint titles out of the seven ever held, but this field features several other women who’ve won on the 5K run, including True, Olympic bronze medalist Erin Densham (AUS), Olympic silver medalist Lisa Norden (SWE), Barbara Riveros (CHI) and Anne Haug (GER).

Both Densham and Norden are both big questions marks in this race, as they’ve been battling injuries and/or illness since London—Abu Dhabi will be a good test of their early-season fitness. Another notable woman on the start list is the extremely consistent WTS winner Andrea Hewitt (NZL), who finished up the 2014 WTS season with a runner-up finish in Edmonton and getting bronze in the series. If the winds pick up on race day, also keep an eye out for strong cyclists such as Hewitt, Lucy Hall (GBR), Haug, Commonwealth Games champ Jodie Stimpson (GBR) and two-time ITU world champ Emma Moffatt (AUS) to take advantage of the conditions.

Find the full women’s start list here.

Watch the races
Follow the action starting at 3 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 7 (that’s 6 a.m. East Coast time and 3 a.m. Pacific time), and the men follow at 5 p.m. local time. Follow all of the action live at Triathlonlive.tv (use code ROADTORIO to get a 20% discount on the season pass) and on Twitter @triathlonlive. You can also check out Trifecta this year—create a new login and pick your favorites at Trifecta.usatriathlon.org.