JONNY Brownlee will be hoping he is not hampered by a slow start when he takes part in the ITU World Triathlon Series in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Brownlee finished sixth overall in last year's series but could have challenged for the title if his form in the first half of the season had matched his performances at the end.

The former Bradford Grammar School pupil is excited by the challenge of running in the Middle East and said: "Abu Dhabi is an awesome location for the season-opening WTS race.

"I raced on the Corniche course back in 2015 and am excited to check out the new course on Yas Island.

"The weather in Abu Dhabi in March will be perfect – a far cry from the conditions we have experienced in the UK this winter."

The Bingley Harriers athlete faces stiff competition in this seasonal opener, with Mario Mola – winner of the event in 2016 – lining up alongside him.

Norwegian rival Kristian Blummenfelt, who finished third overall in the WTS rankings last year, is also a considerable threat, as is Richard Murray of South Africa, who has just won the first World Cup event of the 2018 season in Cape Town.

Brownlee will be hoping to shake off any rust as he has not raced competitively since the Ribble Valley 10K road race on New Year's Eve.

His brother Alastair, who was due to race in Abu Dhabi as well, has tweeted that a calf strain will prevent him from competing this week.