Sport | Athletics

Butterfield to defend Abu Dhabi triathlon crown

Australian postpones retirement to join her Olympian husband in the capital

  • Staff Report
  • Published: 14:05 February 5, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Courtesy: Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
  • Nikki Butterfield celebrates her Abu Dhabi 2012 win.

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi International Triathlon’s reigning champion Nikki Butterfield, has postponed her planned retirement to defend her UAE title next month against what is expected to be the strongest female elite line-up outside of the Ironman World Championship.

Having put her career on hold after her historic Abu Dhabi win to concentrate on having a second child, Butterfield has now teamed up with husband, Bermudan Olympic triathlete Tyler, who will make his UAE capital debut on March 2, to work round-the-clock in preparation for her flagship Abu Dhabi 223 kilometre ‘pure power’ title defence.

“One of the great things about keeping a detailed training diary and then doing well is I can now look back on what I was doing at a similar time and see where I am each week compared to last year, what I was doing, how I felt, my times, pace, heart rates etc,” she said.

“Some things this year are identical like my treadmill sets, run loops, bike intervals and loops, but I have made some changes,” explained the Brisbane mother, who crossed Abu Dhabi’s finish line last year with daughter Savannah in her arms to rapturous applause after holding off late charges from Angela Neath, Caroline Steffen and Melissa Hauschildt (nee Rollison), who are all returning to challenge her top spot.

“This year I’m trying to be more consistent in my training day to day, week to week and in my overall preparation. Last year I quite frequently flogged myself, would have to take a few days easy or off, then flog myself again. Obviously it worked for Abu Dhabi, but by July I wanted to quit. This year I’m trying to be more progressive, we’ll see how it affects my result.”

The former professional cyclist proved her racing pedigree when she drew on her extensive arsenal of experience to clinch victory on the energy-sapping 200km bike leg, which ultimately led to her taking top spot two and a half minutes ahead of the chasing pack.

“The way the race panned out in 2012 and my edge over my competitors was simple: I used cycling tactics to work over the other girls on the bike. I actually tried to just ride away thinking in a non-drafting race that would be enough but, as everyone knows, even when you sit at the legal distance, it’s easier for the person behind, so to just ride away you have to be a lot stronger,” added super-cyclist Butterfield, widely regarded to be as versatile as she is fast.

With one of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) event’s strongest elite lineups due to take their marks next month, Nikki and Tyler will be putting everything they’ve got into their Australian training period pre-race.

Tyler, who finished fourth at the 2012 Ironman Arizona and is the reigning Pan American Champion, also represented Bermuda at his second Olympic Games in London, clocking the fastest bike split and placing 34th. He’s now going into the 2013 season with a long-course focus.

“Abu Dhabi is my season opener and it is a huge race to open with, but I like the big races as they are what gets me out the door to train,” said Tyler, who will join 2012 Olympic Gold medallist, Alistair Brownlee, in the capital next month for the event.

The 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon starts with a sunrise swim in the Arabian Gulf’s shimmering turquoise waters off Abu Dhabi’s Blue Flagged public beach. The course then weaves through closed roads along the Corniche Beach, up to the spectacular Yas Island and around the Yas Marina Circuit – home to the annual Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – before returning to the heart of the UAE capital.

The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon offers three course distances; the 223km long course (3km swim, a 200km cycle and 20km run), the half-length short course (1.5km swim, a 100km cycle and a 10 km run) and the sprint course (750m swim, a 50km bike and 5km run). Both the short and the sprint can be run as a team relay.

Organisers have frozen athlete registration fees for the fourth year in a row. Athletes interested in entering should visit www.abudhabitriathlon.com and, after clicking on the ENTER NOW link, simply follow the instructions. Entry fees for the long and short distances are $190 (Dh695) and $130 respectively, while Sprint course rates are $75 for individuals and $120 for a team. The fee for the team relay is $280.

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