Sport | Athletics

Triathlon titans primed for Abu Dhabi battle

Returning champions and established powerhouses included in stellar men’s field

  • Staff Report
  • Published: 18:15 February 16, 2013
  • Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The titans of men’s triathlon have thrown the gauntlet down for next month’s $230,000 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon as the world’s best get ready to contest one of the sport’s richest prizes against the event’s strongest ever field.

Returning champions Eneko Llanos and Frederik Van Lierde will line up against powerhouses, Conrad ‘The Caveman’ Stoltz, Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack and Bryan ‘Rhodesy’ Rhodes — who have dominated the sport over the last decade — in the quest to win the coveted Abu Dhabi crown on March 2.

With an enviable pedigree of countless podium places, ITU titles and Ironman world championships between them, the ‘famous five’ will be the ones to beat in the 223-kilometre ‘Pure Power’ event.

Hoping to score big on his Abu Dhabi debut, South African stalwart Stoltz has an international reputation as one of the world’s most multifaceted endurance athletes. With a professional career spanning more than 20 years, Stoltz remains a force to be reckoned with on the elite circuit and is champing at the bit to make his mark in the United Arab Emirates capital.

Last year alone, the 39-year-old raced 18 times, winning one world title (ITU Cross Tri) and his 10th XTERRA USA Series title, as well as 10 other victories and six podiums. With 48 Xterra career wins, 10 Xterra series USA titles and four Xterra world champion nods, he will be one of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) event’s dark horses.

“Pure Power and Caveman go together like ‘desert’ and ‘sand’,” said Stoltz, who has raced ITU races for 15 years and Xterra for 12 years. “The Abu Dhabi triathlon is a new challenge for me, I like the long bike leg and shorter run. It will be interesting for me to see what I am capable of.”

McCormack needs no introduction to the triathlon world. The Australian has won the Ironman World Championships twice and is the only man to hold Olympic distance ITU and ITU World Cup Series titles at the same time. Adding to a long list of credentials, he is the only man to break eight hours in an Ironman distance four times.

The heat got the better of him in 2011, forcing his early-race retirement, so the 39-year-old from Sydney has been training hard in the winter break for that much-needed upper hand against the stellar field.

“My last outing in Abu Dhabi was not quite what I was hoping for and last year this event clashed with the Olympic trials for me, so I am now returning this year for another go at this distance,” said McCormack. “As I have aged in this sport, I look for events that are both challenging and interesting and also offer unique experience. Abu Dhabi delivers all of this for me.”

Other athletes returning to the pro field are Sylvain Sudrie of France, who finished fifth in 2011, and Andi Boecherer from Germany, who was 10th last year. They join Team GB’s gold medal-winning Olympic triathlete and back-to-back European Triathlon Union champion, Alistair Brownlee, who heads up the 111.5km short course line-up. More returning athletes and new names to the international circuit will be announced in the coming weeks. The 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon starts with a sunrise swim off Abu Dhabi’s blue flagged public beach, before weaving through closed roads along the Corniche Beach, up to the spectacular Yas Island and back to the city centre finish line.

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

Organisers have frozen athlete registration fees for the fourth year in a row but those interested in entering should visit www.abudhabitriathlon.com. Entry fees for the long and short distances are Dh695 and Dh47 respectively, while sprint rates are Dh275 for individuals and Dh440 for a team. The fee for the team relay is Dh1,022.

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