Inaugural Challenge Dubai Draws Impressive Field

The first race in the Challenge Family’s Triple Crown Series will welcome a first-class pro field to the Middle East this weekend.

Photo: Stephen Pond

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The first race in the Challenge Family’s Triple Crown Series will welcome a first-class pro field to the Middle East this weekend for the inaugural Challenge Dubai on Feb. 27.

The half-iron-distance race will feature some of the best triathletes from both the short-course and long-course scenes, thanks to its high-paying prize purse of $300,000, with each winner (men’s and women’s) taking home a $65,000 check. In addition to the individual race’s prize purse, Dubai is the first race in the Triple Crown Series (also includes Challenge Oman and Challenge Bahrain), which will offer $1 million to the male and female athlete who wins all three events. The race will be competitive, and Challenge will be enforcing the same 20-meter drafting rule that was implemented at December’s Challenge Bahrain.

RELATED: Challenge Family Announces $1 Million Triple Crown Series

The Men’s Race
Spaniard Javier Gomez is a name that stands out on the start list, as he holds multiple world champion titles to his name, including the reigning ITU and Ironman 70.3 world champion. He’s also stated that he intends to become triathlon’s first million-dollar man, but he’ll be facing tough competition this weekend.

Other stand-out names include German Michael Raelert, a former Ironman 70.3 world champion who’s looking to continue his comeback after winning Challenge Bahrain, and Spain’s Ivan Raña, a former Olympian and recent top-10 Kona finisher. The Australians will be well represented, with 2013 Kona runner-up Luke McKenzie, 2012 Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs on the start line, as well as half-Ironman specialists Tim Reed, Leon Griffin, Ruedi Wild and Brad Kahlefeldt. Kiwi Terenzo Bozzone, another former 70.3 world champ, will also be competing—after success early in his career, he seems to be on an upward trajectory recently, having gotten on a few podiums in 2014.

The men’s race will have 75 men competing for the prize purse. Other names who have a good shot at the podium include James Cunnama (RSA), Eneko Llanos (ESP), Andy Potts (USA), Michael Weiss (AUT), Paul Matthews (AUS), Richie Cunningham (AUS), Victor Del Corral (ESP), Will Clarke (GBR), Ben Collins (USA) and Joe Gambles (AUS).

The Women’s Race
The women’s field is almost just as stacked, with reigning Ironman 70.3 world champ and Kona runner-up Daniela Ryf highlighting the field. She’s spent the last month preparing in the Grand Canary Islands and is setting her sights on Dubai as her first race of the year. “February is an early start for me, but I’m happy to be here and looking forward to test[ing] my form,” Ryf said in a Challenge press release. “I’m excited to race here. It’s my first Challenge race, and the experience in Dubai has been great so far. For me, it will be a good test to see if I’m able to TT a flat 90K. For sure it will be a fast course, so it’s always fun to see how fast we can go.”

She’ll face tough competition, especially from recent Challenge Bahrain champion Helle Frederiksen of Denmark. Frederiksen was the first woman to win a Challenge race in the Middle East and is going into this race with good momentum. “I’m expecting a very fierce race, just like Bahrain,” Frederiksen said in a press release. “Jodie Swallow [GBR], Daniela Ryf, Alicia Kaye [USA], Meredith Kessler [USA], Heather Wurtele [CAN] and so many others are just world class. I expect them to bring their best and I’m glad to be in a position where I can bring mine. I’m full expecting Ryf and Kaye to be a factor in the race from the beginning, especially the bike leg. They are exceptionally strong riders, arguably two of the best, and the race dynamics will be affected by this.”

Other top women in contention for the Dubai crown include Australia’s Annabel Luxford, the Netherlands’ Yvonne Van Vlerken, 2013 Ironman world champion Leanda Cave (GBR), and Denmark’s Camilla Pedersen, who’s made a remarkable comeback after a crash in 2013 and a medically induced coma. She made a comeback in December by winning the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championship, and we’re excited to see her race again.

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Challenge Dubai Professional Start List

1 Michael Raelert GER
3 Tim Reed AUS
4 James Cunnama RSA
5 Eneko Llanos ESP
6 Massimo Cigana ITA
8 Javier Gomez ESP
10 Terenzo Bozzone NZL
11 Luke McKenzie AUS
12 Andy Potts USA
13 Pete Jacobs AUS
14 Bart Aernouts BEL
15 Leon Griffin AUS
16 Brad Kahlefeldt AUS
17 Ritchie Nicholls GBR
18 Rasmus Petræus DEN
19 Paul Ambrose AUS
20 Till Schramm AUT
21 Michael Weiss AUT
23 Per Bittner GER
24 Domenico Passuello ITA
26 Markus Fachbach GER
27 Filip Ospaly CZE
28 Horst Reichel GER
29 Ruedi Wild SUI
31 Joe Gambles AUS
32 Maurice Clavel GER
33 Trevor Wurtele CAN
34 Giulio Molinari ITA
36 Mauro Baertsch SUI
37 Hervé Banti MON
38 Niels Brandt-Jørgensen DEN
39 Fraser Cartmell GBR
40 Balazs Csoke HUN
41 Robert Duncan USA
42 Nicolas Fernandez FRA
43 Olivier Godart LUX
44 Daniel Halksworth GBR
45 Mikita Hryhoryeu POL
46 Martin Jensen DEN
48 Matthias Knossalla GER
49 Manuel Küng SUI
50 Patrick Lange GER
51 Markus Liebelt GER
52 David McNamee GBR
53 Michael Murphy AUS
54 Evgeniy Nikitin RUS
55 Gilian Oriet SUI
56 David Pleše SVK
57 Josh Rix AUS
58 Michael Ruenz GER
60 Joe Skipper GBR
62 Jan Van Berkel SUI
63 Eric Watson AUS
64 Lukasz Wojt POL
65 Rafael Wyss SUI
66 Ivan Rana ESP
67 Paul Matthews AUS
68 Richie Cunningham AUS
69 Victor Del Corral ESP
110 Igor Amorelli BRA
111 Allan Steen Olesen DEN
112 Matt Franklin NZL
113 Jens Petersen-Bach DEN
114 Milosz Sowinski POL
115 Will Clarke GBR
117 Jonathan Ciavatella ITA
118 Ben Collins USA
119 Jonas Bergkvist SWE

70 Helle Frederiksen DEN
71 Jodie Swallow GBR
72 Annabel Luxford AUS
75 Camilla Pederson DEN
76 Meredith Kessler USA
77 Daniela Ryf SUI
79 Yvonne van Vlerken NED
80 Leanda Cave GBR
81 Michelle Vesterby DEN
82 Heather Wurtele CAN
83 Anja Beranek GER
84 Eva Wutti GER
85 Deirdre Casey IRL
87 Svenja Bazlen GER
88 Svetlana Blazevic SRB
89 Lauren Brandon USA
91 Susie Cheetham GBR
92 Dimity-Lee Duke AUS
93 Caio Ferreira BRA
94 Alice Hector GBR
95 Alicia Kaye USA
96 Jenny Nilsson SWE
97 Daniela Saemmler GER
98 Alena Stevens GBR
102 Indre Barkute LTU

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