Leon Griffin: Abu Dhabi Race Report

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Australian professional triathlete Leon Griffin reports on his experience at the Inaugural Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Griffin finished the race in a time of 6:59:50.

With the dust literally settling on the inaugural Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, I’ve had my long flight back to Melbourne, Australia to digest my race and the event in general.

While the race was a roaring success for a first go, with a few tweaks this event will without a doubt will become one of the sport’s most anticipated events on the annual calendar in the years to come.

Providing a platform for the best guys and gals to race head to head is what we need and I hope the Abu Dhabi powers that be realize they are on the verge of something here. Hopefully they can help push our sport into the realm of the mainstream and offer an alternate to the one a year showcase of top talent that Kona provides. I’m not just a racer plying my trade in the sport of triathlon, I’m also a fan, and I want nothing more than to see real salivating duels out on the battlefield and more often. I’m not a fan of seeing two or three good guys sharing it between them each weekend at a 70.3 or Ironman event.

Griffin heads out of T1 to take on the 200km bike leg.
Griffin heads out of T1 to take on the 200km bike leg.

As for my performance… it showed me not to bother turning up to race the big boys if I’m not completely prepared. Training for a 70.3 is NOT the prescribed amount of work for a 200km bike leg, which I found out the hard way on Saturday when I slipped off the back of the leading group around the 130km mark. Coming out of our second time around the YAS Marina circuit, the pace of 48km/hr (I remembered this vividly flashing on my computer at this point in time) was just too hot and I could feel the fuel gauge start to splutter on empty.

I did catch a break in the early stages though…I was a little slow the second lap of the swim and found myself tailing just off the back of the lead group. A couple of miles into the bike my compatriot, Aaron Farlow, and I were about one minute from the back of the group when they were inadvertently led the wrong way. This cost them about two minutes, so for the next 10km I was riding nicely with Farlow conserving some energy in the lead! That’s right…and a few others mistakenly thought I’d ridden off the front! “Not in this field mate,” I said. A couple of others like Jordan Rapp benefited from the lead groups error also, otherwise boy it would have been a long chase to say the least.

Just as I popped at 130km the big guns started to have a crack… Andersson put the foot down and the likes of Graves, Llanos, Bockel, Henning, Van Lierde, Al-Sultan, Tissink and the others remaining all had to lift to hang in. As soon as I slipped 20 meters off the back of Rapp it was lights out for me, and was a long lonely grovel on the highways in the desert to complete the 200km but I was determined to at least ride out the distance. If it’s any indication of the pace, I still rode through 180km in 4:30…Insane considering I did 50 clicks of that up on the hoods…and the group must have went through 10 minutes faster than me – around 4:20!

Being a long way out of the cash but with an impending Ironman (Ironman Australia) in two weeks time looming in the back of my mind, I had the motivation to run out the race but I was also determined to repay the organizers’ generosity and make the finish line in whatever state I could. Unfortunately in the process a niggly Achilles I carried in has pulled up a little worse for wear and I’ll likely take a few weeks off to get that right before hitting the circuit in the United States come May.

Griffin enjoys the post-race activities in Abu Dhabi.
Griffin enjoys the post-race activities in Abu Dhabi.

I don’t think anyone was surprised to see Llanos, Bockel and Henning filling the podium spots. My “race of the day” award goes to Fraser Cartmell from Scotland. Fras as he’s known is a great guy and has some nice results with a recent win at South Africa 70.3, but this was a real step up for the Scotsman. His finish amongst some great company is an indication he’s about to take the next step in his career. Well done mate. And also congrats to the women filling the top steps of the podium (Dibbens, Cave and Berasategui), all of whom made a few guys look a little silly and kept me looking over my shoulder!

Hope to see everyone back plus many more next year.

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