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The two reigning Xterra World Champions, Spain’s Eneko Llanos and Great Britain’s Julie Dibens, proved battle ready in their wins at the inaugural Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on Saturday in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital city Abu Dhabi.
Under a scorching sun, Llanos and Dibens scored victories against one of the strongest fields ever assembled in long distance triathlon.
Llanos won a hard fought battle in the men’s race that came down to a 20k foot race and crossed the finish in 6 hours 34 minutes and 37 seconds, less than one minute ahead of Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel. Denmark’s Rasmus Henning placed third only 37 seconds behind his training partner.
Despite a short delay in starting the race, the professional men kicked off the action in the calm, 75-degree salty waters of the six-star Emirates Palace private Marina. Scotland’s Fraser Cartmell led a group of 14 men out of the 3k-swim in 37:50. Philip Graves exited on his heels with Henning, Bockel and Llanos among the leading group.
In the early stages of the 200k-bike, the lead vehicle escorted the 14 athletes off-course and once they corrected their error and retraced their steps, they were forced to catch up to Spain’s Francisco Pontano and Australia’s Leon Griffin. While Graves and Sweden’s Bjorn Andersson tried early breakaways, the group of leaders swelled to 20 riders on the first of two bike loops.
With the majority of the cycling route taking place on the exposed highways connecting downtown Abu Dhabi to the newly built Yas Island, the second pass through on the Yas Marina Formula One Circuit’s twisting track saw South African Raynard Tissink launch an attack fracturing the group into several small packs. Tissink was eventually brought back and Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde attacked and carried a 50-second lead into T2 over a chase pack of seven including Henning, Bockel, Cartmell, Graves, Llanos, Germany’s Maik Twelsiek and Andi Boecherer from Team Abu Dhabi.
On the 20k-run featuring two laps up and down The Corniche, Llanos moved quickly to the front of the race while Henning and Bockel jostled over second and third place. Llanos maintained his lead over his pursuers and captured first place. After missing a turn at the start of the second run lap, Bockel made up for his error and re-passed Henning en route to the best performance of his career. Hot weather racing maestro Henning rounded out the podium.
In the women’s race, South African Lucie Zelenkova led a group including Dibens, Cave, Tereza Macel and Rachel Joyce out of the 3k-swim in 39:14.
Once on two wheels, Dibens stamped her authority on the field, racing through the first of two loops while establishing a big lead on the rest of the women’s field. Halfway through the bike leg, Dibens flatted and Cave took the lead. While Cave pushed hard on the flat highway connecting Saadiyat Island to Yas Island, Dibens proved to be too strong on the bike and recaptured the lead at the 140-kilometer mark.
The reigning Xterra and 70.3 World Champion stretched her lead on Cave to nearly four minutes by the start of the run. Cave held an even larger led on the third women into T2, Spain’s Virginia Berasategui, who was hit by a car during a training ride in Mallorca a few weeks ago. Dibens crossed the line in 7 hours 8 minutes and 25 seconds, 3:58 clear of runner-up Cave. Berasategui took third a further six minutes behind Cave.
The inaugural Abu Dhabi International Triathlon saw over 800 athletes from 30 different countries competing over a fully closed course in the Middle East’s most prosperous city and emerging tourist destinations.
Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – March 13, 2010
3km swim, 200km bike, 20km run
1. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 6:34:37
2. Dirk Bockel (LUX) 6:35:30
3. Rasmus Henning (DEN) 6:36:07
4. Fraser Cartmell (GBR) 6:36:12
5. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 6:36:31
1. Julie Dibens (GBR) 7:08:25
2. Leanda Cave (GBR) 7:12:23
3. Virginia Berasategui (ESP) 7:18:23
4. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 7:21:01
5. Carrie Lester (AUS) 7:23:04