What a spectacular pro field for the 2012 ABU DHABI INTERNATIONAL TRIATHLON.
The distances of this triathlon are very unique as it is not an official WTC event. In many ways that is what makes it so intriguing when it comes to trying to pick a winner.
The course features a 3k swim, a 200k bike, and a 20k run. Without a doubt the course favors the stronger bikers as opposed to the late closers on the longer Ironman Triathlon distance of a full marathon.
It’s sort of a combination of a full Ironman and a 70.3 distance triathlon.
THE PRO MEN
When you look at this field it really seems that you would have to give the nod to Andi Boecherer to win this race strictly on the strength of his strong biking ability. That should at least have him at or very near the front by the time the run begins.
With the shorter distance of the run he might just be able to fend off the likes of Faris Al-Sultan, Frederik Van Lierde, and Chris Lieto who will all be coming on strong in this race.
This is such a stacked field that you also have Paul Ambrose, Bryan Rhodes, Luke Bell, and Maik Tweisiek who are all capable of a podium spot on their best performance.
Andi Boecherer (GER) Andrew Starykowicz (USA) Bryan McCrystal (IRL) Bryan Rhodes (NZL) Chris Lieto (USA) Clayton Fettell (AUS) Dan Halksworth (GBR) Dirk Bockel (LUX) Eneko Llanos (ESP) Erich Wegscheider (USA) Faris Al-Sultan (Team AD) (GER) Fraser Cartmell (GBR) Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) James Cunnama (RSA) Jeremy Jurkiewicz (Team AD) (FRA) Johann Ackermann (FRA) Jo Spindler (GER) Leon Griffin (AUS) Luke Bell (AUS) Maik Tweisiek (Team AD) (GER) Michael Davidson (RSA) Niclas Bock (GER) Nicolas Munoz (GBR) Paul Ambrose (Team AD) Rasmus Henning (DEN) Sam Hsieh (Short Distance) (TAI) Stephen Bayliss (GBR) Swen Sundberg (Team AD) (GER)
THE PRO WOMEN
On first blush it would seem that Caroline Steffen would be unstoppable in here, but I believe the shorter distance might not help her. Caroline was sensational in Ironman Hawaii and the full marathon distance seems to be more to her liking.
Leanda Cave was entered but will not be racing in Abu Dhabi this year. leanda has had an ongoing illness since Ironman Panama 70.3 and is not sufficiently recovered to take part in this race.
My pick to win and upset the apple-cart is Rachel Joyce who seems to be quietly improving, with a very strong challenge from Melissa Rollison who is deadly at the 70.3 distance, but may not do as well with the extra-long bike course. However, being from Australia, Melissa might be better prepared than most to race in extreme heat and that could work in her favor.
Canadians Angela Neath and Heather Wurtele are legitimate podium contenders as well.
Angela Neath (CAN) Caroline Steffen (SUI) Christie Sym (AUS) Daniela Sammler (GER)le Emma-Kate Lidbury (GBR) Eva Nystrom (SWE) Emi Sakai (JAP) Heather Wurtele (CAN) Jodie Swallow (Team AD) (GBR) Kristin Moller (Team AD) (GER) Lisa Ribes (USA) Lucie Zelenkova (CZE) Melissa Rollison (AUS) Michelle Bremer (NZL) Nikki Butterfield (AUS) Rachel Joyce (GBR) Rachel McBride (CAN) Silvia Felt (GER)
With the water temperature at 20 degrees the swim was wetsuit optional.
As expected it was Clayton Fettell first out of the water for the pro men and Jodie Swallow for the women, but chances are good that neither will win the race. Simply because there are too many stronger cyclists in this field.
Chris Lieto was right near the front out of the water as well and could pose a serious threat for top spot on the podium.
Most certainly it will be the 200k bike that will play the biggest part in determining the winners today. Being a few minutes behind in the swim will not really be as big an issue as say the 70.3 bike distance of 90k.
THE ABU DHABI TRIATHLON BIKE COURSE
Early on it the bike it was Faris Al-Sultan, Rasmus Henning, Niclas Bock, and Andi Bocherer among the main group who were trying to chase down clayton Fettell who was the leader out of the water.
As the bike wore on Clayton Fettell the leader after the swim did a great job of hanging on to the lead and it was Paul Ambrose who fought his way up to join him at the front.
When the chase group began to split up it was Faris Al-Sultan and Andrew Starykowicz who began to close ground the fastest on the two leaders until they caught them and formed a group of four at the front.
In the pro women’s race the leaders into the second lap were Caroline Steffen, Angela Neath, Jodie Swallow, Melissa Rollison, and Nikki Butterfield who were all within 20 seconds of each other.
Reports from the course are coming in fast and furious and it looks like it is Emma-Kate Lidbury and Rachel Joyce about 3:45 behind the leaders and it will be a challenge to make that up before the transition.
James Cunnama has dropped out of the race and apparently has a broken saddle.
In the late stages of the race the positioning for the men is much clearer and with 40k to go the leaders are still Fettel, Ambrose, Al-Sultan, and Starykowicz.
The main chase group is about 4 minutes back and includes Boecherer, Llanos, Henning, Lieto, Van Lierde, Bockel, Cartmell, Bell, and Halksworth.
With 10k to go the front four leaders remain the same and are apparently taking turns on the lead. Gotta love that there are no drafting cops handing out penalties in this race.
Jodi Swallow is still hanging tough on the lead for the pro women and is followed by Caroline Steffen, Nikki Butterfield, Angela Naeth, and Melissa Rollison who might just be the biggest threat right now as she is holding her own in one of the longest triathlons she has competed in as a pro.
Melissa had a great year in 2011 and was exceptional at the 70.3 distance. Remains to be seen how she keeps it together on the run course. As mentioned earlier, she might be more acclimatized to hot conditions and according to on site twitters it’s hot on the bike course.
With 20k to go the lead women remain the same. it’s shaping up to be a pretty interesting run for both the men and the women as nobody has broken away with a clear lead.
THE ABU DHABI TRIATHLON RUN COURSE
Somehow Andrew Starykowicz has managed to break his shoulder and is out of the race as the pro men head out on the run course.
Starykowicz had broken away from the pack to catch up with the race leaders Paul Ambrose, Clayton Fettell and Faris Al Sultan, and the four were together at the 160km mark.
At this point it is unconfirmed but a woman is in hospital with serious head injuries after being hit by a competitor’s bike at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Carly Williams, 27, a Briton, was volunteering at an aid station on Saturday near the Mina junction when the accident occurred.
Ms Williams is on artificial ventilation at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, where her condition was described as critical but stable. This is most likely where Starykowicz broke his shoulder.
Paul Ambrose and Faris Al-sultan have charged to the front and Faris is looking like the biggest threat now. Henning, Boecherer, Fettell, Bockel, Llanos, FVL, Cartmell, Lieto and Bell have now entered T2 6 minutes behind Ambrose and Faris.
For the women Butterfield is 14 seconds up on Naeth with about 10k of the bike to go and Steffen and Swallow are about 1.25 behind with Melissa Rollison two minutes off the pace. Soon we will see if the extra bike distance will take away from her normally strong run.
Faris Al-Sultan is in the lead with 7k to go. Paul Ambrose has fallen off the pace and Fettel is now 4:46 behind, but Henning(52 seconds back) and Llanos(1:28 back) appear to be gaining back some time on the leader.
For the women it is Butterfield leading the way with Naeth second and Steffen 2:58 behind the leader. Butterfield broke the bike course record.
As predicted the extra bike distance appears to have done Melissa Rollison in as she has reached transition 5:57 down. Jodie Swallow has also hit the wall and is over 7 minutes back.
Wow! What a race. Henning has caught Al-Sultan and they are running neck and neck in as they get closer to the finish.
With 1k to go Henning has taken over the lead but Faris is still right behind him.
Rasmus Henning wins the race. Faris is 15 seconds behind and Llanos takes third.
TOP FIVE PRO MEN
1)Rasmus Henning 2)Faris Al-Sultan 3)Eneko Llanos 4)Andi Boecherer 5)Frederik Van Lierde
The first ten men to finish beat the course record.
With just 5k left for the pro women, Nikki Butterfield is leading Naeth by 2:36, Caroline Steffen is 3rd, and Melissa Rollison is fourth and gaining a bit.
A well-deserved win for Nikki Butterfield who held off some of the world’s top pros to take the victory for the pro women in the Abu Dhabi 2012 Triathlon.
Another solid performance from Canadian Angela Neath who takes second place.
Caroline Steffan held on for third with Rollison right behind her in fourth.
TOP FOUR PRO WOMEN