Frederick Van Lierde takes a richly deserved victory ahead of Eneko Llanos and Tyler Butterfield in Abu Dhabi.
With the Arabian sun sending waves rippling heat onto Abu Dhabi, eyes were on some of the sport’s top long-distance athletes to see who would take the honours at the fourth Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
In the men’s long course race, it was a British one-two out of the water with Daniel Halksworth leading Fraser Cartmell and 2011 winner Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium from the buoyant salty waters of the Arabian coast in 35:16.
The remaining competitors were within spitting distance of the leaders, streaming onto the beach with only Chris McCormack – nursing a broken finger – slipping into 37 minutes, while Belgium’s Bart Aernouts struggled behind the pack with a 39:44 split.
Once out in the headwinds of the sun-bleached highway, the contenders put their mark onto the bike course with Van Lierde and 2010 winner Eneko Llanos trading the front with Paul Ambrose and David Dellow of Australia as well as Cartmell and Andi Boecherer, who soon suffered from race-ending cramps.
Behind them, McCormack, Paul Amey of Great Britain, Xterra legend Conrad Stoltz of South Africa and Tyler Butterfield of Bermuda chased hard. McCormack suffered a broken wheel to go with his broken finger after around 20km, which ended his race.
Stoltz pulled the remnants of the second group up to the leaders, but then went on to struggle himself, losing speed as his legs ran out of gas. This left Van Lierde, Llanos and Butterfield in contention at the sharp end of the race.
With around 20km to go, Van Lierde opened up the taps, blasting away down the road back to Abu Dhabi in a move that proved decisive; dropping Butterfield and putting Llanos into serious energy debt as he fought to hold on behind the Belgian.
Van Lierde made it onto the run with 34 seconds over Llanos, who already looked shattered and resigned to a second place, while Butterfield began the run strongly, trying to make up 1min 49secs.
Behind them, Aernouts was really blasting through the course, moving up to fifth by T2 behind Sudrie Sylvain of France and flashing onto the run leg.
The consistency and perfect pacing of Van Lierde paid off on the run course, where he powered through the 20km run in 1:12:47 to cross the line as 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon Champion in 6:41:02.
Llanos managed to hold off Butterfield, taking second in 6:45:03 while the Bermudan took bronze in 6:47:51. Aernouts provided spectacle as the day’s fastest runner, coming third overall after a 1:12:13 split more than a minute ahead of Sylvain.
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