Alistair Brownlee scoops the top prize in the Abu Dhabi Triathlon short course race.
The profile of this year’s Abu Dhabi Triathlon short-distance race was given a huge boost with Olympic gold medallist, Alistair Brownlee taking part for the first time – and lining up in his first beyond-standard-distance event.
Yorkshire’s finest wasn’t assured of the race going all his own way however, with 2010 winner Cesar Beilo of the Netherlands returning along with ITU powerhouse Alexander Bryukhankov of Russia.
The 1500m swim was led out by Bryukhankov, Brownlee and Jordan’s Lawrence Fanous, the trio leaving the water together in 16:27. Britain’s Rhys Davey was next in, 25 seconds off the pace, while the remaining elites including Beilo and 2011 silver medallist Duncan Clarke had work to do on the bike having posted 19-plus minute swims.
Brownlee’s speedy transition skills put him onto the bike 10-seconds ahead of Fanous, who had the same lead over Bryukhankov. The Russian was just ahead of Davey, leaving the rest of the field nearly three minutes.
The 100km ride would take the athletes towards the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit over exposed highways that provided the challenge of a gusty headwind. Neither the heat, distance or wind seemed to bother Brownlee, who continued to ride strongly, while fellow ITU specialists Fanous and Bryukhankov – the latter on a road rather than TT bike – couldn’t hold onto the pace.
Beilo meanwhile was zipping through his swim deficit and making gains towards Brownlee, who had a brief battle with navigation during his lap around the Yas Marina Circuit, which allowed Beilo to come through.
Posting the fastest bike split by some five minutes – 2:21:50 at more than 26mph – Beilo was first onto the run with a minute up on Brownlee, who was apparently unaware he’d lost pole position.
Behind them, Clarke was third, 5mins 20secs back with Olivier Godart fourth and Bryukhankov fifth, nearly nine-minutes behind Brownlee.
As the leaders paced along the Corniche in the hot sun, Brownlee’s lightening legs soon saw him reel Beilo in. Blasting past his competitor, Brownlee took the lead and went on to run a 32:47 10k, the day’s fastest, to secure victory in 3:20:21, proving beyond doubt his fearsome talent whatever the distance by smashing the course record by 29 seconds.
Beilo held strong to claim a hard-fought second place finish in 3:25:36, while Bryukhankov performed his usual fast, grimacing run to clean up the podium in 3:28:54.
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