Rasmus Henning makes his comeback with a powerful performance in Abu Dhabi, while Nikki Butterfield proves that taking time off from racing to have a baby doesn’t slow the legs.
Where: Abu Dhabi, UAE
When: 3 March 2012
Less stifling heat than in previous years provided ripe conditions in Abu Dhabi for course records to be demolished in both male and female races at this year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
In the men’s race, Australia’s Clayton Fettell splashed onto dry land first in 35:39 despite going off course on the first loop of the 3km swim. Fettell enjoyed a 42 second lead on Britain’s Stephen Bayliss out of T1 while favourites Dirk Bockel of Luxembourg, Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde, Germany’s Faris Al-Sultan, Eneko Llanos of Spain and Denmark’s Rasmus Henning sped onto the road over the next 90 seconds.
Australia’s Paul Ambrose, who saddled up 1:05 down, soon cranked up his pace to catch compatriot Fettell around 60km into the 200km bike course. The pair had the road to themselves for quite a while, but didn’t put enough power through the cranks to keep Al-Sultan at bay. The German bridged the gap with Andrew Starykowicz, who crashed, suffering a dislocated shoulder, but still managed to set a race record, reaching T2 after a 4:28:50 ride.
Ambrose was first onto the 20km run with a 49 second lead on Al-Sultan, while Henning and Llanos started pounding the pavement 2:52 later, one second ahead of Bockel and two ahead of Scotland’s Fraser Cartmell. As the Australian faded at 5km, cheers amplified as local favourite Al-Sultan took the lead.
Soon, the captain of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team had a 2:40 lead over second place Llanos while Henning’s legs turned over furiously seven seconds back having already wiped out 1:05 of his 3:52 deficit.
With 2km to go, Henning, who suffered in every race with potentially career ending cramps in 2011, succeeded in passing Al-Sultan to seal a hard fought victory. The Dane snatched the tape in 6:21:44 to set a course record, 27 seconds ahead of Al-Sultan (6:22:11). 2010 winner Llanos came home in third (6:22:42), while Germany’s Andreas Boecherer came fourth (06:24:38) and Frederik Van Lierde rounded out the top five in 06:25:12.
In the women’s race, Britain’s Jodie Swallow took the race by the scruff of the neck early on, emerging from the water in first place after a 38:53 swim, just over two minutes ahead of her pursuers.
Out on the bike course, the breadth and strength of the women’s field came to light as Australia’s Nikki Butterfield, Canada’s Angela Naeth and Caroline Steffen of Switzerland all joined the fray. About 30 seconds back, Melissa Rollison of Australia, the reining 70.3 World Champion, chased in her first longer than middle distance event.
Swallow didn’t have to contend with opponents until 85km in by which time, Butterfield had wiped out her 5:58 deficit and went on to find open road, pulling away to 1:43 of clean air ahead of Naeth by T2. Naeth was next to relinquish her bike, her trainers making contact with the run course 1:57 down, while Steffen followed another 1:14 back. Rollison and Swallow followed, 5:56 and 6:16 down on Butterfield respectively.
From her position of dominance, Butterfield held onto first unchallenged, crossing the line clutching her baby daughter in 7:00:22, running the 20km in 1:15:33. Naeth ran a 1:16:14 to take second in 7:03:00, while Steffen secured third in 7:04:29. Rollison and Swallow were unable to overcome their deficits and while the Australian managed to hang on to fourth, Swallow was overtaken by fellow Brit Rachel Joyce, who took fifth with the fastest run split of the day (1:11:56) to finish in 7:06:25.
Top 3 Men
1 Rasmus Henning (DEN) 06:21:44
2 Faris Al-Sultan (UAE) 06:22:11
3 Eneko Llanos (ESP) 06:22:42
Top 3 Women
1 Nikki Butterfield (AUS) 07:00:22
2 Angela Naeth (CAN) 07:03:00
3 Caroline Steffen (SUI) 07:04:29
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