Abu Dhabi gave out its two most notorious elements: oppressive heat and brutal wind, but in one of the deepest fields to date the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon still managed to pull out some surprises and even one course record.

In the long course race, the day truly belonged to 2011 winner Frederick van Lierde of Belgium, who led the way on an absolute assault on the bike course and then brought it home in fine form.

The men’s race started with some early drama, as pre-race contenders Chris McCormack and Andi Boercherer dropping out within the first 12 kilometers of the bike. McCormack’s day started off rough after he was kicked so severely in the swim that he broke his finger. After setting off out of T2 well behind the lead pack, he discovered he’d broken his disc wheel and that was when he pulled out of the race. Boercherer suffered a strained gluteus muscle and was forced the pull out early on as well.

With two of the field’s strongest bikers out, the lead pack surged forward, with Van Lierde, Spain’s Eneko Llanos, South Africa’s Conrad Stoltz, Great Britain’s Tyler Butterfield and Belgian Bart Aernouts leading off the front. Van Lierde, Butterfield and Llanos crushed the 200K course in 4:48 and change, entering T2 within 15 seconds of one another. Llanos would eventually pass Butterfield for second place, but Van Lierde would break the tape in 6:41:02.

While the men’s race was won on the bike, the women’s race was all about the run. After coming out of the swim in third place behind Finland’s Tenille Hoogland and Dane Michelle Vesterby, Caroline Steffen dominated on the bike. Not too far behind sat Aussie Melissa Hauschildt, who was determined not to let the Swiss uber-biker get too far ahead. “I turned myself absolutely inside-out on the bike trying to get Caroline,” said Hauschildt. “I caught her at 80K but I couldn’t pass her and I fell back and then I lost her again.” Steffen exited T2 with only a minute to spare on Hauschildt, but by the time some cramping and the warm Arabian sun made the Aussie begin to doubt she’d be able to run her down. “Knowing she had only a minute lead I was sure I could get her, but then it became a lot harder than I thought once I got out there,” says Hauschildt. It would take a 1:16:42 20K—the fastest female run split of the day—to get the job done. Hauschildt finished first in a time of 7:20:29, and Steffen went on to secure her fourth top-five finish in Abu Dhabi with a time of 7:23:53. Vesterby would round out the podium in 7:27:52. Canadian Heather Wurtele had one of the more impressive comebacks of the day, coming off the bike in 8th place but running her way up to fourth-place in a time of 7:30:52. “I just felt awful on the bike,” say Wurtele. “I couldn’t get my watts anywhere near where they normally are, it was really windy. But the upside of that is that my run legs felt pretty good.”

In the short-course race, the star of the day was Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee, who not only took home title in his first official long course race, he also took home a new course record. Despite making a wrong turn out on the course, the two-time ITU world champion entered T2 in second place behind the Netherland’s Cesar Beilo. Alistair made easy work of the 10K run—a distance he’s well versed in—posting an impressive 32:47 on his way to a finish time of 3:20:18, 29 seconds faster than the previous course record of  3:20:18 set in 2010 by Dutchman Jan Van Berkel. “The bike was a challenge,” Brownlee said at the finish line. “I felt tired toward the end, but I didn’t have to push too hard, which was good as it was getting hot.” Brownlee congratulated all the day’s participants but insisted that he is still firmly focused in his 2013 ITU season.

 

Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

March 2, 2013

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Long course: 3K swim, 200K bike, 20K run

Short course: 1.5K swim, 100K bike, 10K run

 

Men’s Long Course Results

  1. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 6:41:02
  2. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 6:45:02
  3. Tyler Butterfield (GBR) 6:47:49
  4. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 6:48:14
  5. Sudrie Sylvain (FRA) 6:49:28

Women’s Long Course Results

  1. Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) 7:20:29
  2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 7:23:53
  3. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 7:27:52
  4. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 7:30:52
  5. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 7:31:27

Men’s Short Course Results

  1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR) 3:20:18
  2. Cesar Beilo (NED) 3:25:34
  3. Alexander Bryukhanov (RUS) 3:28:53
  4. Lawrence Fanous (JOR) 3:31:25
  5. Olivier Godart (UAE) 3:31:25

Women’s Short Course Results

  1. Edith Niederfriniger (ITA) 3:58:07
  2. Deirdre Casey (IRL) 3:58:56
  3. Rebecca Grace (QAT) 4:00:54
  4. Maria Lemeseva (RUS) 4:03:35
  5. Anastasia Polyanskaya (RUS) 4:03:35