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Up in the Air

On the way to the UAE for the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

“Good luck in the semis, Avram.” While it’s hardly an A-list scoop that’ll see me troubling the freelance database at Heat magazine (Lady Gaga Gaga Ga, where art thou?), the presence of the Portsmouth manager, Avram Grant, is a welcome respite from my less than productive stint of elite triathlete spotting at Heathrow Airport.

But, as soon as the surprisingly suave Pompey boss sauntered down the fast check-in aisle, thoughts returned to the weekend in front of me.

After months of build-up, heated online discussion on that 200km bike leg and analysis of the fields (particularly the red hot women’s line-up), it’s finally time to head to the UAE for the inaugural Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.

Naturally, triathlete spotting on the British Airways’ jet proves easier, with knowing nods, glances and, to quote Lord Larry David, “stop and chats”, exchanged between the members of the multisport world. The man to my left is reading 220, two rows back its Triathletes’ World, and the lady directly in front is devouring Das Triathlon.

Things may threaten to turn nasty when said German puts her seat back the moment we’re airborne, threatening to spill BA’s chicken ‘tagine’ on my Levis (possibly no bad thing given they really need a wash anyway and this is airplane food after all). I relent – just – from using my copy of 220 in a Jason Bourne style rolled up magazine duel when George Clooney’s Up in the Air appears on the in-flight entertainment screens. Truly beautiful, sharp and funny it is, even if it provokes some lesser spotted existential musing from yours truly. Or maybe that’s the complimentary wine talking.

Sentimental slosh aside – and all film, football and Curb references now out my system – over the next three days we’re going to bring you all the news and interviews from the UAE.

Who’ll get their sweaty bike mitts on the 250,000 dollar prize pot? Can Fraser Cartmell (recent winner of Ironman 70.3 South Africa) or Ironman UK champ Phil Graves hold off the international competition of Faris Al Sultan, Eneko Llanos and Rasmus Henning to add another title to their increasingly crowded mantle pieces?

In the women’s field, will Julie Dibens continue her devastating 2009 form (Clearwater winner, Xterra champ yet again) into the 2010 race season to land her hands on yet more silver wear? Or will fellow Brits Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave take advantage of Dibens’ inexperience of racing long-distance bike legs (she’s never raced further than 90km)? All will become clear at 6am on Saturday morning.

Until then, we’ll be recceing the swim course tomorrow at 6.30am, before the elites attend a conference at 11am in front of the assembled press.

Right… time to inspect the mini-bar and see just how much the swim skin has shrunk over the off-season.

Profile image of Matt Baird Matt Baird Editor of Cycling Plus magazine


Matt is a regular contributor to 220 Triathlon, having joined the magazine in 2008. He’s raced everything from super-sprint to Ironman, duathlons and off-road triathlons, and can regularly be seen on the roads and trails around Bristol. Matt is the author of Triathlon! from Aurum Press and is now the editor of Cycling Plus magazine.