Abu Dhabi press conference

Abu Dhabi welcomes the world's finest

“This isn’t just lip service – this is a truly great field.” The words of Craig Alexander at this morning’s Abu Dhabi Triathlon press conference. And with opposition including Chris McCormack, Rasmus Henning, Cameron Brown and defending champion Eneko Llanos, there’s some credence behind Alexander citing the lure of world-class opposition rather than the $50,000 winner’s cheque that brought him and the globe’s best to this oil-rich state. 
Saturday’s main event – 2km swim, 200km bike, 20km run – has assembled the best field outside Kona. The age-group event includes two further distances – 1km swim, 100km bike, 10km run and 750m swim, 50k bike, 5km run – with the ‘Sold Out’ sign erected months ago.

More on the men’s event later and what’s being dubbed [by the marketing men anyway] ‘The Duel in the Desert’ (aka Macca v Crowie). Over to the women…

Reigning champ Julie Dibens, fellow Brit Leanda Cave and Kona runner-up Caroline Steffen were the protagonists at this morning’s press call with all three in jovial mood after collective winters without injury.
“I just can’t wait to race on Saturday,” said Dibens. Throw in recent form – third at Hawaii – and a solid block of training and it’s clear why the Brit is in confident, relaxed mood. “The skewed bike suggests it’ll be won or lost on the bike but that’s not necessarily the case. We’ll find out in a couple of days.”
Cave is looking to go one better than last year, where she fell 4mins short of Dibens. “It’s going to be hard, though,” said Cave. “Julie’s a hard ass.”
Steffen’s fourth in 2010 kickstarted a breakthrough season that saw her claim the Long Course World Champ crown and silver in Kona. Still, the 12mins difference between her and Dibens met with a distinct seal of disapproval for the Team TBB athlete. “I got lazy on the bike,” said Steffen.
Asked by omnipresent long-course commentator Don Ryder whether she sought advice off fellow Swiss athlete and six-time Hawaii champ Natascha Badmann? “No,” replied Steffen. “I’m not the second Badmann – I’m the first Swiss Miss.”
Expect that soundbite to stalk Steffen forever more if she takes victory this Saturday. 
The three chosen for the press conference will face severe competition from a plethora of serial Ironman winners, including Jo Lawn and Cat Morrison. Cat’s here with her father, who regaled us with stories of sailing down the Suez when in the merchant navy back in the seventies. Cat displayed suitable familial embarrassment.
More on the men’s Duel in the Desert soon…
More on the women’s field and prize money at www.abudhabitriathlon.com