Dibens and Llanos head Abu Dhabi field

Defending champs back as Abu Dhabi 2011 field on-course to nearly double as sign-up hits record 48 countries

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Spain’s Eneko Llanos and Great Britain’s Julie Dibens, the respective champions of the inaugural Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, will defend their men’s and women’s crowns in the race’s second running on 12 March 2011.

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With general participation numbers for the event’s second edition having already smashed the 1,100 mark – eclipsing last year’s figure of 800 entries with three months to go – Llanos and Dibens head an impressive field of 45 world elite racers now confirmed for the Abu Dhabi city start-line.

Buoyed by knowledge of how best to clinch victory in the emirate, the defending champions have welcomed the challenge of testing their individual mettles against an even tougher field as they bid for the lion’s share of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) organised triathlon’s US$250,000 prize purse.

After beating a host of world favourites to win the 223kms race in a combined time of 6h34m37 last year, Llanos, who came from behind to edge Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel by nearly a minute, revealed that a dedicated winter training programme has him in perfect shape for a fresh Abu Dhabi assault.  

“I always feel very strong at the beginning of the season, I get in shape quite easily and the race in 2010 was demonstration of that,” said the 35-year-old Spaniard, who finished seventh in October’s 2010 Ironman World Championship. “I’m sure I’ll be strong again this year and, although I expect tougher competition, I am hopeful that I will retain my Abu Dhabi title.”

Dibens clinched her first major long distance win in Abu Dhabi with an emphatic wire-to-wire performance. The 35-year old, who represented Great Britain in the 2004 Olympics, is eager to repeat the feat.

“The female field is shaping up to be one of the best in 2011 so I know competition is going to be fierce. Last year I truly pushed through my own personal barriers to win, which helped define the rest of my season. Now I know what to expect, I’ll be better prepared for the conditions and course,” said Dibens, an Ironman 70.3 and Xterra Triathlon World Champion.

To date, more than 1,100 athletes representing 48 countries have signed up, with the race’s international billing supported by first time representation from Brazil, the Channel Islands, China, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Slovenia, Turkey, Taiwan and Vietnam.

This year’s event will be raced across three lengths. Professionals will contest a 3kms swim, a 200kms cycle and 20kms closing run. The shorter version, at half the length, has a 1.5kms swim, a 100kms cycle and a 10kms run, with both courses eligible for a share of the US$250,000 prize purse.

Finally, for the 2011 edition, ADTA has also launched a unique ‘sprint’ distance as an entry platform for aspiring athletes. Comprising a 750m swim, 50kms bike and 5kms run, the new ‘sprint’ course is aimed at boosting uptake from novice racers across the Arabian Gulf and can be raced as an individual or as a team.

Places are charged at US$180 and US$123 for the long and short distances, respectively. The team relay short course entry fee stands at US$272, and the sprint fee will be US$70 for individuals, US$112 for a team.

Athletes interested in entering should visit www.abudhabitriathlon.com and, after clicking on the ENTER NOW link, simply follow the instructions.