British gold medal winning Olympic triathlete and back-to-back European champion, Alistair Brownlee, has thrown his hat in the ring for the 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, which holds one of the sport’s richest purses, as he looks to expand his competitive horizons.
Speaking on a trip to the United Arab Emirates’ capital, 24-year-old Brownlee, from Dewsbury, Yorkshire, confirmed he will start his 2013 season in March on the energy-sapping 111.5km Abu Dhabi short course – which comprises a 1.5km swim, 100km bike and 10km run – and said that preparing for the warm Arabian temperatures would be a key factor in his winter training.
“I’ll be in the UK through the winter, where it will be freezing, so coming to Abu Dhabi will be a 30 degree temperature shift, and that is a big factor. I’ll need to change my training to suit that. I’ll be doing some sessions in a heat chamber and I’ll try to get away before the event to help acclimatise. I’ll also be setting up my bike differently to deal with the length as that has a major role to play in my success,” said Alistair, whose brother, Jonathan, took triathlon bronze in London 2012.
“I’m used to biking 40km so going up to 100km for Abu Dhabi will also be a challenge and is one I am looking forward to, especially as it goes around the Grand Prix track at Yas Marina Circuit. I want to start expanding my competitions to include other distances and starting next season in Abu Dhabi is part of that.”
The 2011 ITU champion, who has taken a break from training after his London 2012 triumph and enjoyed two days in Abu Dhabi, is relishing the chance to spend some more time in the UAE capital next year.
“It seems like ages since I won the gold medal in August; it took me a while to get over that but now I am ready to move on and get on with it. The biggest thing I am looking forward to in Abu Dhabi is the challenge of it; I’ve spent years and years doing the ITU circuit so the change in distance will be interesting as will racing against different competitors and doing a non-drafting race, which is a big change.
“I’m also looking forward to taking a few days off after the race and seeing the sights, I would love to get out in the desert, as I’ve never done that so it’s on my to-do list,” added Brownlee, who started training for triathlon aged eight.
Event organiser, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), is expecting its biggest-ever showing for its fourth triathlon, earmarking 2,200 competitor places – up from the1,855 spanning 62 countries that took to the start line on its stunning Corniche beach earlier this year.
Abu Dhabi International Triathlon’s flagship distance, the 223km ‘pure power course’ also attracted its strongest professional line in 2012, with 50 of the world’s best elites – representing a combined total of 16 world champions, 47 European title holders, 102 national champions and 76 Ironmen, plus more than 500 podium places between them.
This year’s event was won by Denmark’s Rasmus Henning in the men’s elite competition and Nikki Butterfield of Australia in the women’s, who both smashed course records in near perfect race conditions.
The event also saw first time representation swell with athletes from Argentina, Azerbaijan, the Czech and Dominican Republics, Ecuador, Iceland, India, Japan, Lebanon, Macao, Mauritius, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Seychelles, Trinidad & Tobago and Zimbabwe making their debuts – a trend organisers hope to build on for 2013.
“We continue to see strong growth both from across the Middle East as well as internationally and want to keep pushing that to live up to our most international race promise. More and more people are putting Abu Dhabi on their to-do list, whether returning or trying it out for the first time. We are also seeing more athletes using the emirate as a training base as word spreads of our world-class facilities,” said Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager, TCA Abu Dhabi.
To encourage grassroot uptake of the sport in the Arabian Gulf, TCA Abu Dhabi is introducing a ‘KidsTri’ next year, designed as a platform for youngsters to get into competitive athletics and to further promote healthy lifestyles.
The ‘KidsTri’ complements the event’s 57.5km ‘Sprint’ course, which has been a key driver in the sport’s growing popularity among first-timers looking to break into triathlon.
“Putting the building blocks for a healthy and active lifestyle together for kids at an early age will help them carry these through their lives. Sports like triathlon can be a little daunting to get into but having the right start-up events, that allow people to make an easy transition, opens up so many more doors to them down the line. That is what this is about, helping youngsters get on the right path from an early age,” said Al Sheikh.
The 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon will start with a sunrise swim in the Arabian Gulf’s shimmering turquoise waters off Abu Dhabi’s Blue Flagged public beach, before weaving through closed roads along the Corniche Beach, up to the spectacular Yas Island and around the Yas Marina Circuit – home to the annual Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – before returning to the heart of the UAE capital.
The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon offers three course distances; the 223km ‘long course’ (3km swim, a 200km cycle and 20km run), the half-length ‘short’ course (1.5km swim, a 100km cycle and a 10 km run) and the sprint course (750m swim, a 50km bike and 5km run). Both the ‘short’ and the ‘sprint’ can be run as a team relay.
Organisers have frozen athlete registration fees for the fourth year in a row. Athletes interested in entering should visit www.abudhabitriathlon.com and, after clicking on the ENTER NOW link, simply follow the instructions. Entry fees for the long and short distances are US$190 (AED 695) and US $130 (AED 475) respectively, while Sprint course rates are US$75 (AED 275) for individuals and US $120 (AED440) for a team. The fee for the team relay is US$280 (AED1,022).