Transition is empty, the last bike-box is packed, the fourth iteration of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon has climaxed and it’s back to Blighty; a sub-optimal alternative offering sub-zero temperatures.
As triathletes pull on their 2XU compression-wear and pretend they are flight socks, there is a tear in the eye that cannot be attributed to the mangled undercarriage from their new aero-saddle.
I’ve been humbled by the generosity of the emerati and gorged by the ever –replenishing buffet, dizzied by the height of the what-shape-shall-we-build-next architecture and staggered by the size of the carpet –a one-piece prayer mat for 41,000 Muslims – in the Grand Mosque.
But most of all I’ve been impressed by the dogged persistence of over 2,000 triathletes of all shapes and sizes that refused to wilt under the scorching desert sun and hung tough to prove that homo-sapiens really are the most hardy – or least intelligent – endurance beasts on the planet.
Of course, the Middle East presents its own hurdle rarely seen at the world’s other long course hotbed the Forest of Dean. It’s that round thing in the sky that evidence from the pre-flight breakfast told me had left a more indelible mark than any M-Dot tatt ever will.
Red alert folk, you will be sunburnt… particularly on your conk, unless you come up with, as Baldrick from Blackaddder might, “a cunning plan.” This was clearly not lost on one mature gent (I’d hazard a 50-54 age-grouper, strong on the bike) to opt for a glasses-fake nose and (presumably) bushy eyebrows combo that was at best a cheap joke shop purchase and at worst a homage to the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Aiming for Everest
Another real sharp hooter was Dan Hughes, whose Comic Relief effort was part of a mission to raise £1,000,000 for the charity by seeking donations for being the first man to put a plastic red nose (not a real, amputated, frost-bitten and abandoned one) on top of Everest.
It’s a novel idea with an ambitious total that will probably take more hitting than the summit itself but he must have a chance, if only because he seems to have a remarkable eye, and timing, for publicity.
To explain, Daniel Hughes clocked his finish to the Sprint triathlon with such pinpoint accuracy that he came careering over the line at the exact moment Alistair Brownlee was giving his TV interview on winning the short course title, landing exhausted, red nose and all at the feet of the slightly befuddled Olympic champ and, fingers crossed, squidging into the wide-angled shot for a few fleeting seconds.
Look him up at everestmillion.com (and please understand that although the website might sound like a new innovation from the National Lottery, donating your pound in this case is just for the feel-good factor.)
Dan was just one of the delights to hit the red carpet as all human life arrived over the next few hours, resembling the cast (still in-character) of a Tim Burton film premiere, say Corpse Bride.
It’s a highlight of our sport though to see smiling age-groupers and pro’s crossing the line together, the former gleefully punching the air after achieving a life goal, the latter, like second-placed Eneko Llanos opting to pause mid-interview so he can regurgitate that last ill-advised energy gel at the feet of his questioner.
Having put my final copy, tweets and facebook posts to bed it was time to hit a triathlete-free zone and the beach at the ancient Emirates Palace (built 2005) offered such respite.
There I could sit staring over the still waters, far removed from the tight lycra, wondering what happens when the oil runs out, why my £35 camel burger tastes of horse, and most importantly of all, why, oh why, didn’t all the pros opt for a disc wheel on their push bikes?
Pic: Lotfi Hamrouni