Belgium’s Frederik Van Lierde put in a storming run leg to claim glory in the US$250,000 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon 2011 with British superstar Julie Dibens winning the elite female race for a second year in a row after a lung-bursting wire-to-wire race.
In the men’s field, 32-year-old Van Lierde, who finished fifth in last year’s Abu Dhabi event, snatched overall victory in the 223kms ‘pure power’ course with a combined time 6h:43:14 – a winning margin of just 18 seconds over compatriot Marino Vanhoenacker, who came second in 6h:43:31, followed by last year’s runner-up Luxembourg’s Dirk Bockel in 6h:43:42.
Meanwhile traditional short-course expert Dibens, from Salisbury in south England, once again showed why she is regarded as one of the world’s top triathletes as the 2009 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and three-time Xterra World Champion blew away a world-class female field.
Dibens, 36, led from start to finish with a winning time of 7h:14:23. Second place was Caroline Steffen from Switzerland, in 7h:19:45 with Scotland’s Catriona Morrison third with a time of 7h:31:12. Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team’s Rachel Joyce from the UK took fourth with 7h:32:09.
Having raced in above-average March temperatures for the UAE capital, Dibens visibly struggled as she crossed the finishing line yet was soon back on her feet to explain the extraordinary effort needed to repeat her emphatic 2010 win.
“It’s awesome to win in Abu Dhabi again and I had to push myself like never before. I felt great all day and knew this was a race I could win. In the last 100 yards it was gruelling and I felt sick,” said Dibens, who represented Great Britain in the 2004 Olympics.
“I kept pushing home and to cross that line was amazing. In the heat the 200kms cycle was the difference maker. Around the 160kms mark I struggled to keep liquid inside my body it was so tough but thankfully I pulled through. I’ll definitely be back next year to try to make it three in a row.”
Van Lierde – who finished 14th in October’s Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, the sport’s pinnacle competition – was overjoyed at snatching the Abu Dhabi win.
“This is the best win of my career without question. I had a good feeling coming into the race because I had a good winter and am in top shape. I kept up the pace on the bike but didn’t attempt to break away because I wanted to conserve my energy for a big run and that tactic worked. I had a lot in reserve and my plan worked out perfectly,” said the Ironman France 2010 runner-up.
“The run was really hard because of the conditions and you could see a few people struggling, yet I actually like this temperature! I don’t care about any of that now as I am the winner and proud to call myself an Abu Dhabi International Triathlon champion.”
The race boasted the strongest field assembled outside the Hawaii World Championships with 61 elite athletes – who together hold 24 World Championships, 50 Ironman titles and over 100 national titles – taking part.
And the event did not disappoint with the world’s best jostling for top spots in both the men and women elite fields. The tone was set from the off as five-time Australian Olympic swimmer, Ian ‘Thorpedo’ Thorpe got both elite races started.
In the men’s race, Sylvan Sudrie of France was first to surface from the swim first lap, which took place in the stunning Emirates Palace hotel bay, with a time of 18:38 closely followed by a pack including Denmark’s Rasmus Henning, Bockel and Steven Bayliss of Great Britain.
After the first transition it was Bockel who was first onto the bike with Bayliss and the USA’s Andrew Starykowicz in third. In the early exchanges of the bike course, which went past the emirate’s multi-experiential leisure destination of Yas Island, Bjorn Andersson of Sweden was leading by five minutes with Abu Dhabi’s Faris Al Sultan and Andrew trailing by five.
Andersson dominated the bike course up until the last section before pulling out of the competition. The bike section, which also took competitors around the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix track of Yas Marina Circuit, also saw four-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack drop out of the race along with fellow Australians Matty White and Tim Berkel following suit.
Starykowicz started to tire in the first quarter of the run with Van Lierde and Bockel chasing him down, cutting his lead to a mere one minute and forty seconds. Starykowicz was exhausted and faded fast in the latter stages of the run allowing Van Lierde and Vanhoenacker to capitalise.
In the women’s race, it was Dibens all the way. At one point the Briton was only eight minutes off the elite men’s pace and was just too powerful for the chasing pack, which also included other pre-race favourite Leanda Cave from England in sixth.
Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
Top 10 men
1. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 6:43:14
2. Marino Vanhoenacker (BEL) 6:43:31
3. Dirk Bockel (LUX) 6:43:42
4. Raynard Tissink (RSA) 6:43:47
5. Sylvain Sudrie (FRA) 6:45:49
6. Craig Alexander (AUS) 6:46:46
7. Luke Bell (AUS) 6:46:52
8. Faris Al Sultan (GER) 6:48:22
9. Timo Bracht (GER) 6:49:40
10. Andrew Starykowicz (USA) 6:50:22
Top 10 women
1. Julie Dibens (GBR) 7:14:23
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 7:19:45
3. Catriona Morrison (GBR) 7:31:12
4. Rachel Joyce (GBR) 7:32:09
5. Angela Naeth (CAN) 7:32:34
6. Leanda Cave (GBR) 7:34:20
7. Lucie Zelenkova (CZE) 7:46:33
8. Joanna Lawn (NZL) 7:48:10
9. Belinda Granger (AUS) 7:49:09
10. Emma-Kate Lidbury (GBR) 7:51:30
FILED UNDER: All / News / Press Releases TAGS: Abu-Dhabi-International-Triathlon / Andrew-Starykowicz / Angela Naeth / Belinda Granger / Caroline-Steffen / Catriona-Morrison / Craig-Alexander / Dirk-Bockel / Emma-Kate-Lidbury / Faris-Al-Sultan / Frederik-Van-Lierde / Joanna-Lawn / Julie-Dibens / Leanda-Cave / Lucie-Zelenkova / Luke-Bell / Marino Vanhoenacker / Rachel-Joyce / Raynard-Tissink / Results / Sylvain-Sudrie / Timo-Bracht