Two years after his wife Nikki conquered the Abu Dhabi International long course, Tyler Butterfield prevailed in a tough battle with Bas Diederen to win his first major victory Saturday. Two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion Melissa Hauschildt looked quite spent after fending off a determined Yvonne Van Vlerken by 22 seconds to win her second straight Abu Dhabi crown.
Butterfield use a race-best 5:24:30 split for the 200 kilometer bike leg and a barely race-best 1:16:23 20-kilometer run to finish in 6:43:00 with a 47 seconds margin of victory over runner-up Diederen. Sylvain Sudrie of France took 3rd, 2:05 behind Butterfield, and defending champion Fredrik Van Lierde was 4th, 3:11 behind the winner.
The men’s elite contest race was as close as a NASCAR race for the first two legs. Van Lierde led a tight pack of contenders in the swim with a race-best 37:42 split, followed closely by Bart Colpaert (37:43), Sudrie (37:44), Diederen (37:46), Bert Jammaer (37:46), Henrik Hyldelund (37:47), Edo van der Meer (37:47), Butterfield (37:49) James Cunnama (37:49) and 2010 Abu Dhabi champion Eneko Llanos (37:52). On the bike leg, the first four men all posted 4:44 splits which left Butterfield starting the run in 5:24:30 elapsed race time with a 2 seconds margin on Sudrie, 4 seconds over Van Lierde and 5 seconds on Diederen. Llanos and Cunnama faded from contention on the bike, by 15 and 20 minutes respectively.
On the run, Butterfield and Sudrie ran side by side to the first turnaround, but by the end of the first lap, Butterfield established a 40 seconds margin on his French rival and 2:05 on Diederen, with Van Lierde 4th, another 21 seconds back of the Netherlander. By the second and final run turnaround, Butterfield stretched his lead to 2:18 on Sudrie, 2:28 on Diederen and 2:51 on Van Lierde.
Diederen made a desperate bid down the stretch, but Butterfield’s earlier surge gave him a race-best 1:16:23 split, which was 29 seconds better than Diederen’s 20-kilometer run and was enough to preserve the win by just under a minute. Sudrie’s 1:18:30 run was enough to save the final spot on the podium, while Van Lierde’s 1:19:47 effort was indicative of his fading energy and left the two-time Abu Dhabi winner in 4th place.
The $40,000 victory was the culmination of Butterfield’s year-long rise which included a 3rd place a year ago in Abu Dhabi, a 10th at Ironman Melbourne, a 9th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds, a 7th at Ironman Hawaii and a 2nd at Ironman Cozumel.
"I'm super-excited to finally come off with a win in a big race. I'm not someone who wins very much as I often like to race the big races with good competition, so to pull one off with the likes of Freddie, Eneko, James, Sylvain and other good athletes, was exciting for me," said Butterfield to slowtwitch. "Also it's special the fact Nikki won Abu Dhabi in 2012."
Hauschildt has been nearly invincible in the past year at her chosen middle distance races, which included wins at Ironman 70.3 Worlds, the ITU Long Distance World Championship, Abu Dhabi International, five 70.3 races and a 2nd place at Hy-Vee. But on this day, a fierce fight with Yvonne Van Vlerken exacted a much heavier than usual toll.
Jodie Swallow emerged from her race-best 38:46 swim with a 3:07 lead on Michelle Vesterby of Denmark, 3:09 on Svetlana Blazevic of Serbia, 5:35 on Hauschildt and 7:25 on Van Vlerken, who capped off an improving 2013 with a 4th place at Kona.
Unlike the men, who ride in close but legal formation, Hauschildt mowed through the field and erased her swim deficit with a 2nd-best 5:14:38 bike split. That left her 42 seconds ahead of Van Vlerken, who made up even more time with a race-best 5:13:31 bike split, and 46 seconds ahead of Vesterby, who posted a 3rd-best 5:17:53 bike leg.
The 20 kilometer run provided the biggest drama of the day as Hauschildt and Van Vlerken hammered away at one another in a back-and-forth battle that left the rest of the field in their dust. In the first 5 kilometers, Hauschildt built an 11 seconds lead, then Van Vlerken fought back to even at the 10 kilometer mark and took the lead on the final lap. At the 15 kilometer mark, Hauschildt had a 31-seconds lead, and then fought off a final rally by Van Vlerken for a 22 seconds margin of victory.
Van Vlerken had the fastest run – 1:23:21. Hauschildt’s desperate defensive 1:23:50 left her exhausted and flat on the ground at the finish – but it was enough for victory.
"Toughest win of my career. After losing half my nutrition on the bike and not being able to get enough from aid stations I was cramping, weak, shaky. The last 20km I wasn't sure I was going to make it back to T2. I thought at any minute I could pass out or fall off my bike," said Hauschildt to slowtwitch. "When I got to T2 I had planned to sit in transition for a bit and try and get in coke, water, gels, anything... There was nothing there so I waddled out to the first aid station - about 500m and took everything I could get my hands on. The run was tough, even tougher when Yvonne joined me and we ran side by side from 7-10km. Somehow I managed to pull ahead after one lap on the run and it was just a mental battle to keep going. The last thought I was playing with to convince myself to push on was that if I won I could throw myself on the ground and not get up till I was ready. If I lost I had to stay on my feet."
Brownlees, Bazlen win short course
Great Britain Olympic medalists Alistair and his brother Jonny Brownlee ran away from the men’s field and Svenja Bazlen of Germany dominated the elite women at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon short course elite event.
When the racing was over, Alistair and Jonny crossed the finish line of the 1.5k swim, 100k bike and 10k run holding hands in equal time of 3:12:21 and earning $11,250 apiece to divvy up the first and second place money. The Brownlee boys outpaced 3rd place finisher Ruedi Wild of Switzerland by 4:48, with Bart Aernouts of Belgium taking 4th another 12 seconds in arrears.
Alistair led the swim in 17:16, with Jonny trailing by 1 second and fellow Brit Rhys Davey another 2 seconds in arrears. As the race would develop, top contenders Ruedi Wild of Switzerland (1:43 deficit), Ronnie Schildknecht of Switzerland (-2:08) and duathlon star Bart Aernouts of Belgium (-2:37) never challenged the Brownlees’ dominance.
After equal race-best 100k bike splits of 2:14:38, the Brownlees held a 5:41 lead on Ronnie Schildknecht and an equal 6:52 advantage of Aernouts and fellow Belgian Pieter Heemeryck, with Wild 7th, 6:59 in arrears.
With that comfortable lead, the Brownlees cruised through a scenic 35:31 10k for their shared victory. Wild kept the pressure on with a race-best 33:10 run to advance from 7th to 3rd at the finish while Aernouts ran 33:29 to miss the podium by 12 seconds.
The Brownlees’ time improved on Alistair’s 2013 winning time of 3:20:18.
“Jonny and I both got a good lead out of the swim and we just concentrated and stayed focused on biking as hard as we could,” said Alistair Brownlee. “We managed to keep going strong on the Yas Marina Circuit, gaining a strong lead before the run leg which really helped us break away and take the lead.”
The women’s event was a blowout as Bazlen emerged from the swim a close third, then carved out a race-best 2:31:15 bike split which gave her a 6:55 lead on Annabel Luxford at T2. Bazlen then padded her lead with a race-best 40:08 run to finish in 3:34:51 with an 11:11 margin of victory over runner-up Luxford. Fellow Australian Lisa Marangon carved away all but 47 seconds of her T2 deficit to Luxford with a 2nd-fastest 41:42 run to finish 3rd in 3:46:49.
Afterward, Bazlen said, “Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is one of the most famous and prestigious triathlons and it’s a fantastic feeling to win here.”
Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
March 15, 2014
S 3k / B 200k / R 20k
1. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 6:43:00 -- $40,000
2. Bas Diederen (NED) 6:43:47 -- $15,000
3. Sylvain Sudrie (FRA) 6:45:06 -- $7,500
4. Fredrik Van Lierde (BEL) 6:46:11 -- $3,000
5. Bert Jammaer (BEL) 6:50:48 -- $1,500
6. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 7:01:28 --$1,000
7. Edo van der Meer (NED) 7:02:14
8. Henrik Hyldelund (DEN) 7:02:36
9. Per Bittner (GER) 7:16:22
1. Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) 7:24:50 - $40,000
2. Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED) 7:25:12 -- $15,000
3. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 7:31:39 -- $7,500
4. Jodie Swallow (GBR) 7:45:35 -- $3,000
5. Svetlana Blazevic (SRB) -- $1,500
S 1.5k / B 100k / R 10k
T1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR) 3:12:21 -- $11,250
T1. Jonny Brownlee (GBR) 3:12:21 -- $11,250
3. Ruedi Wild (SUI) 3:16:59 -- $3,000
4. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 3:17:11 -- $2,000
5. Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 3:17:54 - $1,000
6. Mark Buckingham (GBR) 3:18:51
7. Pieter Heemeryck (BEL) 3:19:02
8. Lawrence Fanous (JOR) 3:20:09
9. Gwenael Quilleres (FRA) 3:21:52
10. Stuart Marais (RSA) 3:22:32
1. Svenja Bazlen (GER) 3:34:51 -- $15,000
2. Annabel Luxford (AUS) 3:46:02 - $7,500
3. Lisa Marangon (AUS) 3:46:49 -- $3,000
4. Jessica Harrison (FRA) 3:54:43 -- $2,000
5. Georgie Rutherford (GBR) 3:58:41 -- $1,000