Frederik Van Lierde grabbed his second Abu Dhabi International Triathlon title with a superb effort on the bike and the run. Melissa Hauschildt took the women's title, but had to chase down Caroline Steffen to do so.
A fairly strong men's field was at the start in Abu Dhabi, but the enigmatic Aussie Chris McCormack pulled out of the race early with what appears to be a broken hand and bike equipment malfunction, and German pre race favorite Andi Böcherer dealt with severe cramping on the bike and that caused him to end his day early.
A two lap swim in the crystal clear blue water got things started and Brit Daniel Halksworth was first out of the water. He was followed by Fraser Cartmell 3 seconds later and Frederik Van Lierde at 6 seconds.
Once on the bikes Van Lierde, Eneko Llanos, Tyler Butterfield and Conrad Stoltz were mostly up front and battled hard with Bart Aernouts racing reasonably close. Eventually Stoltz fell off the pace and Butterfield, Van Lierde and Llanos continued to exchange leads for most of the 200km bike segment until the 2011 champion Van Lierde pulled away late in the game. By the time the Belgian reached the bike-run transition with his Cervelo P5 he had a narrow 24 second advantage over Llanos, but more than 2 minutes over Butterfield.
"I felt really strong from the beginning. I pushed the pace early, it was a risk, but I told myself it was no problem. I felt strong, really strong, but had to be patient on the bike, as everyone is strong at first. Not everyone comes to the front and leads, I took my responsibility with long stretches at the front, and the last 30 kilometers I put the hammer down," said Van Lierde.
Van Lierde though had not hammered too hard on the bike and as it was soon clear that he had plenty left for the run. He pulled away from Llanos steadily and build up a 90 second advantage half way through the 20k run. From there the fast Belgian looked to be in complete control and stormed to his second title thanks in part to a fine 1:12:47 run. Llanos slowed down towards the end, possibly aware that first place was out of reach, but he finished second, and Butterfield from Bermuda crossed the line in third place.
"It’s great to win; I keep coming back here because I love it, it’s such a great city," added Van Lierde.
Tenille Hoogland was first out of the water for the women and her 38:14 time gave her a 6 second lead over a small group that contained Caroline Steffen and Michelle Vesterby. Melissa Hauschildt lost about 3:40 to Hoogland and had her work cut out now.
Undeterred Hauschildt set a blistering pace on the bike and about 40km later she had managed to reach the front group with Steffen. Steffen and Hauschildt then tested each other and the two exchanged leads on the bike with Michelle Vesterby and Tenille Hoogland looming not far behind. Defending champion Nikki Butterfield though pulled out of the race just about that time into the bike with abductor cramps and soon after Steffen and Hauschildt pulled further away. Towards the end of the bike segment Steffen managed to create a gap and reached T2 first, about a minute up on the Aussie.
"It was the toughest race I have ever done, during the run my quads were seizing up; literally in the first five kilometers I couldn’t even move them. I wanted it so much; so I turned myself inside out to catch Caroline on the bike," said 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Hauschildt.
Out on the run the Swiss Pro looked very good, but Hauschildt never was far behind and moved past Steffen late in the run to take the win. Steffen held on to second place but collapsed totally exhausted when she crossed the line. Vesterby rounded out the podium.
"Every time I rounded a corner in the run, I had to look behind me to see if she was there. This was my A race, this is what I really wanted, so yeah I’m stoked. I wanted to win Abu Dhabi badly," added Hauschildt.
Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
Abu Dhabi, Unted Arab Emirates / March 2, 2013
3km swim / 200km bike / 20km run
1. Frederik Van Lierde (BEL) 6:41:02
2. Eneko Llanos (ESP) 6:45:02
3. Tyler Butterfield (BER) 6:47:49
4. Bart Aernouts (BEL) 6:48:14
5. Sylvain Sudrie (FRA) 6:49:28
6. David Dellow (AUS) 6:55:49
7. Per Bittner (GER) 6:58:57
8. Paul Amey (GBR) 7:06:26
9. Kyle Buckingham (RSA) 7:07:52 * AG
10. Philip Graves (GBR) 7:08:38
11. Nick Baldwin (SEY) 7:10:11 * AG
1. Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) 7:20:29
2. Caroline Steffen (SUI) 7:23:53
3. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 7:27:52
4. Heather Wurtele (CAN) 7:30:52
5. Yvonne Van Vlerken (AUT) 7:31:27
6. Daniela Riesler (GER) 7:36:44
7. Rachel McBride (CAN) 7:38:25
8. Tenille Hoogland (CAN) 7:48:50
9. Joanna Lawn (NZL) 7:59:50
10. Tiina Boman (FIN) 8:09:34
The final times were slower than in 2012, but the bike course had been changed and it was reported to be quite windy.