Frederik Van Lierde recorded his biggest win to date with an impressive performance at the 2011 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Julie Dibens led from start to finish with an equally magnificent effort and managed to repeat her title from 2010.
Sylvain Sudrie led the men out of the water after the 3k swim in front of the Emirates Palace hotel in a time of 38:17 and he had Dirk Bockel , Rasmus Henning and Martin Jensen hot on his heels. Ten other Pros also managed to stay within 30 seconds of the French Pro, including Craig Alexander, but the gaps after that were closer to 2 minutes.
Bockel had a quick transition and was first out on the bike, but behind him a Swedish storm was brewing. Bjorn Andersson who had left the first transition 1:51 behind Bockel had soon pushed himself towards the front of the field and started to pull away. It was quite a surprise when Rasmus Henning dropped out early with severe cramps in his quads.
"Even after an hour of Compex I still can't bend my legs a single bit. No chance I could have biked. Thanks for trying to cheer me up," tweeted Henning as the leading men were about to finish the first of two laps.
After the first bike lap Chris McCormack pulled out of the race with cleat issues. Seemingly one of his cleats had completely come undone and the Aussie was sighted back at the hotel soon after.
Meanwhile Andersson kept pushing the pace up front and gaining more time from his pursuers. Starykowicz also started to pull away from the front pack too and by the time they hit Yas Marina for the second time he was just under 5 minutes behind Andersson, with 15 other males now more than 7.5 minutes back. The makeup of that group had changed though and Edo van der Meer and Paul Ambrose were no longer up there, they had actually been replaced by Raynard Tissink and Cam Brown who had to ride hard to move into that position. Somewhere on the second lap Andersson disappeared from the leader board and Starykowicz now was the rabbit up front - a role he certainly often enjoys.
"It was considerably warmer than last year. I knew from the weather forecast that it'd be really hot, so my plan was to ride a good pace in the early part of the race before it got too hot and then do damage control later in the heat. Unfortunately it got too hot too early and I had to slow way down quite soon in the race," said Andersson to slowtwitch. "When I started getting dizzy from overheating I decided to just roll in and stop."
By the time Starykowicz hit T2 he had an almost 6 minute lead on Frederik Van Lierde, Dirk Bockel and Eneko Llanos, and almost 7 on Vanhoenacker, Sudrie, Bell and Tissink, but the Chicago resident showed signs of that hard bike effort.
It didn't take very long for Bockel and Van Lierde to take time back from the lone leader and at the end of the first 10k the advantage of Starykowicz had been whittled down to less than 2 minutes. The defending champion Llanos had fallen a bit off the pace too and was now running in 7th position. Van Lierde caught Starykowicz and moved into the lead with about 7k to go and Bockel fell a bit off the pace of the Belgian. Meanwhile Vanhoenacker (the other Belgian) also moved within striking distance. Van Lierde though managed to hold on for the biggest win of his career with Vanhoenacker making it a Belgian double. Bockel held on to the final podium spot with another fine performance.
"This win is amazing for me," said Van Lierde to slowtwitch. "Today my plan worked out really well. I wanted to keep the pace on the bike high without really 'escaping.' By doing that the field was in several smaller groups and today I had enough left to run well. Windier and hotter than last year, that's for sure. Really hard race!"
Julie Dibens and Leanda Cave were well ahead of all other competitors with Dibens exiting the water 7 seconds up on Cave and almost 2 minutes on Rachel Joyce, Lucie Zelenkova, Amy Marsh and Caroline Steffen. All other female Pros were looking at least at an almost 5 minute disadvantage at that time.
The two leaders left the swim-bike transition side-by-side, but Dibens quickly distanced herself from her British counterpart and built up an almost 2 minute lead by the time she entered the Yas Marina Circuit for the first time. Steffen was soon riding near Cave, but the advantage of Dibens kept growing. By the time they came back to the Yas Marina, Dibens was up almost 5 minutes on Steffen and more than 10 minutes on Cave. The Trek / K-Swiss Pro though kept pushing the hard pace up front and steadily moved further and further away and pretty much doubled that lead. Unlike the men who were mostly riding in a couple bigger groups, the females seemed to be more spread out.
Dibens started the run almost 9 minutes up on Steffen and 18 on Cave, so that certainly gave her a bit of a cushion. Steffen only managed to take a bit of time back and thus Dibens crossed the line in first place and became the first repeat champion of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Steffen crossed the line in second place and Catriona Morrison captured third.
"I had a great day. Felt good in the swim, felt in control on the bike. Enjoyed racing with power, and it really kept me under control into the wind, and on top of things in the tail wind. It was a lot lot winder than last year, and a lot hotter. So in general the race was hard, but aren't all races?" said Dibens to slowtwitch. "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 grueling and I felt sick."
Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
Abu Dhabi, UAE / March 12, 2011
3k swim / 200k bike / 20k run
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