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.
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.
Thousands of fans flocked to the Race Village at the Corniche Beach finishing line where they were entertained from morning well into the evening. Race Village highlights included circus acts, fire-breathers, jugglers, face painting and stilt-walkers. A chance to win two nights stay at the event’s official hotel, the Palace Rayhaan by Rotana Abu Dhabi, as well as a Ford weekend driving experience were also up for grabs. In addition to supporting the elite athletes, fans dressed in national flags, put on colourful face paint and cheered home 1,500 amateurs and first time competitors from 51 countries.