DUBAI // A host of changes to the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon race routes and aid stations have nothing to do with last year's near-fatal accident, organisers say, but will ensure a safer course for all involved in the race.
There are just 20 days to go before the starting pistol is fired for the first leg of the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (ADIT), the capital's flagship triathlon event. Organisers are expecting some of the world's top endurance athletes to compete at the second annual race.
Last year on March 3, 27-year-old Briton Carly Williams was volunteering at an aid station in the 200km bike section of the race when professional triathlete Andrew Starykowicz ran into her. The station, one of seven from which volunteers handed out water, was positioned in the middle of the track.
This year, ADIT has said it will have fewer aid stations. They will be positioned on the right-hand side of the road serving competitor traffic coming from only one direction.
In addition, an exclusion zone will be also set up around each aid station that athletes cannot enter.
"We have already conducted an official aid station test, a first for an event of this nature internationally, to assess optimum bike entry paths and speeds," a spokesman for ADIT said.
Despite fewer aid station, the new positioning of each station means athletes will have the same opportunity to top up on liquids, he added.
There will be an official at the start of each aid station who will issue penalties for cycling infringements.
"We have also changed the layout of the bike routes so there will be less crossover of professionals contesting the long course and those taking on the sprint course," he said.
Volunteers and athletes will be given a "robust" safety briefing before the event, he said. "We will continue to make these briefings as detailed and clear as possible as we strive to make this great event even better for all participants."
Ms Williams worked as a physical education teacher at the British School Al Khubairat before her accident. Principal of the school, Paul Coackley, said: "She is continuing her rehabilitation and has not yet returned to work."