ABU DHABI // Hundreds of spectators gathered at the finish line to cheer on the winners and all those who competed in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon yesterday.
More than 1,500 athletes braved the warm weather to race on the taxing circuit and there were representatives from 51 countries, giving the event a truly international flavour in its second year.
Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium won the men's race, while defending champion Julie Dibens, from England, repeated her victory from last year's Abu Dhabi triathlon.
The Corniche was teeming with hundreds of waving and cheering spectators, many supporting family members and friends among the top triathletes and amateurs taking part in the punishing event.
Among the fans was David Morrison, 61, from Scotland, the father of one the top female triathletes.
"This is absolutely fantastic," he said after his daughter Catriona, 34, crossed the finish line in seven hours, 31 minutes and 12 seconds. "She's been suffering from Achilles problems, and this is her first long-distance run since recovering from her injury."
Morrison, who finished third, was the world duathlon champion in 2006 and 2010. She has participated in races "from Scotland to the Caribbean … too many to count", she said.
She trained for two months before this event and said she was well prepared. "It wasn't as hot as I thought it would be," Morrison said.
Another frequent competitor, Josh Rix, 32, from Australia, said it was his first triathlon in Abu Dhabi, having competed in races in the US, France, Japan, and Canada, among other countries.
"It was very well organised," said Rix, who finished 18th in seven hours, 27 minutes and 40 seconds. He said he looked forward to coming back next year.
The triathlon provided three distances for varying levels of competition.
The Long Course, with a first place cash prize of US$50,000 (Dh183,000), featured a three-kilometre swim, 200km bike ride and a 20km run. The Short Course featured a 1.5km swim, 100km bike ride and a 10km run, while the Sprint Course set a 750-metre swim, 50km bike ride and 5km run.
Emirati Adel al Areefi, the team captain of the Emirates Foundation's Takatof programme, said he and his team of volunteers began assembling at the Emirates Palace at about 4am.
Mr al Areefi said 60 volunteers, divided into two teams, handed out refreshments and assisting participants as they reached the finish line on the Corniche.
"I was also here during last year's triathlon," he said. "I'm really enjoying it and I'm proud that it is being held in our country."