ABU DHABI // Eneko Llanos found the energy reserves to seal victory as his rivals in the first Abu Dhabi International Triathlon wilted in the final stages. The Spaniard, silver medallist in the 2008 Ironman World Championship, made a late charge in the final stage, the run, to win the elite long course race in 6hours, 34 minutes and 37 seconds over the 223-km distance, nearly a minute ahead of Dirk Bockel from Luxembourg.
"It was one of the toughest races and the heat was more testing than the distance. I tried to stay as close as possible with the leading group before kicking for home in the last half-kilometre," said Llanos. "It was a tough, tough race, and I am glad I did it, and become the first to win this event. This was a quality field and exhausting. It became very testing as the temperature continued to rise as the day progressed."
Llanos did not look like being a major contender as New Zealand's Bryan Rhodes, who notched an impressive time of 35min 26secs in the 3km swim, led in the opening stages. With only two seconds between Rhodes and the second and third -placed Belgium duo of Bret Jammaer and Frederik Van Lierde, it was all to play for going into the gruelling 200km cycling leg. That sector, with temperatures climbing, left many athletes on the point of exhaustion when it came to the run, and Llanos seized his opportunity with a storming finish. He was followed in second by Bockel, with Rasmus Henning third, Fraser Cartmell fourth and Van Lierde fifth. The Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon captain, Faris al Sultan, fought hard to finish in sixth, 3min 16secs off the pace.
"It started off well for me after coming out of the water but after three kilometres of cycling I felt the heat," said Bockel. "For me, coming from a colder climate, it really was hard. I thought I was barbecued live when I had to run the distance." Al Sultan lived up to his reputation as a speedy cyclist as he put in the fastest time at Bike Turn 1, two seconds ahead of Switzerland's Ronnie Schildknecht.
But a problem with his bike saw him lose nearly a minute on the pack as Germany's Maik Twelsiek and Schildknecht set the pace on Bike Turn 2. Julie Dibens led a one-two finish for Great Britain in the women's race. Dibens powered home in 7 hr 8min 25secs to finish 3min 58secs ahead of her compatriot Leanda Cave and 9min 58sec in front of Spain's Virginia Berasategui Luna in third. The Team Abu Dhabi pair of Jans Van Berkel and Ina Reinders won the short course prizes. Van Berkel made it look easy in claiming the men's first place with a total time of 3hr 20min 47secs - more than 17 minutes ahead of second placed Ciro Tobar Ortiz De Urbina and 22 minutes in front of AJ Anderson.
Reinders took the women's event in 3hr 52min 34secs - a commanding 9min 17secs ahead of Anja Heijen and Jane Westley. "Winning both the male and female categories is a great way to start the season," said Van Berkel. "We've been training hard over the winter, acclimatising to the heat and brushing up on our skills." firstname.lastname@example.org